Gardena Buddhist Church is a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple serving southern California for 90 years.
The Gardena Buddhist Church (GBC) first opened its doors on February, 1926. Although the religious needs of community were first met by the Los Angeles Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, by 1925 the families that made up the community held a meeting to discuss the possibility of building a temple locally. Following this and subsequent meetings, monies were raised and when the property at the Northeast corner of Main Street and Gardena Boulevard became available the property was acquired. In one month the temple building was erected and the Gardena Buddhist Church was founded.
March 1930: Temple leaders met to discuss moving the temple facilities. The youth and children activities and programs of the temple were expanding dramatically and the temple became concerned over safety issues surrounding the traffic around the temple. Another major consideration was the fact that the temple was on leased property. By April, 1930 the temple search committee reported that the property off Halldale Avenue and 166th Street (the current temple location) was available. By May of that year the property was purchased and the original building was moved to the new site receiving the new address of 16531 Halldale Avenue. Throughout this time the temple was under the supervision of the Los Angeles Hompa Hongwanji.
Although the Los Angeles Hompa Hongwanji was reluctant to have Gardena leave its supervision, on October 11, 1931 the Buddhist Mission of North America (now incorporated as the Buddhist Churches of America) recognized the independent status of the GBC.
After gaining independent status, by 1938 the membership grew to the point where a larger facility had to be considered. In the fall of that year a new, larger facility was built. With the signing of Executive Order 9066 in February, 1942 and the mass relocation of the entire Japanese-American community, the GBC was forced to close its doors. Shigeaki Eya was selected as the temple trustee (in abstentia) and Rev. Julius Goldwater served as the temple caretaker between 1942-1944. During that time, a non-Japanese congregation used the Church facilities; that group vacated the facilities with the return of the community in September, 1945 when the facilities were also opened as a hostel (until 1948) for returnees from the relocation centers. Prior to this re-opening, however, the War Relocation Authority had planned to convert the temple facilities into a Japanese Home for the aged, but Mr. Shunichi Kishima (GBC’s first temple president) successfully argued for maintaining the religious status of the facility. By 1949, the temple was able to regain its “Church only” status. With the return of the community and religious activities, by 1959 the temple facilities were again deemed inadequate to meet the membership needs. To meet these needs adjoining property was purchased, and ground-breaking ceremonies were held on June 17, 1962 for the construction of a new classroom facility. This building was completed on November 17 of that year. In October of that same year another ground-breaking ceremony was held. This was for the construction of a new temple building. One year later, on October, 6, 1963, the new 10,000 square feet plus temple building was dedicated. Following the completion of the temple building adjoining property was purchased to comprise the current 93,000 square feet temple campus, a lot across the street from the main campus was purchased by the temple’s Young Buddhist Association in 1951 and donated to the temple (now used as an auxiliary parking facility), and a second classroom facility was dedicated in February, 1975.
On July 12, 1980 the temple building was completely destroyed in an arson fire. Re-construction began almost immediately. By November, 1981 the community was excited over the progress that was made in the re-building of the temple and even had the confidence to hold a “mochi-maki.” Unfortunately, on November 20, 1981, a second arson fire was set. With sheer determination, after suffering this second set-back the temple membership again cleaned up after the fire damage and was able to re-start re-construction by January 4, 1982. To help prevent another occurrence, night-time security was hired.
February 12, 1982 another fire was set. This time, however, the fire was discovered immediately with only minor damage. After this fire, the City of Gardena assisted by arranging to have closed-circuit television cameras placed around the construction site with its feed going directly to the Gardena Police. With these added precautions temple construction was completed on May, 1982. A new altar was also installed and completed on August 4. The dedication ceremony for the new temple building was held on August 21-22, 1982.
Today, Gardena Buddhist Church continues to serve the southern California community providing bilingual Jodo Shinshu Buddhist services for all.
Everyone is always welcome to attend services, but if you would like to support the temple as a member, please fill out the Membership Application and mail it with payment to 1517 W 166th St., Gardena, CA, 90247 with Attn: Membership