40 Years in America
Madison Square Garden -- 2,075 Couples
The Blessing of 2,075 couples at Madison Square Garden, New York on July 1, 1982
A large percentage of the American movement, 2075 couples or 4150 persons in all, participated in a record-setting wedding sponsored by the church at New York’s Madison Square Garden on July 1, 1982. This number eclipsed the previous record of 1800 couples married by Rev. Moon in 1975, which was recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest mass wedding in history. Engagement ceremonies of 705 couples in May 1979, 843 couples in December 1980 and 653 couples in June 1982, led up to the ceremony. With this event, the church went from being a movement of primarily single people to one of married people, virtually overnight.
The Madison Square Garden Blessing introduced new complexities into members’ lives, which had not been there before. These included the matter of spousal relationships, the presence of children, and issues of financial support.
The church attempted to minimize disruptions and integrate newly-formed couples into its witnessing effort through lengthy engagement periods prior to the ceremony or separation periods afterwards, by setting standards of bringing a certain number of "spiritual children" before consummating marriages, and by mobilizing wives for IOWC teams. During its three-year period of "total mobilization" between 1983-85, the movement set up twenty-four hour daycare facilities at locations throughout the country so that members would be free to focus on witnessing.
Despite these measures, married life and children were a distraction for many. Unificationist couples understood that they were engrafted into the new humanity through participation in marriage "blessings" presided over by Rev. and Mrs. Moon. They also understood that children born of marriages arranged and blessed by Rev. Moon were free from the taint of original sin. The vast majority of members accepted their partners, most gratefully. However, since 63 percent of the couples were either inter-racially or cross-culturally mixed, spousal relationships required attention and work that otherwise might have been dedicated to outreach. Other couples, while affirming their blessing, redefined their church commitments. Some took conventional jobs and seemed to take on conventional lives. At this stage, the movement viewed family and mission as being in competition with one another. It did not yet comprehend how Unification families would provide new avenues of entrance into American life, mitigate the church’s more threatening aspects, and lead to substantial numerical growth through high fertility rates.
The channeling of witnessing energies into other areas of interest or need was a final reason why the church did not meet its membership goals. Rev. Moon’s desire for the movement to become more substantial and to diversify into many areas of endeavor required increased membership and was the reason that he emphasized evangelism so heavily during these years. Financial support for movement projects continually exerted a pull, and hundreds of new members were pressed into service on mobile fundraising teams (MFT). This service was understood to be part of a seven-year "formula course," three and a half years of which were dedicated to restoring the things of creation. Still, this diverted members from witnessing and created a situation whereby many fundraisers stayed in the field five, seven or even ten years. Other fundraisers had difficulty in adjusting to witnessing and took "business missions" rather than fulfill the second three and a half years of the formula course, which was dedicated to restoring people.
The movement undertook other initiatives, which also pulled witnessing members from the field. Mention already has been made of the missionaries and global IOWC teams which went out in 1975. Although these members were dedicated to front-line activity, it was outside of the United States and had an adverse effect on American witnessing efforts as noted. That same year, Rev. Moon founded Unification Theological Seminary at Barrytown, New York, which pulled an additional fifty members from the field, all college graduates, for a two-year course of study in religious education. The long-term vision was to prepare religious leaders. Still, this necessitated a commitment of up to fifty top members a year between 1977-85. In late 1976, Rev. Moon established a New York daily newspaper, The News World, which was the first of the movement’s media initiatives in the United States. This also drained off talent from the field, as members staffed most positions.
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