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Temple Reopening Reflections 2024

On January 7, 2024 Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Temple held our Reopening/Dedication Service, celebrating our recovery after the fire in July of 2022. Rev. Jerry Hirano officiated the service and invited our two Assistant Ministers, Rev. Kathy Chatterton and Rev. Anne Spencer to share their thoughts as the temple reopened.  

Temple President and 3 Buddhist Ministers in Formal Robes in front of a Buddhist Altar
Photo (left to right): Mike Iseri (Temple President) Rev. Anne Spencer, Rev. Jerry Hirano, Rev. Anne Spencer at the Hoonko & Grand Reopening Service on Jan 7 2024. 

In this blog, we are sharing summaries of Rev. Kathy's and Rev. Anne's reflections on the reopening and the history and the future of the temple. 

Rev. Kathy Chatterton: Our temple was officially dedicated on February 9, 1958, and officially rededicated on January 7, 2024. As a Sangha member who has been a part of the temple for over 60 years, I am very proud of our IOBT community for working together to bring the temple back to life. In my mind, the temple was on life support during the two years of COVID shutdown, and then the fire happened. Before the pandemic and fire, we were holding weekly services as usual, but I think that we were taking the temple for granted. After all, it had been around since the 1950's --we just assumed it would always be here when we wanted it to be in our lives.

When I heard the news of the fire, my heart sank. Suddenly, we were faced with the prospect that the temple was gone. The legacy that we received from the Issei and Nisei was destroyed. How would we share the Buddha Dharma? Then came the discovery that the Onaijin was spared fire damage. There was smoke damage, but the altar was still standing. We almost lost a treasure. Facing the possibility of the loss, I felt that our Issei and Nisei Founders were sending a message. We couldn’t take the temple for granted any longer. We had to work to keep our temple alive. Many months of demolition, cleaning, and rebuilding took place. When the Seattle Betsuin experienced their recent New Year’s Eve fire, I mentioned to a Seattle Sangha member that “impermanence is not for sissies.” We don’t like the idea of having to change, but we have to let go in order to move on.

I know that there are others, like me, that have many memories of the temple. Our grandfathers and fathers drove from all around the valley during the winter months to work on building the temple. We can picture the basement set up for Sunday School with the partitions rolled out, and the voices of children in their classes. Lessons on the life of the Buddha and the life of Shinran were being read. Sunday School teachers like Mary Nakamura, Sanami Nakano, Anne Nagaki, and Frank Adachi were doing their best to teach us kids about Buddhism. We enjoyed Hanamatsuri programs that went late into the night. We greeted Santa Claus for our holiday parties. We hid and hunted Easter eggs in the parking lot. We enjoyed crab feeds with samurai movies afterward. There were chow mein dinners, bazaars, and Japan Nite Obon Festivals held in the basement. A crowd worked all day and into the night to make kakimochi for bazaar sales. All of these memories are a part of our lives at this temple.

Two men confer at the front of a Buddhist temple     Photo: Temple President, Mike Iseri and Board Member, Howard Matsumura consult at the beginning of  the Hoonko/Reopening service.

Luckily, the fire didn’t completely take the temple from us. We were able to make needed improvements on the old bones of the temple building. The onaijin has been cleaned of smoke and dust and shines again. The pews have been re-upholstered, restained, and reconfigured. The hardwood floor of the onaijin has been uncovered and polished. The service on January 7, 2024 marked a milestone for us to move on to build new memories and to share our understanding of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism that is a part of our hearts. We cannot take our temple for granted. It is our home. We each are a part of moving on to keep Shin Buddhism relevant.

Rev. Anne Spencer: When I reflect on my path to Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, I often think of this phrase from Shinran Shonin’s Sho Shin Ge: “But though the light of the sun is veiled by clouds and mists, Beneath the clouds and mists, there is brightness, not dark.”
When I first arrived at Idaho Oregon-Buddhist temple in October of 2002 I had been working for over a decade as a genetic counselor.  I worked in hospitals helping families who were learning that their pregnancy or child had a serious genetic diagnosis or heath concern.  This could be something like Down syndrome, spina bifida, a rare form of cancer,  a serious heart or kidney condition, or a brain malformation.  I gave families the results of their test and helped them cope with the news that would change the course of their life and the course of their child’s life.  I found this work to be meaningful and rewarding.  But some days it was hard, sad work and, after a decade, I was tired. The darkness of what some of my patients and their families faced was starting to overwhelm me. Looking back, I see that I was experiencing compassion fatigue and heading toward burn-out.  I had given away more of myself than I had to give. I needed light to pull me out of the darkness of grief and helplessness, but didn’t know where to look .
        Then I learned my college professor, Ron Takemoto, would be speaking at IOBT in September of 2002.   I decided to come see him speak. My goal was simply to see an old friend and mentor.  I wasn’t expecting anything special, beyond catching up with Prof. Takemoto. I knew the talk would be at a temple that primarily served Japanese-Americans and I worried a bit about feeling like an intruder.  But I was greeted warmly by the people here.  I was even invited to stay after the lecture for dinner at Far East.  After that the temple members kept inviting me back for more services and more meals.

Temple members and friends gather in the basement of the Idaho Oregon Buddhist Temple to Enjoy Sukiyaki Lunch

Photo: Sukiyaki Lunch in the basement social hall after the reopening service. 

I didn’t really understand Buddhism—but I kept thinking about the kindness of the people here.  I was aware of the things that had happened in WW2 and the difficulties and injustices that Japanese and Japanese Americans had faced, but the people I met at the temple didn’t seem bitter or angry about the past. In my visits to IOBT I heard a lot of stories, saw a lot of smiles, ate a lot of good food, and laughed a lot.  I also noticed the beauty of the temple and the dedication of the community that built it.

There was light here.  And I gradually realized that the Buddhist teachings and the community here were exactly what I was needing, what I was craving, to help me to heal from the pain and darkness of the work that I do.  The teachings and the community allowed me to put the grief and illness of my patients in perspective and helped me find beauty and connection even in the midst of grief.


Buddhist Community Gathers in the main hall of the temple.  Pews in front have few people. Pews in back are full

Photo: The Sangha gathers in the refurbished pews to participate in the Hoonko/Reopening Service. (As Rev. Kathy pointed out at the service, just like in the old days, people seem to prefer to sit in the back....)

So I decided to learn a little bit more about Buddhism.  I became a minister’s assistant.  Then I started taking classes.  Then I got ordained.  Then I got my Master’s degree.  And now, somehow, here I am, serving as an assistant minister. 

I was looking for light.   I found it IOBT. In this building with this community. This building and this community were here for me when I needed it most and I am grateful. 

I am so happy that we have chosen to repair, clean, and update the temple after the fire. I’m excited to see how lovely it is.

My hope is that the Dharma, this temple, this altar, and the IOBT Sangha will continue to offer people like me hope for many more years.  I hope that the brightness of the temple and the welcoming spirit of the sangha will help suffering people like me see that, "though the light of the sun is often veiled by clouds and mists, beneath the clouds and mists, there is indeed brightness, not dark.”  

This is a message of light in darkness is one that many people would benefit from hearing.