The Words of the Hendricks Family
Out of the July 25 workshops on religious liberty in Washington, D.C., came the proposal that ministers be educated about religious liberties on an intensive and continual basis. It was also recognized that thousands of ministers had indicated their solidarity on the religious liberty issue by offering to spend a week in prison with Rev. Moon, but that the literal implementation of this pledge would soon be impossible. To resolve this situation, the Interdenominational Conferences for Clergy (ICC) suggested that the commitment for a week in jail be fulfilled by attendance at a five-day religious liberties seminar. Thus the Common Suffering Fellowship (CSF) was horn.
This event has tremendous providential significance. The 2,000 years of tragic separation between Christianity and Judaism is linked to the first generation of Christian-Jewish conflict, and ultimately to the rejection of Jesus by the chosen religion of Judaism. Up until now, Father has also suffered rejection and misunderstanding from the Christian churches. Christian ministers, week after week, sharing symbolically in Father's suffering at the Common Suffering Fellowship. This represents a providential linkage of Unificationism with our elder brother Christianity; it is an event portending great future development.
Housed at the Capitol Gardens building in Washington, D.C., the CSF has hosted nearly 300 ministers this summer. The week-long program was initiated by regional coordinators Michael Jenkins, Matthew Morrison, Tom McDevitt, Shawn Byrne, and Bento Leal. In mid-August the seminar came under the auspices of Interdenominational Conferences for Clergy, and my supervision. Presently the Fellowship is coordinated by Mr. Levy Daugherty of Washington. D.C. with the assistance of UTS graduates Judy Shahi, Chere Glass, and Geoffrey Hinkle. Several ministers have served as CSF convener, the most prominent of them being Dr. 0. St. Clair Franklin, a Methodist pastor from Baltimore.
The typical week exposes the ministers to a variety of experiences. The first evening consists of introductions and orientation. We hear moving accounts and testimonies to the cause of religious liberty, as the ministers explain their motivation in attending the seminar. Some ministers share their own difficulties with civil authorities, grateful to have the car of sympathetic colleagues and to realize that they are not alone in their struggle. One minister, in order to gain permission to expand his church building, was required to widen the city street in front of his church at the church's expense. In another city all churches, regardless of size, have recently been assessed a $1,500 sewage tax. In another, a zealous building inspector ordered a church to do tens of thousands of dollars' worth of building refurbishing. In all cases these are poor churches, for which such exactments are equivalent to orders to close down operations.
Tuesday, the first full day of the seminar, is devoted to informational sessions. Lectures are presented on a variety of topics, including a historical perspective on religious liberty, the current legal/constitutional context for the religious liberties struggle, Rev. Sileven's case, and Rev. Moon's case. We have been fortunate to have noted sociologist Dr. Jeffrey Hadden to speak on a sociological assessment of religious liberty in the United States and on strategies of resource mobilization, and to have Dr. Sulayman Nyang speak on religion and democracy.
This first day also includes group workshops on the impact and meaning of shared suffering. Subsequent workshops cover the position of the church in society today, and the ways and means of multiplying the religious liberties movement. At all times we work to make the experience practical and to provide materials so that the ministers can be activists when they get back home.
The Wednesday schedule gives the ministers their first outside activity: a visit to Capitol Hill. The day opens as does every day, with a worship service. Then there is a talk on "Christian Activism: The Ins and Outs of Capitol Hill," in which are discussed the rights and privileges of citizens, how the federal government is organized, and how to effectively make one's opinion felt on the Hill. The ministers then devote several hours to visiting their representatives and senators, and to sightseeing in the Capitol area. Lunch at a local restaurant afterwards is enlivened by stories and testimonies garnered from the morning experiences.
We return to share some theological insights from Unification theology. Two lectures cover the mission of Jesus, the predestination of the cross and the Second Coming. The overall theme stressed is that of Christian responsibility? What are the implications for Christians today of the failure of the people to recognize the Messiah 2,000 years ago? What is the Christian responsibility to the world, as inheritors of the words, blessing, and, indeed, the cross of Jesus?
These ideas, needless to say, stir up animated conversation over dinner, which gives way in the evening to a worship and fellowship filled with spontaneous preaching and gospel singing into the late hours.
On Thursday the Fellowship moves into high gear. After morning worship the ministers hear a lecture by Bill Lay of CAUSA, concerning the status of religion under communism. This is followed by a talk from one of two representatives from a Virginia church now being fined $1,000 a day by the state of Virginia for refusing to hold a church meeting under state auspices. Either Dr. Milton Reid, pastor of the church, or his assistant Ms. Brenda Andrews, makes clear to the ministers how every church in America is vulnerable to government interference. This sets the stage for a demonstration at the White House. Highlighted by a mock jail cell (which the ministers love), the Fellowship sets forth ringing advocacy of religious freedom.
Returning to Capitol Gardens, the ministers gather for presentations on networking strategies and social action as a means to religious liberty. This last presentation is given by Washington representatives of the National Council for the Church and Social Action, usually Bruce Casino or Nancy Yamamoto. The presentation is always well received and often results in the formation of several new council chapters.
The spiritual peak for the week is reached on Thursday evening, as the group makes its way to the Lincoln Memorial for a candlelight prayer vigil. Amid the massive columns and the tremendous statue we gather in song and prayer. Readings from the Bible and from Martin Luther King, Jr. attract the attention and support of visitors to the memorial. Indeed, to witness the reading of the Sermon on the Mount amidst an interracial group, made up of individuals of all ages and colors, must be a moving and inspiring sight. The prayers reach up beyond the engraved sayings of Lincoln into the summer heavens.
We walk then silently, or in song, down the memorial steps to the Reflecting Pool, again for prayer and meditation. Here, wily, many hearts have consecrated themselves to the furtherance of religious freedom in this nation and the world.
When we return home the night is not yet over. We gather for a final meeting and, with the accompaniment of a piano, hear a wonderful testimony about our church and True Parents from our seminar coordinator, Levy Daugherty. The convener then reads the names of those Fellowship participants who are graduating, and certificates are given out amidst applause and much happiness. With each certificate is presented a special gift, a set of video tapes on Unificationism: Perspectives for the Clergy, which are always gratefully received.
The close of the official program always brings on testimonies of gratitude and love from the ministers. One minister from Arizona spoke of how moved she was to have spent time with black brothers and sisters for the first time in her life. She broke down in tears. Conversations carry on until late at night.
Someone once said that give and take changes both parties. You can't have sincere give and take without changing a little bit yourself. Nobody's free from that. Now, the Common Suffering Fellowship brings Unificationists into the closest give and take with Christian clergy 1 have ever seen.
Our place of communion is not a nice hotel; it's not on a beautiful island. It's on a street in Washington, D.C., and we meet where we live. We see each other in suits and ties and then later walking down the hall to the bathroom in T-shirts. There is no adequate air- conditioning. The ministers sleep in bunk beds that must have been made for Japanese women, for no one over 5' 10" can sleep with his legs stretched out straight. We eat together and we exchange places at the pulpit, preaching to and teaching each other. Everyone has to clear the table after eating; everyone has to clear the air after preaching. It's really lose. And it brings us Unificationists on the staff to confront our Christian roots.
Without living, praising, and giving thanks to Jesus, can we truly love, praise and thank Father? Do we know that everything we do and our church is on the foundation of the cross? Do you feel the Holy Spirit? Do you think that we can be the leaven that leavens the whole lump of Christianity if we don't have the Holy Spirit? If we don't trust in God the way our ancestor Christians have trusted in Him for 2,000 years? If we don't praise Him the way they praised Him? If we can't come together and be rejuvenated as a community by the spirit of God? This is what the black church has, and this is what white fundamentalists have. Though both are missing a lot of other things, they have the key to praise and release, to bring the Spirit down among us, if only for a moment, a precious moment
A lot of American readers grew up during the sixties, and know the power music has to bring people into momentary ecstatic community. The church should have that power! The Unification Church should have the power in its services to praise God and to lift people up out of themselves.
The blessing of the Common Suffering Fellowship for me is that for some few brief moments here among clergy I can feel and touch and taste the rich power of the Holy Spirit, in prayer, in song, in shouting -- in that freedom. Every religion in the world ought to connect its people to that power.
We are connecting with our central foundation. Let us praise God for it, and not be afraid to let the Spirit speak to the churches and dwell among us. And let's not be afraid to praise Jesus.
Let's not be afraid to have an authentic relationship with the New Testament churches; for they will change no more than we allow ourselves to change; they will trust us no more than we trust them; they will love us no more than we love their,. And to love means, in great part, to respect.
This is the time for mutual respect, mutual love, mutual learning, mutual suffering, mutual rejoicing -- I think that's what religious liberty is about. If we miss this precious opportunity it won't matter if Father leaves a building in Danbury; he might still be in a prison of a thousand walls -- the walls of our isolation. We now have the chance to create a real Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity.