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Then and Now: Spokane Buddhist Temple

July 9, 2018

Spokane Buddhist Temple started 1945 with a rented apartment and a group of six dedicated Buddhists. The group included Rev. Hideo Eiyu Terao, who performed the first services.

Terao, born in 1913 in California, returned to Japan and was raised in Hiroshima. He was ordained a Buddhist priest in 1936. He returned to the United States to serve as a minister in San Francisco and Oakland. He married and was assigned to Seattle in 1940.

In 1942, his family was interned in the Minidoka Relocation Camp in Idaho. Terao, one of the few Buddhist clergy interned, served the camp population the best he could. The war ended in 1945 and they were free to go, but he was haunted by the loss of his parents and other family in the Hiroshima bombing.

While working to establish Spokane’s church, Rev. Terao also traveled around Eastern Washington and rural Montana to share Buddhist teachings. He traveled once a month to the Yakima area to serve the few Japanese families, mostly in agriculture, who returned after internment. Many had lost their farms or other investments because of their imprisonment.

Terao was transferred to Alameda, California in 1961. His brother, William Terao, took over the position in Spokane until 1972.

The elder Terao died in 1994.

The Spokane Buddhists met in a house at 628 S. Cowley from 1946 to 1965. The activities of the Buddhists were part of the religion news of the daily newspapers, with stories about Obon festivals and other events. Many regional Buddhist conventions and meetings have been hosted by the Spokane group over the years.

The growing congregation purchased for the former Liberty Heights Baptist Church at 927 S. Perry St. in 1965. The Baptists had merged with another congregation and moved.

In 1992, two 10-year-old boys set fire to a cardboard box on the church’s back porch. The fire spread quickly and the turn-of-the-century church was destroyed. The church members were determined to rebuild, though the insurance only covered about half of the $400,000 cost. But church members dug deep in their own pockets, fundraisers were held and strangers made donations. The new temple was dedicated in 1994.

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