Articles from the July 1997 Unification News

Blessing in Chicago

by Bruce Sutchar-Chicago IL

Although I grew up in Chicago, I joined the church in San Francisco and did not return to Chicago for about six years. After living and working on both coasts, the thing that amazed me the most about Chicago was the unity of the departments and the community. Several years later, after pastoring our churches in New Mexico and Wyoming, I had the opportunity to move back to my hometown and I have now been here for the last ten years. Every area of the country is unique in its own way. The one experience which I still find so special about Chicago is the unity of the community.

Somehow God put a package together back in the early 1980s, and when the CAUSA Ministerial Alliance began, the African American community in Chicago responded tremendously. Ministers got involved in CAUSA, and in each subsequent activity, including the Religious Freedom Coalition, the ICUSA, the American Leadership Conferences, USA, and basically every project, tour and campaign over these past 15 years. Because Father has pushed us so hard, we have had to keep coming back to our ministers, and they have over and over again responded-now, on deeper and deeper levels.

Often we would lament, because it seemed like every time we were calling one of our ministers, it was to invite them to something: a conference, a trip, a project or one of Father's or Mother's tours. But in-between times, we visited their churches, we worshipped with them, we attended their banquets, celebrated their birthdays and developed ever deeper relationships with them, their families and congregations.

As we have progressed, we have been able to include the key members of their congregations in events like the Women's Conferences and the True Family Values conferences. This has made a tremendous difference in having not only the ministers, but their congregations, embrace our movements and members. More and more the ministers and their congregants are even visiting our church not only as speakers but as visitors.

It is in this vein that we have emerged into the 1997 3.6 million Blessing providence. In August 1995 one of the most influential ministers in all Chicago, Rev. Dr. Amos Waller, learned about the Blessing of 360,000 couples. We had originally planned to hold a number of Blessings all over the Chicagoland area. However, Dr. Waller got really inspired and invited all of the Blessings in Chicago to be unified into one Blessing in his Mercy Seat Missionary Baptist Church. And so, on that wonderful day in August 1995, 42 couples joined Dr. and Mrs. Waller and received the Holy Wine and the Blessing together. (Later, Dr. Waller, who had had a dream about meeting our True Parents nearly 20 years ago, would arrange it so that the Mayor of Chicago would provide official police escorts for both Father and Mother upon their subsequent visits to Chicago.) Dr. Waller was inspired because he feels that the young members of his church need to see their parents re-dedicating their vows in front of God. And Dr. Waller was so inspired that he suggested we hold a Blessing in his church every year.

Little did we know that the 3.6 million Blessing would be just around the corner.

In the meantime, God inspired another major Chicago ministerial leader, the Rev. T.L. Barrett, Jr. Rev. Barrett leads a beautiful church on the side of Chicago which holds upwards of 2,000 people. As we have already shared, Rev. Barrett was inspired to host True Mother during her tour of America last autumn. Rev. is a leader of a major church with a consistently growing congregation, but he was so humble and serving when True Mother spoke in his church. Shortly after True Mother's speech, Rev. hoisted up the first FFWPU flag in America over his church, which stands on a street which the Mayor of Chicago named in his honor. Continuing in this spirit, Rev. hosted the first major Blessing in the 3.6 million Couple providence in Chicago, two days after Christmas.

And Rev. has continued in this spirit throughout 1997, hosting two major Blessings on March 15 and then again on May 31. The May 31 Blessing was quite exceptional in that Rev. asked to be the host and sponsor of the Blessing-rather than having the Unification community host the event. He explained that he felt the Blessing belonged not to the Unification Church-not to his own Life Center COGIC (Church of God in Christ)-but rather to God. God, Himself, was the owner of the Blessing and we were each being called to open the pathway for the people of America to receive it.

In this vein, Rev. came to our first planning meeting with a nine-page outline of what was needed to make May 31 a success for God. And he mobilized his entire staff of assistants to lead the way to victory. He explained further how his own church had been redirected by God's movement centering on the family. Rev. is a true visionary who always sees ahead. Therefore, he planned every Sunday in June to be a special Sunday service centering on some aspect of the family, i.e., Couples Sunday, Engaged Couples Sunday, Young Adults Heading Toward Marriage Sunday, etc. On the first Sunday in June (the day after the May 31 Blessing), Rev. invited Rev. Ki Hun Kim to give the Sunday service to kick off his family month and it was a huge success. It is obvious that God has a strong hand on the life of Rev. T.L., and that Rev. is responding accordingly.

One side note about the power of the family of Rev. Barrett's church is that when one of his assistant ministers was applying for a Community Directorship with the University of Illinois, Rev. Barrett and several of the church leaders accompanied her to the interview. Afterward, she was told that although she did not, at that time, have all the necessary qualifications and education credentials, Rev. Barrett's promise that hiring her was equivalent to hiring the entire church, became the basis for the University deciding to hire her. And today, having achieved all necessary credentials, she is continuing to lead and grow her children and community curriculum at the university.

The Blessing on May 31 was a great success. Sixty one couples renewed their wedding vows in a holy and sacramental spirit. Rev. Barrett believes deeply in beauty and tradition and thus the event, while following the traditions of the Blessing ceremony, has ever aspect of a beautiful wedding ceremony, including a beautiful arch and thousands of balloons, which were released immediately after the service-each filled with a little note from the Bible.

Now as we march toward the completion of our 3.6 million couples goal, Rev. continues to be in the foreground of all our activities. From getting up at 4am every day to do his morning radio show, to continuing to work to coalesce Christian ministers from all over the Midwest, Rev. is constantly marching to God's drumbeat and inspiring all God brings in contact with him. And in the true tradition of the Family Federation, Rev. is always putting the family first. He leads his congregation as a true parent would lead his own family, and he is inspiring all of us to understand God's precious love of the family as the pathway toward the heart of God.

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