Unification News for
Blessing 97 a Resounding Victory
by Richard L. Lewis-NYC
Who would have thought we would see the day that Father would declare, speaking in Korean through an interpreter, "On this day of November 29, 1997, at RFK Stadium in Washington DC we are Blessing 3.6 million couples and 36 million couples together- 39.6 million couples are being Blessed in front of you."
It was truly a wonderful day-the culmination of decades of effort by True Father and months of feverish activity in Washington and around the world.
Even arriving in Washington the evening before the event was special, the unseasonably balmy air in the late evening was quite unexpected having just left freezing weather in New York City only a few hours before.
The following morning was just as pleasant, overcast but not cold. The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium looked fabulous as we approached-the bright yellow flags of the FFWPU and the multicolored WCSF flags flapping in the slight breeze, crowds everywhere. The only forlorn note was the six, or was it ten, demonstrators led by Steve Hassan with placards near the entrance. Quite a drop from the massed protesters we had to run the gauntlet of at Yankee Stadium! Not surprisingly though, a TV anchor was doing her bit with the knot of dissent as her backdrop rather than the bustle and excitement around the stadium. Nothing different there!
Outside the stadium, a satellite truck with two disk antennas beamed the Blessing ceremony to seven satellites, and the images were then transmitted by downlinks to 54 locations around the world. "The ceremony, sponsored by the Family Federation for World Peace, will link families of virtually every religion, race and culture," said festival general secretary Neil Salonen in his statement to the press.
The scale of the event was monumental. Estimates of the attendance varied, but the Washington Post, not known for exaggerating Fathers accomplishments, put the number at 40,000 people.
Right outside the entrance were huge tables piled with WCSF bags-two styles, sports or tote; I chose tote-for everyone attending. Inside the bag was a beautiful "Blessing Shawl" of white satin and gold trim (think of a long white scarf); the booklet of Fathers speeches, True Love and True Family; a program and booklet about the weeks events; a WCSF poncho; and a seat warmer, a thin cushion that got hot, and stayed hot for hours, and was a delight to sit on.
Moving on, another huge table with, what looked like, 50,000 boxed lunches of teriyaki chicken, rice, salad, cake and an apple. Clutching these goodies I was swept with the crowd into the stadium itself.
Inside were tables laden with fruit and danish for those who had not breakfasted along with stands serving coffee and hot chocolate. At last it was down a tunnel and onto the field-it was breathtaking. The stage area at the far end of the field was a huge, white proscenium decorated with the WCSF logo and world flags and proudly proclaiming the Blessing of 3.6 and 36 million couples. Flags were flying all around the stadium-with the USA and Washington DC city flags centered above the stage-and flowers and gold cloth adorned the stage.
There were three great banners hanging over the stage: "Blessing of 3,600,000 Couples by July 15, 1997," "Blessing of 36,000,000 Couples by Nov. 29, 1997" and, in the center, "Blessing '97 Celebrating 39.6 Million Couples Worldwide." On the left wing of the stage was written in 10-foot high gold lettering, "World Peace Through Ideal Families" complemented by "Family is the School of True Love" on the right.
On either side of the stage were two Jumbotrons which displayed close-ups of what was happening on the stage, which was just as well because, from where I was sitting, people on the stage appeared quite tiny.
On the field in front of the stage were arrayed thousands of the couples to be Blessed while behind them was a heated tent for the many VIPs from the WCSF conferences attending the event.
As the stadium slowly filled, emcee Larry Moffit took the podium at 9:30 and welcomed everyone to the stadium, declaring that the 40-million mark had been passed days before and that, "Once the Blessing process starts its like a wave, it has a life of its own."
While we were waiting for the satellite hook-up which was scheduled to begin at 11, "Richard Harlee and the Soul Resurrection", a local singing-and-dancing group, took to the stage and got the spirit moving.
Larry Moffit then read excerpts from the letters of congratulations that had arrived from eminent people within the USA and around the world.
Several members of Congress, governors and mayors praised the purposes of the festival. Gov.-elect James S. Gilmore III, Virginia Republican, declared yesterday "A Day of Peace Through Family Unity," and the mayor of Scranton, Pa., declared it "World Peace Through True Families Day." The governors of Illinois and New Jersey also sent their good wishes.
Larry then told a few of the many wonderful experiences people had going out into the world to bring the Blessing-couples being reunited, reconciliations and heartistic transformations.
Raoul and Miuki then sang "Your Heart Will Open the Way," a song originally written by Kevin Pickard for the stadium Blessing in Korea. They were warmly received and Larry gave their new album a gentle plug.
Neil Salonen then took the podium and asked everyone to put on the Blessing shawl they were given as they entered. He then invited the VIPs onto the stage. Representatives of the True Family entered and sat on the left, while six religious dignitaries entered with Reverend Kwak and sat on the right. These were Sri Swami Satchidinanda of India, a Hindu; Sul Jung Jeon of Korea, a Buddhist; the Rev. Francis Xavier D'Sa of India, a Jesuit priest; Archbishop Ioan of Russia, head of the Orthodox Church of Mother Mary; the High Bhai Kirpal Singh of Malaysia, a Sikh; and The Honerable Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam.
Mr. Salonen then invited 36 representative couples to ascend the stage and stand before the central dais at the foot of the long. red-carpeted stairs that Parents would later descend.
Everyone then stood for the playing of the USA National Anthem followed by the invocation by Pastor T. L. Barrett of the Church of God in Christ, Chicago, who spoke of all people becoming True Parents.
At eleven oclock exactly, the worldwide broadcast by satellite began with a TV-news-like introduction. Reverend Kwak welcomed the world-wide participants and gave a brief history of the Blessings since 1960 and an overview of the Fall and Restoration.
A song of true love was then beautifully sang by Jaime Baer Peterson and then Mr. Salonen introduced six representatives of the worlds religions-Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, Orthodox, Catholic and Sikh faiths-to offer their blessings to the couples.
Swami Satchidinanda , an elderly man with long gray hair in a simple brown robe, spoke a few words of blessing in English and then in a sing-chant in Hindi. Archbishop Ioan, in gold and black robes, gave a powerful and moving prayer of benediction followed by Sul Jung Jeon, in white and brown, who chanted in Korean as he tapped on a small wooden gong he was carrying.
Louis Farrakhan, in his dignified dark suit and tie, gave a rousing mini-sermon: "Marriage is the cornerstone of the family, and family is the cornerstone of the nation," Mr. Farrakhan told the assembly. "If God is the cornerstone of your marriage, your marriage will never fail." At the end of his oration he powerfully recited a Blessing in Arabic.
Representing world Sikhism, Kirpal Singh, an elderly man with long silver hair and a blue turban, recited passages from the Sikh scriptures and concluded with a soft chant of sanctification. Rev. Xavier D'Sa, in a traditional Catholic surplice, spoke of the necessity of God in life and marriage and prayed that God would make the married couples "aware that you are the source and sustenance of your dedication."
The attendants to the officiators then filed down the long red stairs forming two lines down either side -the men in white on the left, the women in white and pink on the right.
True Parents appeared at the top of the stairs in their ceremonial robes and, to a standing ovation, slowly descended the staircase followed by two girl attendants.
When they reached the dais at the foot of the stairs, Reverend Kwak prayed in Korean, while Mr. Salonen translated. He concluded, "These 39.6 million couples want to participate in God-centered families.
The girl attendants then brought forward holy water in silver bowls and True Parents sprinkled it on the representative couples standing in front of them.
Throughout the stadium, church elders in their white holy robes also moved throughout the multitude-about 40,000 strong at this point-and also sprinkled holy water on everyone.
The attendants then brought white leather-bound folders stamped in gold to True Parents from which they read the wedding vows in Korean-a translation of them appearing in English on the Jumbotrons. At the end of each vow, Mr. Salonen asked everyone to respond, and the assembled roared back, "I Do!"
Mr. Salonen then solemnly said, "True Parents will now invoke the Holy Blessing."
To appreciate what happened next one has to understand that while the day was unseasonably mild, the sky had been solidly overcast all day. To the delight of those who appreciate such signs and portents, just as Parents raised their hands to proclaim the victory, the clouds broke and the whole stadium brightened up as Fathers powerful Korean reverberated throughout the huge stadium. When they lowered their hands at the end of the invokation, the break in the clouds closed and the sun dissapeared. Breathtaking!
Next was the exchange of rings. Mr. Salonen encouraged those who were rededicating their marriage to remove and re-exchange their rings.
Three couples stepped forward to receive their rings from True Parents and the couples exchanged their rings. While those running the Jumbotron images for much of the program proved themselves somewhat inept, they did manage to capture the intimacy of the ring exchange in a remarkably poignant way.
Father then made his historic pronouncement in Korean with a translation on the Jumbotron:
"On this day of November 29, 1997, at RFK Stadium in Washington DC we are Blessing 3.6 million couples and 36 million couples together- 39.6 million couples are being Blessed in front of you."
He had been very serious up to this point, but now he stood there and just beamed a great smile.
After Father and Mother had sat down, Mr. Salonen spoke of the over 70 letters of congratulations received from the United Nations and Congress.
After Gloria del Paraguay, resplendent in turquoise and glitter, had sang a dramatic opera aria with great expression and dramatic gestures, a rather overwhelming trophy and a bouquet of flowers were presented to True Parents.
Explaining the oriental tradition of bowing to parents and the "forever" cheer of mansei, Mr. Salonen asked everyone to rise and bow, which they did, and then join in three mansaeis. 40,000 voices make for a magnificent "Mansei" that, Im sure, was heard across town in the Capitol.
This was the end of the Blessing ceremony, and to the sound of a fanfare, True Parents climbed back up the red staircase followed by the attendants.
For the next hour or so we munched on our boxed lunches and enjoyed the soup and hot chocolate provided at the concession stands. It was a picnic atmosphere and time to socialize. Lots of re-unions and thrilled exclamations of congratulations for newly weds and parents. Brides and grooms acted like newly marrieds anywhere, posing endlessly for photographs with new spouses and friends.
While we picnicked, True Parents lunched with the VIPs in the tent set up on the field.
The first thing we did after lunch was the "wave," something Larry thought originated in European soccer matches. It started with the people sitting next to the stage as Larry got them to throw themselves in the air and yell. Those sitting next to them do the same, and so on around the arena. Once started, it really was like a wave rolling over, you almost felt compelled to leap and shout and it passed over. Clearly everyone was enjoying it as much as I was because the wave took on a life of its own and just kept going round and round and Larry had to make a concerted effort to get it to stop.
The rest of the afternoon was devoted to entertainment and celebration.
First off was a troupe of dancers and drummers from West Africa- a swirl of silver and black to a tribal beat.
A congratulatory address was then given by Oscar Arias Sanchez, former president of Costa Rica and Nobel Laureate, who was scheduled to speak in the morning but had been unable to attend. He spoke movingly about the suffering in the world and the necessity of taking responsibility to reduce it.
A martial arts dance troupe was up next, young men and women-one boy looked about 9-doing all sorts of vigorous calisthenics and dance movements to a pounding, hip-hop beat.
A couple who had just been Blessed did a beautiful dance to the music of "Bells on a Hill."
The aged and venerable Kenneth Kaunda, former president of Nigeria, spoke to the couples about how a loving and caring heart was the real foundation for genuine social change.
After David King had sang three songs, the main act of the afternoon got going as the stage curtains were opened onto a rock-and-roll band set-up of drums and musicians and the star, Jon Secada. Naturally, being an icon of the Latin music set, he got a animated welcome from the Hispanic contingent in the audience.
Up to this point, the rows of Blessed couples on the field had been decidedly non-animated by the entertainment-the rows of male heads and bridal veils remained straight and unwavering. But Secada soon put an end to that-by his fourth song the brides and bridegrooms were decidedly animated and dancing and boogying all over the field.
Next up was classic rock, the Korean superstar, Cho Yong Pil, who was also impressive. His band was classic rock and roll, but louder and with more fuzz. He's a good singer and had everyone with him-especially his excellent rendition of "Unchained Melody."
This was followed by couple of numbers by Vicki Winans, a member of the famous gospel singing family. Dionne Warwick acted as emcee for this part, but she didn't sing.
All of sudden the fireworks started going off, a little before dark with appropriate music from Sousa, etc. It was a fabulous show, including lasers, with some aerial effects that were truly astonishing. "Best I ever saw," said Dr. Hendricks later.
After the fireworks, Larry came out and announced that Whitney Houstron's people had called and said she was sick and would not perform. "We hope she gets well" he said with no hint of sarcasm.
Mike Smith, national communications director for the program, told The Washington Times that he learned that Miss Houston, 34, wouldn't perform just two hours before she was due to make her 3:30 p.m. appearance at RFK Stadium. When asked what her absence meant, Mr. Smith said, "In a word: refund." Miss Houston angered talk-show hostess Rosie O'Donnell on Oct. 30 when she gave just 45 minutes' notice that she was too ill to appear on Miss O'Donnell's program. Later that day, however, Miss Houston accompanied her husband, Bobby Brown, to tape "The Late Show With David Letterman."
But few seemed disappointed by the no-show-one lady interviewed by The Washington Post was asked if she was disappointed and all she had to say was, "Whitney who??"
So a fabulous day ended, back to the reality of getting out of the parking lot and dealing with traffic. But the memory of the magic we had experienced made the mundane somewhat special.
It was a wonderful day for Heaven and Earth, a great victory for Gods providence. Everyone I spoke to felt it, the sense of being at a turning point in history.
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