Make MBT a Welcoming Place
Attendees to Sunday services are seeing a new feature in the Social Hall. A table with the sign “Welcome–Meet Me” has appeared, welcoming members and visitors to sit and get to know each other.
The story of how this began
Last March, the 2016 National Council Meeting of the BCA (Buddhist Churches of America) took place in Visalia, Calif., a location halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles and chosen for its reminder of the deep agricultural roots of the Issei immigrants.
BCA leadership was handed over from outgoing President Kent Masuda to new President Ken Tanimoto. Efforts continued from the prior year’s conference to minimize meeting time and expand the opportunity to network with the 150-plus delegates. Two workshops provided real food for thought.
In the workshop titled “Social Justice,” delegates debated the responsibility of our temples and the BCA to address social issues, such as poverty, race relations and discrimination. At a time when no country or race is unaffected by these issues, and considering the experience of Japanese-Americans during World War II, we can at a minimum engage in discussion and exchange of views and concerns, and foster an environment that encourages such dialogue.
In a separate workshop titled “Increasing Temple Membership,” representatives from five temples shared their challenges and experiences. From the speakers and audience’s response, it is clear that all temples are facing the challenge of membership growth and retention.
Rather than rehashing problems and concerns, the speakers focused on positive efforts and achievements, and emphasized the need for temples to have a vision and strategic goals, and to be able to verbalize these as the benefits provided to members.
Our Board takes action
Back at MBT, the Board of Trustees discussed the need to recognize and engage all who pass through our doors. This includes the participants of the Meditation Service that takes place before Shin Service, visitors to the temple, and the increasingly diverse membership. The ‘”Meet Me” table is meant as a “safe” place to meet others, ask questions and to just chat. Board members and other volunteers act as hosts, inviting others to join, making introductions and answering questions.
There will be more to come from the board and other temple leaders as we develop our own vision and goals.
What can you do to help
Try approaching a newcomer to welcome them; sit down and introduce yourself at the Meet Me Table; try attending the 8:30 am Meditation service. It is up to each of us to make MBT a place that truly welcomes everyone.
Kiku Taura, President, MBT
Board of Trustees