Unification News for January 2003

Washington Family Church Celebrates 25th Anniversary

by William Selig

In the dark and bitter chill of an early winter morning in Washington, DC, True Parents strode up to the old Mormon church at 1610 Columbia Road, NW, and cut the ribbon hung ceremoniously across the big double doors. The date was December 4, 1977.

In his dedication speech, entitled "Renewed Pride," Father said: "The Unification Church has a new tradition of acquiring something old and restoring it to a state better than its original condition. That is our faith and dedication. It is very symbolic that we have restored a former Mormon church into our heavenly temple, but we are not just talking about one church. We are going to follow this pattern to restore the nation, the world, and the cosmos.

"I walked into this building thinking, ‘Father in Heaven, Your sons and daughters are in this congregation. They really poured out their heart, sweat, and energy for this building. That is valuable for You.’ Furthermore, we restored this temple not for our own glory but for the celebration of this city, the nation’s capital. We have a purpose and providence to be here. Even though this temple is smaller than the new one the Mormons built, Father, because of our purpose, I know You are dwelling with us here."

A quarter of a century has passed since that exciting day when True Parents prayed and danced at the dedication ceremony. Imagine what we would hear if those walls could talk: visits of True Parents, True Children, Mrs. Hyo Nam Kim, political and religious leaders; scraping and painting the building’s walls, campaigns, Blessings, sermons, Holy Day celebrations, Sunday school, games, banquets, Seung Hwas, and so many, many Japanese missionaries … precious events and memories devoted to building God’s heavenly kingdom in our nation’s capital.

To prepare to commemorate this historic year, an ad hoc committee was set up under the direction of Rev. In Hoi Lee, our Regional Director. Rev. Cleveland Sparrow and Antonio Betancourt agreed to be co-chairmen of the anniversary committee and presided over the open meetings held at the church. Sub-committees were set up on building restoration, the Won Jeon project, and special publications.

On Dec. 2, 2001, we kicked off the anniversary year with a ceremonial unveiling of new HSA and FFWPU banners hung in the sanctuary, made by Pier Angelo Beltrami and donated by the Summit Council.

Research into restoring the building quickly showed that a thorough job would require extensive work costing millions of dollars, which was far beyond the scope of our humble committee and the financial resources of the community at this time. So we polled the community for suggestions and set more modest goals for building improvements.

The first project was to retile the foyer. Mrs. Grazyna Hagen and Rev. Randy Francis contracted with a company that had contributed to the Sheraton National restoration. Choosing long-lasting porcelain tiles, Grazyna designed a pattern in three colors that beautifully complement the foyer’s marble, stained glass, and wood paneling.

Second, the interior of the building was repainted, thanks almost entirely to the inspiration of Mrs. Chris Munsell. She and Jacob Brou worked hard over many long evenings and weekends, producing a much cleaner and brighter atmosphere. Plans are being made for refurbishing the sanctuary and the cultural hall.

Rev. Lee had the inspired idea to sell ads and space in the commemorative booklet to pay for the restoration projects. Mrs. Keiko Burton approached the business community, and Rev. Adrien Bayo dealt with the ministers. Thanks to them, the foyer’s new tile was completely paid for.

The anniversary publication started out as a booklet, a simple but comprehensive history of the church building since 1977, but we realized that this would tell only a small part of the story. The "booklet" quickly grew into a 94-page book that goes back to the beginning of our movement’s presence in the Washington area in the 1960s.

We created a timeline of True Parents’ activities and projects in DC from contributions of photos, memorabilia, and personal testimonies from many brothers and sisters across the country.

The history section begins with the arrival of Dr. Bo Hi Pak in 1961 as a military attaché to the Korean Embassy and goes on to chronicle the purchase of Upshur house, national headquarters on Dupont Circle, and includes photos of all the major campaigns and activities held in Washington, for example, the Forgive, Love, and Unite prayer vigils and the Washington Monument rally in the mid-1970s.

Eight former pastors sent in testimonies: David Hose, Michael Leone, Thomas McDevitt, Michael Marshall, Nicholas Buscovich, Kevin McCarthy, Phillip Schanker, and Henri Schauffler. Other sections contain precious testimonies about the early days of the movement in Washington, the first restoration of the building, the New Hope Singers’ contributions, community outreach, and many more tales of tears, perseverance, and inspiration.

One sister offered never-before-published photos of the 13 couples’ blessing. These were first-generation photos, not copies of copies. A brother had a shoebox of Polaroids of True Parents speaking at the church across the street from Upshur in 1972. Shouldn’t history have a record of Father’s every movement on this earth?! (By the way, it was the Grace Lutheran Church on Varnum and 16th Street.)

The project director for the commemorative book was Bill Selig. Linda Howell and Randy Francis helped with research; Donna Selig edited and proofed the manuscript; and Anne Ulvestad did a fantastic job with the layout and design. Times Color Graphics printed the publication. You can read it on-line as a PDF file or download it at familyfed.org (click "references"). To order your own full-color copy, contact Olga Manakounou at (202) 462-5700. The cost is $25 plus $3 for postage.

True Parents Come to Washington

The anniversary celebration would not have been complete without True Parents. Shortly after the September Blessing in New York, much to our surprise, Washington was selected as the site for the December 7th Blessing. To everyone’s delight, Father agreed to speak to the local community on December 8. When the history books are written, we will assume that Heavenly Father was so happy that He decided to include December 7 and 8 as part of the festivities to commemorate the 25th anniversary!

On December 8, we gathered with True Parents in the ballroom of the Sheraton National Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. True Parents and hundreds of members watched and smiled as Rev. Kevin McCarthy gave a PowerPoint presentation on the history of our church in Washington, using many of the photos published in the book. True Parents were featured, and a historic video was shown of the dedication ceremony on December 4, 1977. How young we all looked!

A wonderful and most appropriate aspect of the 25th anniversary was the reunion of the New Hope Singers International, who had contributed so much to the purchase and restoration of the church building and had even lived there in the basement for a year. They delighted the audience with "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Let There Be Peace on Earth," bringing back many memories. Time has certainly not diminished their talent. (See David Pelton’s article on the reunion.)

After a Hoon Dok Hae on the Resolution of Jesus and the Saints, Father spoke extemporaneously and then read "God’s Ideal Nation," which was also given a few days later at the Ambassadors for Peace conference in Kona, Hawaii, Dec. 9-14, 2002.

We truly want to thank Rev. Lee for his leadership and genuine love for the city of Washington and our members. He provided leadership and drove this project to involve as many members as possible and to raise funds for the upkeep of the church building. We can never fully express our gratitude to the many members who laid the foundation back in the 1960s and 70s, primarily, Young Oon Kim and Bo Hi Pak. God bless you. God bless you. We now look forward to the year 2027 and the fiftieth anniversary!

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