The Words of the Sutchar Family
Chicago Family Church began preparations for its Fourteenth Annual True Family Values Banquet several months ago. In fact, looking back, it feels like it was ages ago. Under the guidance of Rev. David Rendel, Chicago's District Director, church activists in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan began to plan for a gala event sometime just before Christmas, 2008.
The True Family Values Awards Banquet has had quite a history -- having once hosted the Honorable Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader, and then having hosted our own True Parents on several occasions. Now, in spite of our Father's age and schedule, Rev. Rendel was determined to once again host our True Parents.
As we prepared for the banquet, the pace of church rallies gave us hope that True Parents indeed would come to Chicago. First there was the October 1st Original Divine Principle Seminar and the celebration banquet honoring the publication of the English translation of True Father's autobiography. Then we all participated in the October 14th blessing across America. Finally, there were numerous conferences in Las Vegas calling both for ministers to attend the American Clergy Leadership Conference and for our members to attend the Original Divine Principle Seminars.
As the time got closer and closer, the likelihood of True Parents' attendance looked better and better. The Ohio and Minnesota regions were invited to serve as co-hosts with Chicago. Responses came forth from notable invitees across the nation.
Proclamations began to pour in, honoring not only Father's autobiography, but also the year-long celebration of his 90th birthday. They came from mayors, governors, senators, congressmen and state legislators.
And finally, one body was able to declare Saturday, December 19, 2009 as "Sun Myung Moon Day in Chicago." The last time something of this magnitude had been announced was during True Father's 1972 tour when he spoke at Chicago's McCormick Place, and where Mayor Richard J. Daley presented him with the key to the city.
Two days before the Chicago event, True Father spoke for nearly three hours in Las Vegas and the next thing we knew -- he was headed back to Korea for God's Day. Then we heard that the worst storm in 30 years was tearing up the eastern seaboard from Boston to Savannah, leaving every airport closed and many of our key attendees stuck inside of their home and cities.
However, we also learned that In Jin Nim would be bringing her Lovin' Life Ministry to Chicago -- complete with the acclaimed Lovin' Life band. Chicago was to host the Sunday Service which would be simulcast back to her home church at the Manhattan Center in New York.
Friday night (Dec. 18, 2009) brought a Christmas snow to Chicago but not enough snow to disrupt the caravans coming from Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana. The venue, Chicago's largest room, the International Ballroom inside of the pristine Chicago Hilton Hotel filled up almost immediately after the noon start time.
Minister Torrey Barrett of Life Center Church of God in Christ, (son of Pastor T. L. Barrett, Jr.), adroitly emceed the banquet which was hosted jointly by the Family Federation and Rev. Barrett's Life Center Church of God in Christ.
The program flowed smoothly. There was inspiring music, Archbishop Ki Hoon Kim gave welcoming remarks, and the Lovin' Life Band entertained during the luncheon. Then, all of a sudden the entire edifice began to rock as the gospel choir known as "Soul Children of Chicago" tore the place down. Not one of the more than one thousand guests could manage to stay in their seats.
Pastor Leroy Elliott, Pastor of New Greater St. John Missionary Baptist Church, then continued to elevate the spirit with his congratulatory remarks. After presentation of the video, "Realizing a World of True Peace," Rev. In Jin Moon entered to address the audience. Her remarks were both loving and very powerful. She covered the areas of morality, ethics and responsibility in talking about the family as it moves through 21st Century America.
After her remarks, four special awards were presented in four critical categories: Civil Rights activist Rev. A.I. Dunlap was honored for a lifetime of achievement in the field of human rights; Rev. James Bass was honored for his pioneer work in the field of ministry and religion; Rev. Helen Cooper was honored for her pioneering efforts in the field of community service; and Dr. Morton Kaplan, distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, and Dr. Margaret Burroughs, an incredibly energetic 92-year-old artist, designer, and founder of Chicago's DuSable Museum, were each honored in the field of education.
The awardees were then joined by Archbishop Kim, Rev. Michael Jenkins, and a dozen Chicago dignitaries (no one from the East Coast was able to join us due to the storms closing all of their airports for over twenty-four hours).
This distinguished group then turned around and presented True Parents with a distinguished "Lifetime Achievement Award," which In Jin Nim graciously received in their stead.
The program closed with song and prayer, and the participants departed joyfully, only to return again and again for Ballroom Dancing.
On the foundation of our wonderful banquet on Saturday and the black-tie ballroom dancing event the night before, the expectation was quite high as we prepared to host In Jin Nim and the Lovin' Life Ministry Sunday Service in Chicago. The first thing that I noticed as I rode up the escalator to the International Ballroom on the second floor of the Chicago Hilton Hotel was the large number of second-generation brothers and sisters all over the hotel. As we came to the top of the escalator, we were greeted by six blessed children applauding each entrant.
To say that the band was awesome would be doing an injustice. Before In Jin Nim could even come up, they about blew the house down with holy songs for the traditionalists, Beatles songs for the old fogies and awesome Christian music for everyone.
Many who could not attend the banquet on Saturday arrived early Sunday to get the best seats, as the auditorium held only 1000. Naturally, many who were inspired by the activities of the previous day returned hungry for more. In addition, we found out that the service was being simulcast not only back to the Manhattan Center, but to 120 cities all along the East Coast.
This author had the honor of sitting in the front row with the 79-year-old Rev. A.I. Dunlap who had been designated to offer the benediction following In Jin Nim's sermon. Rev. Dunlap had been honored the day before for his lifelong work in the field of human rights. His mission as Dr. Martin Luther King's point man in Danville, Virginia had landed him in jail 39 times.
As I listened to the band, I felt like they would be natural fits on Jay Leno, Letterman, Conan O'Brien or Saturday Night Live. They were simply awesome!
In Jin Nim's sermon was quite profound. She told the story of Dr. Ann Brooks, which illustrated so many points about never giving up, having absolute faith, absolute love and absolute obedience to God. She also shared deeply about the incredible suffering that the deprogrammers had put our own Mr. Toru Goto through for 12 years in Japan. The sermon kept the audience spell-bound.
The congregation also loved David Hunter and Jaga Gavin's creative announcements, including their jester hats and Christmas caps. And the congregation roared with enthusiasm as Jario Gavin, Chicago youth pastor was portrayed on the screen.
Finally, Rev. Dunlap arose and closed out the service as only someone with a seminary degree, 40 years in the civil rights movement and four children with graduate degrees could do. Chicago now is hoping that In Jin Nim will bring Lovin' Life back soon to Chicago.
Contributed by Rev. Bruce Sutchar in Chicago