Unification News for

April 1998


True Love Rally in Newburgh, NY

by Gale Alves & Ina Conneally-Newburgh NY

Was it that hourly condition of reading Father’s speeches which convinced us to have a rally "all of our own" right here, in our adopted hometown, right now?

This city of Newburgh certainly was the right environment for what we suddenly envisioned in our minds: to have a revolution, nothing less than that, marching down the main street together with religious leaders, parents, teachers and maybe even the Mayor herself. We would stand right where George Washington had his soldiers gathered, waiting for the final peace treaty between the British and his own troops. Just the two of us-it seemed a bit much, though.

Making up a flyer was not so difficult, and we had one brother helping us on the computer. The next step was to get a permit from the city and from George Washington’s headquarters. With a baby in one arm, we went back and forth between the police and the fire departments, to deliver the permit personally. The original had gotten lost, and we didn’t have much time to lose, for within only a couple of weeks the rally was to take place. But the hardest part was yet to come: it wasn’t really clear to us who exactly would participate in that rally which we had so proudly advertised all over the city. The secretary from Orange County College gave us the third degree: she wanted to know who, by name, those sponsors were that our flyer had described as "members of the religious community." Well, there was Nettie from the Baptist Church and another woman from a mosque and, yes, a Buddhist monk had said he would come, too. At least it was ecumenical, but who would want to walk down Broadway with two women and a monk? We decided we would hold that rally under all circumstances.

A youth pastor from the Catholic Church was rather surprised: an event like that, she said, usually takes months of preparation, with many churches and organizations involved, committees created and funds raised. We realized we had none of all that, but we would still have that rally!

The first rays of hope shone when suddenly another priest called and responded with interest to the flyer we’d left, without much expectation, at his church. He was very concerned about today’s moral standards. Especially here in south Newburgh, with prostitutes parading up and down the streets at night-yes, he would come and bring his youth group on Saturday.

That gave us new energy, but still many churches had to be contacted. We could see how much spiritual foundation members working here previously had made, and how much more we ourselves could have invested. Many guests from Women’s Federation events and True Family Values workshops were re-contacted, but in some cases the freshness of an ongoing relationship was missing. "Haven’t seen you for a while-how many months has it been?" But we also felt that people were happy to see us again.

However, not all churches could immediately relate to the theme of "Purity Before Marriage and Fidelity Within." One Episcopalian minister handed us a letter of protest against welfare cuts in response to our flyer. One Presbyterian pastor was not sure whether purity was something he could identify with. ("After all, are we pure ourselves?") But he said he would walk with us.

Since our church is part of the Ministerial Alliance here in Newburgh, we are somewhat protected and have the status of being the "underdogs"-which is a friendly gesture, in a way, because ministers can see the persecution our church had to suffer. On the other hand, who wants to be an underdog?

Going back and forth between Hispanic, black and white churches, we felt like two balls bouncing all over the place. Since the Catholics seemed more inspired about purity and fidelity than the Protestants, we gave it another try at Mt. St. Mary’s College. During that same week, there was an AIDS Awareness Program on campus. We walked by an office which counsels gay and lesbian students and went over to a building where retired nuns live. Would they march with us? Well, they were already past the age of marching, one friendly sister advised, regretfully, and showed us her leg.

On Sunday morning we drove to the Unification Theological Seminary in Red Hook. What we had to say was basically "Can’t you all come, pleeeease?" We hoped especially for the African brothers to join us as an inspiration for our black community in Newburgh.

We also got the number of one brother working at a radio station nearby. We called him up and were able to advertise our rally. One day later, another radio station asked to do an interview with us. As two concerned mothers, we were looking for morality in the media, in schools, health institutions. The interview was friendly and we were congratulated for our efforts.

Saturday came, and the weather was foul. The balloons we had blown up were taken over to the priest’s office, and there they floated feebly over his desk.

Fortunately we had set a rain date, March 28. The good thing was that now we had more time to prepare to contact more people. And besides, it was True Parents Day, which we could celebrate simultaneously with the rally. Michael Balcomb and Robert Kittel from the Pure Love Alliance, who promised to come, might find it easier to drive up here from Belvedere and possibly to bring other families with them. We had already received seven megaphones from them; another substantial contribution consisted of 22 creative signs (from the Red Hook Sunday School) for the march, with slogans like "Fidelity Forever" and "Save Sex NOT Safe Sex." One sister from our own community had also contributed a front banner.

Finally True Parents Day (worldwide) and True Love Day (locally) arrived. While we had taken our children out sledding the previous weekend, this Saturday we felt inclined to take out our beach chairs-if not for the rally!

A tropical breeze blew through our 36 balloons as we carried them over to the parking lot where we would meet all those righteous, pure-minded people. While we had walked all the way down Broadway ourselves to see how long it takes, we made up slogans to shout for the march. "Don’t be a fool: purity is cool!" "That’s the rule: marriage is a jewel!" These slogans were handed out first to the imam with his masjid’s youth group, along with balloons. "Glory, glory, Hallelujah" was a base of ecumenical unity beyond differences of Christian and Muslim, for example. A few minutes later, the priest arrived with his group, bringing along their banner. One after another, people came together while five police cars waited for us to start the rally. Of all the sixty participants, twenty Unificationists were present. Pres. David Kim appeared, taking pictures and wishing us much luck. It was time to get started.

We looked at each other and felt suddenly the pressure and responsibility of it all. Boy, we hadn’t done anything like this before. Couldn’t one big brother, Robert or Michael maybe, just take all those people down Broadway, with us marching behind? But the police car had already entered Broadway and we had to keep up.

Right behind the front banner, the imam, priest, evangelical minister, Mormon bishop and Buddhist monk walked. People came out of their shops to see what was going on while cars drove slowly by. Since our group was very diverse in character, it wasn’t easy to have everyone sing and shout at the same time, but we knew already that this wasn’t going to be like one of those strongly unified Pure Love walks-it was rather an "of the community, for the community," potluck type of march. Half an hour later, we arrived at George Washington’s headquarters. The stony stool which Washington used to mount his horse was now our speakers’ podium. First we greeted everyone and then read a proclamation of our "revolutionary army" calling for a God-centered, true-love, true-parents and true-children society with purity and fidelity as the two pillars holding America up. The speech ended with George Washington’s final words to his officers on March 15, 1783: "Had this day not been, the world would have never seen the last stage of perfection to which humankind is capable of attaining."

Father Bill then weighed heavily upon our hearts as he told the story of a pure young girl who had been killed by her schoolmate because she didn’t want to have sex with him. The Imam Muhammad, having worked for some time in prison, pointed out the relationship between a lack of parental love and the search for premature sexual love instead.

Between the speeches which the clergy gave, Diesa Seidel from Red Hook, a second-generation sister, freshened up the spirit of gravity by her testimony. Finally, Michael Balcomb concluded the purity-fidelity circle by saying that without absolute values, America will continue to have overwhelming problems. Other churches, which couldn’t participate themselves as such, had orally expressed support and were mentioned, too. More people had arrived by then, so we counted between 70 and 80 participants.

After a last prayer was offered, the group dissolved, and everyone went home by car. After the rally we had a light luncheon together in one of our homes, with almost all speakers present.

We both felt that, though small in number, this "declaration of a moral revolution" was truly significant. Almost everyone who had participated was personally invited; these people weren’t just mere bystanders, but almost all of them were activists in their own religious and moral-educational fields.

Thinking of how doubtful we ourselves had been at times, when our dream seemed not much more than a nice idea, we realized once again that without God as our general and True Father’s strategy to rely on for spiritual support, we wouldn’t have been able to make this rally a success. But with cooperation among family, friends, networking and mutual inspiration, all obstacles can be overcome and battles can be won.

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