Major Milestone: Terri Omori Becomes BCA’s First Woman President

Vista Buddhist Temple’s Terri Omori will change into the primary girl president of the BCA in its 123-year historical past. From left, BCA President Kent Matsuda, Omori, and fast BCA Past President Rick Stambul are all smiles on the 2020 BCA National Council Meeting in Renton, Wash. (Courtesy of Terri Omori)

By JON KAWAMOTO,Wheel of Dharma Editor

Terri Omori, a lifelong Shin Buddhist with deep ties to the San Diego and Vista temples, will change into the primary girl BCA president — a serious milestone within the Buddhist group’s 123-year historical past.

The formal appointment shall be made March 13, after the Eitaikyo service on the BCA’s National Council Meeting. The NCM, which shall be digital, is being hosted this yr by the Central California District.

“I’m very humbled and honored to be given this chance,” she stated. “When I stated sure, it was out of gratitude. It was simply the results of the deeper appreciation that I had rising up, and of all of the years that I’ve been capable of have the Dharma as a part of my life. And, it was additionally recognizing all those that have come earlier than me.

“It’s an honor, a real honor. And I hope that in my time period that I can proceed to make the Dharma accessible for all.”

Omori’s historical past with the BCA extends to incorporate her Nisei mother and father, Ben and Miki Honda, her Issei grandparents and Honda relations — in addition to her husband Ford Omori’s mother and father and grandparents.

Growing up in San Diego and attending the Buddhist Temple of San Diego, she attended Sunday providers and Dharma School, ultimately turning into an assistant Dharma School instructor serving to in her mom’s class, participated in Obon in addition to different temple occasions, joined the Jr. YBA, the Sr. YBA, after which taiko group and served because the temple’s organist.

A Turning Point

Terri Omori, her mom Miki Honda and brother Ralph Honda pose throughout a go to by the Gomonshu to the Buddhist Temple of San Diego within the fall of 2019. (Courtesy of BCA Bishop Rev. Marvin Harada)

A pivotal occasion occurred when she married Ford Omori in 1989 and moved to Vista. The Vista Buddhist Temple constructing had simply been devoted in 1987.

“After Ford and I bought married, it was simply pure for me to hitch the Vista temple and I bought concerned straight away,” she stated, recalling that she and Ford would convey his baachan (grandmother) to providers.

Since Omori had been the temple organist in San Diego, Vista’s resident minister, Rev. Art Takemoto, requested her if she would play the organ at Vista and she or he agreed.

“So, I began enjoying with the opposite musician, and I began seeing that there have been one or two youngsters, actually younger, coming to providers,” she stated. “There was no Dharma School on the time. So I requested the mother and father, ‘You need me to take the youngsters downstairs and I’ll train them some Dharma School gathas?’ And, they stated, ‘Yes.’ So I began doing that.”

One factor led to a different dedication and additional involvement. Terri and Ford Omori assisted the Jr. YBA, and she or he additionally joined her husband within the Vista taiko group.

When the Omoris started having their very own household within the early Nineteen Nineties – first, daughter Katie after which son Kurtis – together with different households, the Dharma School bought off the bottom and it grew to become a part of the Southern District Dharma School Teachers League. As the temple infants had been rising up, Omori helped provoke a Jr. Taiko group and the Jr. YBA for the high-schoolers. 

Omori has remained an energetic Dharma School instructor past her personal youngsters’s commencement from highschool — and was honored final yr with 25 years of service by the Federation of Dharma School Teachers League (FDSTL).

In 2007, Omori was chosen as president of Vista Buddhist Temple, the place, to at the present time, she stays the primary and solely girl to carry that title. She would proceed in that management function for the subsequent three years.

Oversaw Vista Changes

Terri Omori and her husband Ford Omori collect with different Vista Buddhist Temple Sangha members in the course of the Bon Odori occasion instantly after the sixteenth World Buddhist Women’s Convention in 2019 in San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Gardens. (Courtesy of Terri Omori)

During her tenure, she, Ford Omori and Vista board member (and present Vista president) Ricky Schlesinger and different Sangha members took main steps to give you a plan to deal with its declining membership and develop the Sangha.

Their efforts have been nothing wanting distinctive. Since then, Vista has greater than doubled its paid membership to about 115 members and its story has change into a profitable template for different BCA temples and church buildings to observe on develop its Sangha. (See “Vista Is Singled Out for Its Membership Growth” within the February 2022 concern of Wheel of Dharma.)

As Vista president, Omori’s involvement expanded into the BCA. She started attending the National Council conferences. In 2014, she grew to become the Southern District Council chair-elect, and was certainly one of its representatives to the National Board.

She was elected as a BCA director-at-large, and was robotically made a member of the Social Welfare Committee. She additionally volunteered to be on the Membership and Propagation Committee as a result of membership points stay a key concern to her. And she served on a BCA advert hoc committee in control of the tenth anniversary of the Jodo Shinshu Center in Berkeley in 2016.

In 2017, rumors started swirling across the BCA about Omori and her presumably operating for the BCA presidency. Rick Stambul, who was BCA president-elect on the time, proved to be an influential and vital determine who finally would succeed — with the assistance of others — in convincing Omori.

But when Stambul first requested Omori if she’d contemplate turning into BCA president in 2017, her reply was fast — “No.”

She defined: “I actually felt I wasn’t certified to be the BCA president, and that was my important purpose for saying ‘No’ the primary time he requested me.”

And when Stambul approached Omori once more, she replied: “No.”

Circumstances modified when Stambul grew to become BCA president in 2018. He as soon as once more approached Omori, and after appreciable dialogue and thought, she agreed to serve on the Executive Committee.

“I stated, ‘Yes, I’ll be one of many VPs (vice presidents) as a result of I needed to assist Rick throughout his time as president,’” she stated.

Stambul’s function in contacting Omori and inspiring her to run as BCA president isn’t any shock as a result of he’s been a staunch advocate of getting extra girls in management roles within the BCA. (See “A Plea to the Women of BCA” and “A Plea to the Women of BCA: Part II,” December 2018 and January 2019, Wheel of Dharma.)

In a groundbreaking speech on “A Vision for BCA within the twenty first Century” on the FBWA convention in Visalia in Sept. 15, 2018, he stated: “The path ahead for ladies in Shin Buddhism in America, in BCA, should not solely contain girls, because it has, however should be led by girls.”

Later, in that very same speech, Stambul stated: “In about one yr, in December of 2019, the BCA National Board will maintain elections for nationwide officers. The time has come for ladies to steer BCA. Let me repeat that. The time has come for ladies to steer BCA; to develop new methods, in new partnerships, during which to protect our teachings, and to guard our temples sooner or later.”

(Omori had already agreed to function a vp earlier than Stambul’s speech.)

Another key advocate for Omori has been her husband, Ford. “I all the time had Ford say, ‘Go do it.’ And he was all the time very supportive,” she stated.

Lists Her Priorities

Terri Omori and husband Ford Omori benefit from the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens on a 2019 journey to Las Vegas. (Courtesy of Terri Omori)

Now, as she appears forward to the subsequent two years as BCA president, Omori lists amongst her priorities the persistent concern of membership affecting the BCA.

In November 2020, the BCA Executive Committee addressed the difficulty of declining membership and mentioned methods. From 2010 to 2020, the BCA has seen a 28 % decline in membership from 16,994 members to the present 12,200. Over that very same time, the BCA’s price range has elevated 29 %, from $1.43 million to $1.85 million. (See “BCA Discusses Its Declining Membership, Strategies,” December 2020, Wheel of Dharma.)

“The one objective that I’ve which is in step with Rev. Harada is, after all, rising our membership,” she stated.

Omori desires to discover outreach in quite a lot of methods, together with on-line and social media, and assist temples develop a plan to develop and retain members on the similar time. She praised the institution of a brand new class — a person BCA membership — for many who don’t have a temple close by.

“We see folks becoming a member of in on-line on the temple providers, and collaborating in CBE occasions from everywhere in the United States,” Omori stated. “We’re reaching out and offering them with the Dharma. I believe we actually must proceed to think about alternative ways of doing outreach in addition to offering the person with the Dharma and making them really feel part of the BCA.”

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