Unification News for

February 1998


Report on Barrytown Meeting on the Blessing

by Bill Lay-NYC

In response to an invitation from Dr. Tyler Hendricks, a meeting of Unification representatives from a variety of walks of life took place at the Unification Theological Seminary over the weekend of February 7-8, 1988. Elders of the American and Canadian movement, who have worked in just about every area of the movement, participated. The meeting was a sort of Unification brainstorming retreat. It was attended by about 75 persons (about 15 of them women). The stated purpose was to come up with some ideas and guidelines for the American and Canadian contributions to the next round of Blessing events, slated for June 13.

One participant commented, "The meeting was a first and I sensed somewhat historical. I was told by one American UC historian that such a meeting of westerners had not taken place since the early 70s. In my view, it was unlike any meeting I have ever attended. The dialogue was frank, open and somewhat bold. The hard questions were being asked. Of course the answers to all questions were not provided, but I don't think anyone attended with that in mind."

Another said, "For myself, it was a most refreshing meeting and I realized that at least there is a consensus about the questions we are all asking."

The conference opened with remarks by Dr. Hendricks and Dr. Theodore Shimmyo. Farley Jones served as the master of ceremonies, and brought a wonderful spirit of recognizing the value of each person's thoughts and contribution. Two plenary meetings on Saturday morning followed. The first, focusing on reflections from RFK, was presented by Neil Salonen, Tom Ward and Andrew Wilson. After questions and answers and short discussions, a second plenary discussed Evangelism and Marketing the Blessing, with presentations by Sheri Reuter, Go Ezaki, Dan Fefferman and Mitch Dixon.

Some very interesting areas were explored. For example, Dan Fefferman shared with us that America's goal of 40 million couples, taken as a percentage of all married couples in America, represents a greater market share than that of Coca Cola. (Perhaps even greater than Microsoft, I thought, or the U.S. Postal Service.)

The afternoon sessions were broken down into six areas: Blessing 98 Program Design, High Level Outreach, Financial Planning, Youth, Singles and Matching, Media Strategies and the Education of Blessed Couples. In the evening we heard summaries from each group leader.

Sunday morning we had pledge, followed by the reading of Father's words, and then we had group discussions. Rev. Ki Hun Kim of Chicago - who has achieved noteworthy success building constructive relationships with Christian ministers - then spoke at Sunday Service. The meeting concluded with reports by the Sunday morning group leaders and final observations.

Throughout the conference, two recurring issues seemed most prominent:

1. What is the relationship between HSA and FFWPU?

2. What approaches are acceptable in giving the blessing?

I was personally asked to speak on "high-level outreach". I pointed out to the organizers that I did no high-level outreach for the RFK blessing, and in fact my overall outreach experience had been limited. It was suggested, however, that I talk about my CAUSA experiences, and I agreed to. I thought that I would be a radical voice, since I intended to raise the issue of the current "crisis" of the Unification movement. However, I need not have been anxious about that, since by the time the first round of speakers had finished, the current state of what I perceive to be confusion and crisis in our movement had been pretty well aired. (Other speakers on high-level outreach, including Phillip Schanker, had plenty of hands-on experience at it prior to RFK.)

Essentially all of the serious issues which I feel need to be looked at were raised at the meeting. These issues are not amenable to simple resolution, but I regard the meeting as a first effort to bring a thoughtful yet passionate "democratic" approach to bear on the movement's problems.

As another participant observed, "Participants, in my view, did not hold anything back. The frankness of all in attendance was very refreshing and I attribute the unusual openness to the democratic format of the meeting. I was impressed by the passion, boldness and honesty of the many wonderful individuals I shared this weekend with. I felt strongly that these people, who I call my brothers and sisters, are some of the best people the world has ever known. Collectively among us there were centuries of effort and experience."

I should say that many approaches to life and the UC were on display over the weekend. For example, the viewpoint that there is no crisis, we just need to buckle down and believe, was voiced by some. Another viewpoint - that the only real problem is that we are all so distant from the level of Father - was voiced. However, those were not the only views expressed, and there was an abundance of appreciation for very real issues.

Let me close by relating the very emotional experience I had during the small group meeting that took place on Sunday morning. The first person in our little group expressed a view that if we all buckled down, miracles could occur. The second person acknowledged that point, but expressed with tears and words her great concern for blessed couples who are having difficulties. She said that her son had said to her, "Mom, sometimes I see parents who don't seem to love their children." When my turn came, I could feel myself being overwhelmed by emotion. A big picture of True Parents was in my line of vision in the front of the room. I blurted out that I was glad that people at the meeting were being honest, and that was all I had to say. And I started sniffling and getting teary. When the group urged me to say more, I expressed more of my frustration with the apparent dissonance between real change and growth of human beings and the offerings of numbers which we are asked to make. I concluded by saying that I always felt that I was so clear about things, but now I was in what I regarded to be a crisis state, and I view crisis as a wonderful opportunity for serious advancement.

Certainly one man's emotional experience, or even the thoughts of a group of sincerely dedicated people, does not solve real problems. As a Unificationist who was not there but heard about the conference commented, however, "Such concentrations of hearts and minds, where mature members can engage in honest discussion of the problems, can lead to some radical conclusions, as people discover that their perceptions are widely shared. The difficulty comes in trying to implement changes afterwards.''

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