The Words of the Selle Family
New Hope Family Church in Maryland honored Thanksgiving early this year with a pre-Thanksgiving service and International Potluck and Celebration on November 23. The main service, which was set to begin one hour later than usual, was packed with members and guests alike, as songs of thanks and worship prepared the atmosphere for the Word.
Matthew Goldberg, the service leader, warmly introduced Pastor Angelika Selle, one of the very few woman pastors in our movement, who has been the pastor at New Hope for three years. In her gentle but clear way, she led the audience into the topic of "Living a Life of Thanksgiving." Being truly thankful, she said, isn't fully possible without first acknowledging the Creator, God, in all things -- like the Pilgrims, who came to this land and did everything in the name of God. In fact, the Pilgrims recognized that their entire lives depended on God, so they saw God's hand in everything. That was the foundation for true Thanksgiving, Pastor Selle said.
She went on to explain that there are three levels of thanksgiving. The first is being thankful for the things and friends we have around us. And even if we have few things and few friends, it nonetheless behooves us to be grateful for what we have because the fact that we have anything at all is a blessing. The second level of thanksgiving is being grateful for the problems, difficulties, and challenges we have. God gives them to us so we can stretch our character and grow our spirits. And the third level is acting, out of our thankfulness, to please and comfort God. That is the level that Jesus, Father Moon, and a few others have attained. Out of the richness of their relationship with God, and out of the abundance of the blessings they perceived to be theirs, they proceeded to live a life of bringing joy and peace to God's heart by fulfilling what He's always wanted, namely, that His Kingdom might come, that on earth His will might be done.
Finally, Pastor Selle gave her attentive listeners some practical aids in getting us back on the thanksgiving track, whenever daily stresses cause us to stray. She counseled us -- especially when we don't feel like it -- to (1) read out loud someone else's beautiful words or prayer of thankfulness and praise, such as the Lord's Prayer, a psalm of thanks, or other prayers of gratitude; (2) tie a string around your finger or a handkerchief around your wrist as a reminder to be thankful when you feel like complaining; (3) write down your prayers, especially if you have difficulty with verbalizing them; even writing or saying, "Thank you; I love You," over and over can be a powerful prayer; and (4) put gratitude into action (paying it forward), serve others, and, through that, open their hearts to be thankful to you.
When we live a life of thanksgiving, Pastor Selle concluded, we connect to our inner higher self, become humble, receive guidance from God, and, most of all, we keep our blessings. The sermon finished with the song by Andrae Crouch, “To God Be the Glory.” (Link to sermon: www.esnips.com/web/NHFCServices)
Toward the end of the service, Mayor Lee Walker of Landover Hills graced us with his presence and gave brief Thanksgiving greetings to all. It is the second time he attended this kind of service and celebrated with us.
A rich variety of international foods was waiting out in the hall, brought by members of the congregation as well as guests. The food line was very long as more than 250 people filled their plates with delicious victuals.
The real fun for God's colorful family began as the entertainers took the audience around the world, beginning here in America. The opening song was a beautiful rendition of Nora Jones’ “Sunrise” by the talented couple Mehran Mizani and his fiancé, Esther Jones, who drew everyone into the hall. Their performance was followed by a classical violin piece by J.S. Bach, played by Makiko Taguchi and accompanied by Irion Hoffman. Then we were thrilled by African dancer, actress, and poetess Anna Mwalaga, from Kenya, who taught an African dance to the audience and presented a stirring poem about how the differences between God's children enrich us all and don't need to be a reason for rejection.
Everyone's heart was warmed up by the primary-school-age trio of Amy Ozaki (lead singer) and the Egoshi girls (backup singers), who presented a song written by In Jin Nim. Quite professionally done! And what would the afternoon have been like without authentic Austrian yodeling and playing of the “button box” (an accordion-like instrument) by Sylvia Eberly. It inspired some spontaneous dancing. Finally, our Korean-Japanese choir sang a new Holy Song. And everyone concluded and chimed in with the song “Sarang He.”
As the spirit of love filled the hall, the presence of God was felt, as well as His joy in celebrating with us. It was a real community event, put on by all of us. That was the real beauty. Some boys from our Boy Scout Troop 1212 worked hard from early morning on, frying turkeys that were donated by the New Hope Family Church Board members. Artist Angela Eisenbart and several Japanese sisters made up the decorations. In addition, the Japanese community provided food and organized the food coordination by communities and family groups. Our Korean, African, and Korean families provided ample amounts of food, and everyone else brought favorite ethnic dishes.
When all were holding hands for a final blessing, our hearts were filled with True Thanksgiving to God, our True Parents, and to one another.