since 1863

Yokohama Union ChurchWelcome.html

With the opening of the port of Yokohama to the outside world, Yokohama became a progressive city of many ‘firsts’. Two important ‘firsts’ are Japan’s first Protestant, English-speaking, Interdenominational, and International Church (Yokohama Union Church) and the founding of the first Japanese Protestant Church (Kaigan Church, Nihon Kirisuto Kokai).

On February 18, 1863, people met at the house of the US ambassador, Mr. Fisher, in Yokohama for their worship and Yokohama Union Church elected its officers on March 8, 1863. YUC called Rev. S. R. Brown to be its first and temporary pastor. They had worship at the US embassy with 36 in attendance and Japan’s first Sunday school with six children.* (*the letters of S.R. Brown, p. 119, 128)

The founders, especially Rev. Brown, wanted to be a congregation of people from many bodies who were part of the world-wide church of Christ. Therefore, ‘Union Church’ was the appropriately chosen name. The Union church members furnished a pipe organ, the second pipe organ in Japan. In 1872 upon organizing Kaigan church, Yokohama Union Church redefined its mission to serve foreign residents in Japan.

On April 25, 1905, it was decided to purchase the property at number 49 Bluff the following summer. Sometime later a contract was signed, and on March 20, 1909, the corner stone was laid. In 1910, on the weekend of October 16, the new building was dedicated with a service on Saturday and three on Sunday. In the next decade the church became a place of influence in Yokohama.

At 11 a.m. on September 1, 1923, Yokohama was settling into another bustling day as one of Japan’s leading port cities. An hour later 78,646 houses and 26,623 human lives had been destroyed. Such was the ferocity of the Great Kanto Earthquake that struck Tokyo and Yokohama on that terrible day. The church building had been devastated, the caretaker and his little son dying in its collapse.

On May 29, 1945, several hundred American B-29 bombers leveled 42% of Yokohama. The Community House was shattered by a direct hit during this fire bombing. The caretaker’s quick action to contain the blaze saved the manse, but the community house was gone. Once more, Yokohama Union Church’s building lay in ruins, as did Yokohama around it.

Following WWII YUC services were not held for some time. During the 1960’s a group of dedicated individuals from the Yokohama Chapel Center sought to reopen YUC for worship led by Rev. Karl Karpa. Worship was held on Sunday afternoons at first in the caretaker’s home and later in the Pink House.

YUC began meeting on Sunday mornings again in the 1980’s and called several part-time pastors to serve the community. In 1988 the church was re-chartered. After the dedicated work of many individuals, the church received Shukyo-hojin (religious non-profit) status in 1992. Many different options for rebuilding the church were considered before the congregation voted to sell the Pink House in the spring of 2002.

History Of Yokohama Union Church


Historical Summary of YUC


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The ground-breaking for the new building was held on February 23, 2003, and the keys to the new building were received on November 24, 2003. The first worship in the new building was a joyful and thankful celebration on November 30, 2003, the first Sunday of Advent.