The Mak Fai Chinese lion dancers frightened evil spirits and delighted the audience at the opening of the Block Watch Dedication Ceremony.
On May 21 the Seattle Nichiren Buddhist Church hosted a Block Watch Sign Launch and Street Renewal Dedication Ceremony in front of the church at 1042 South Weller Street in Seattle’s International District. Seattle Nichiren and its neighbors are hoping to reduce crime in the area by promoting multicultural neighborhood cooperation.
Seattle Nichiren Buddhist Church was built by members of the Japanese community in 1929. Close by are the Fa Shin Buddhist Temple, the Chinese Southern Baptist Mission, and the offices of the Seattle Indian Health Board.
The neighborhood will soon be posting bilingual block watch signs in English/Chinese and English/Japanese. These will be the first bilingual block watch signs in the state of Washington.
Karl Anquoe and the Coyote Soldier Boys blessed the neighborhood with traditional singing and drumming.
The festivities started with the Mak Fai Chinese lion dancers chasing away any lingering evil spirits. Following the lion dance, Master of Ceremonies Thomas O’Kelly welcomed the guest speakers: Alan Lai, Chinese Information and Service Center; Sara Wysocki, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods; Sergeants Jay Shin and Paul Gracy of the SPD Community Police Team; and SPD Asian Liaison, Linh Thach.
These representatives recounted how working together as neighbors is the best way for a neighborhood to achieve public safety and harmony. Over the previous four months neighbors calling 911 have succeeded in chasing away drug traffickers and prostitutes operating openly on South Weller Street’s sidewalks.
The centerpiece of the afternoon was the Street Renewal Blessings given by Native Americans Karl Anquoe and the Coyote Soldier Boys, Reverend Andrew Ng of the Chinese Southern Baptist Mission, and Reverend Kanjin Cederman from Nichiren Buddhist Temple.
In the celebration’s closing remarks, O’Kelly reiterated that the purpose of the day’s ceremonies was to re-dedicate South Weller Street as a place of peace, prosperity and beauty for all of the people who walk, work and live on it. O’Kelly also thanked everyone who had supported this wonderful community outreach affair and host site Nichiren Temple for providing the lovely garden setting.
Rev. Kanjin Cederman of Seattle Nichiren contributed a Buddhist blessing to the street. Rev. Andrew Eng (not shown) from nearby Chinese Southern Baptist Mission read Psalm 121 and offered a prayer.
The Seattle Nichiren building was designed by the same architect who created the Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple. Rev. Kanjin Cederman, who took over the position less than a year ago, is the 15th resident minister to serve the congregation. He is the first non-Japanese minister to preside at Seattle Nichiren.
Hailing from Buffalo, New York, Cederman came to Buddhism through a youthful interest in martial arts, traveling to Japan at the age of 16 to study aikido with a Buddhist monk. Shortly before ordaining in a different Buddhist tradition, he engaged in “debates” with practitioners of Nichiren Shu Buddhism and decided to join them, later studying with teachers in Japan and Toronto.
Like other Japanese institutions in the region, Seattle Nichiren languished during the internment years of WW II, recovering slowly in the 50’s and early 60’s, then flourishing in the next few decades. In recent years, with an aging membership, the activity level has declined. Since his arrival, Rev. Cederman and other members of the congregation have created new programs and reinvigorated old ones.
Spearheading the Neighborhood Awareness Project and hosting the Block Watch Launch and Street Renewal Ceremony are examples of the congregation’s efforts to look outward.
For further information on the East ID Neighborhood Awareness Project, please contact Thomas O’Kelly at: taokelly[at]hotmail.com.
For more information about Seattle Nichiren Buddhist Church, please visit: www.nichiren-shu.org/Seattle.
Contributors: Thomas O’Kelly, Julie Welch.
Photos: Pamela Reaville, Elizabeth Aurich.