The Idaho-Oregon Buddhist Church in Ontario recently organized a series of cemetery visits around Oregon and Idaho from July 26-30 to visit the graves of members who died in the last year.
The visits – made from July 26 to July 30 – were part of the church’s annual Hatsubon celebrations where recently departed friends and family are commemorated by their loved ones. Church members visited the Valley View Cemetery in Vale, Hilltop Memorial Cemetery in Nyssa and four other cemeteries in Idaho.
“This is an opportunity to show our gratitude to all those who make our lives possible,” said Rev. Kathy Chatterton, one of the ministers at the church. “We are not very good about showing respect to our family members and friends in our daily lives. We can at least set aside this time to celebrate and remember our ancestors with joy.”
Since the last Hatsubon celebration in 2022, 18 church members have died. Many of the church’s members are Japanese Americans whose families have been residing in Treasure Valley for almost a century.
As the younger generations of these families move away from the valley, the church has seen a decrease in membership. According to Mike Iseri, co-president of the church, the church currently has 95 members. But at its height, there were more than 300 members.
“Most of the membership of the temple is declining as the old folks are passing away,” Iseri said.
Chatterton said it is important to keep following these traditions not only to remind people to honor their ancestors, but also to engage the wider community through Buddhism.
“Our tradition is very open to everyone who wants to come,” she said. “Everyone is accepted just as they are.”
Like all of the church’s services, the cemetery visits were open to the wider community. During each cemetery visit, Chatterton chanted the Three Sacred Vows of Buddhism and all attendees offered prayers and tribute to the deceased.
“Despite the fact that these people are gone, we cannot deny their continued influence on our lives today,” Chatterton said. “We continue to feel their embrace and become part of the dynamic oneness and feel their influence every day.”
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