Unification News for June 1998
by Richard L. Lewis-Ossining, NY
Blessing 98 was held at Madison Square Garden June 13, and was a great victory on the physical and spiritual levels.
Once again, the area around MSG and the New Yorker Hotel was awash with brides and grooms as they gathered for the first of the two Blessings totaling 360 million people.
As 523 buses arrived from near and far, the arena rapidly filled with an estimated 20,000 people. Godwin DSilva, usher coordinator, reported that the head of MSG security, Jeff Larue, said that MSG handed out 20,000 tickets. One ticket was given to each person who entered through the main gates. Everyone received a package which included a Blessing shawl for everyone to wear around their shoulders. The weather was very accommodating: before the event it was dry, after the event there was a little drizzle but nothing too dampening, while during the event-unnoticed by us in our sealed in "ark"-there was a torrential downpour and savage thunderstorm going on outside.
Inside the hall sparked with spiritual energy as the 2,000-voice choir-with representatives from 77 churches-sang out in welcome.
There were 2824 couples matched for this Blessing. This includes 65 second-generation couples. On the floor of the arena, the recently-matched couples were arrayed. In front of them was a vast red-carpeted stage with "Blessing 98: The First Stage in the World-wide Blessing of 360 Million Couples" emblazoned across the top. On either side were Jumbotrons upon which the activity on the stage was projected.
As people settled into their seats, the lights dimmed and a soloist and chorus gave a magnificent rendition of "Amazing Grace". Following was a spirited rendition of the Hallelujah chorus. And this was all before the program started!
By 9:45am the stadium was packed and an air of expectancy descended as the choir took a break before the event started at 10am.
The program was in three main sections: the Pro-Family Rally, the Blessing itself, and the entertainment.
At 10am, Larry Moffitt took to the stage and introduced the emcee for the first section, Rev. Dennis Dillon, publisher of The New York Christian Times. Before the singing of the National Anthem he had the assembly roar out "Blessing 98!" three times.
The invocation was given jointly by Dr. and Mrs. Carmen Velasquez.
The first speaker for the Pro-Family Rally was Pentecostal pastor Rev. Jesse Edwards of Philadelphia. He spoke of the fall of Rome and the necessity for restoration of the family by "searching for the living God." He declared, in closing, that he was "thrilled with what God is doing here today."
Rev. Dillon announced the "Blessing 98 Family Awards" honoring individuals who have shown outstanding leadership in their churches and communities, affirming true family values. Rev. Joong Hyun Pak presented the awards and a commemorative plaque to: Rev. Betty Neal, Rev. Dr. Preston Washington, Sr., Pastor Constance Bansa, Dr. Edward Harris (in absentia), Mr. & Mrs. Julio Betancourt, Dr. & Mrs. Gonzalo Velez, Mr. & Mrs. Hugo Humire, Rev. & Mrs. Henry T. Wells, Rev. Dr. Carmen Velasquez, Ms. Debra Nicholson, Bishop David Billings, III, Minister Benjamin Mohammed, Rev. Dr. Amos Waller, Imam Abu Talib, Dr. Lucinda Elizabeth Malone (in absentia), Mrs. Udeen Watson and Ms. Pamela Herman.
The stadium darkened and a video message of support and appreciation from PBS film critic Michael Medved and his wife Diane ran on the Jumbotrons. They spoke of the importance of rearing children and encouraged everyone to work to protect children from abuse. They described the kind of family that only a "godly element" can ensure. "The best way to raise children is in a two-parent family that lasts for a lifetime," Mr. Medved said
The next speaker was Michelle Myers of the Pure Love Alliance, who announced that she had just been Blessed at the RFK celebration last year. Though young, she was a forceful speaker who elicited cheer after cheer from the supportive crowd. She spoke of "the profound and potentially catastrophic consequences of the way we conduct our sexual lives." She scolded policy-makers for looking for easy ways to solve such problems as unwanted pregnancies and sexual diseases. "Community leaders feel more comfortable handling a young person a condom than instilling in them a strong moral belief," she said to a roar of approval.
The spotlights switched from the stage area to the 2,000-member choir conducted by Angela Moses. They launched into a spirited rendition of "Kumbaya," which soon had most of the audience standing and swaying along, followed by "Blessings," a beautiful praising of God and His works.
The keynote address was given by Rev. Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, senior pastor of the Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem, and Chairman of the Board of the National Action Network. He apologized for the absence of Rev. Al Sharpton-the scheduled speaker-who had gone to Texas to attend the memorial service for the recent lynching victim there.
Rev. Walker spoke forcibly about the covenant of marriage as the foundation for a healthy society. "For two people, to love is to build something together, both contributing in joint effort all the elements needed to achieve the objective of the marriage contract. It is, in a way, the foretaste of eternity."
The Worlds Religions
This was the end of the Pro-Family Rally, and preparations for the Blessing began.
While members of the True Family and other dignitaries took their seats at the sides of the stage, forty representative couples assembled on the dais in front of the stage, and Mr. Neil A. Salonen, emcee, took the podium. At 11am the satellite hookup to the rest of the world was established and a very professional video clip-"Welcome to New York City"-began, being shown also to the MSG audience on the Jumbotrons. Mr. Salonen welcomed the 195 countries which were participating world-wide.
Reports are that 35,000 people gathered in Seoul, 4,500 in Slovakia, 1,900 in Ivory Coast, 2,000 in Sao Paulo, 4,000 in the Jardim area of Brazil, and crowds from as small as a dozen up to the tens of thousands in Japan, Russia, Nigeria, Panama, Surinam, Uruguay, Israel, Taiwan, Ethiopia, Paraguay, Turkey, Ecuador, Rwanda, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay area and more.
The audience stood for the invocation given by Dr. Preston Washington, pastor of the Memorial Baptist Church in Harlem.
Rev. Chung Hwan Kwak took the podium and gave an introduction to the Blessing. "Humanity is facing its greatest challenge-through science we have attained the externals, but the most serious challenge is the internal one.&The solution is to be found in the family, the school of love, which has more value than any ideology." He gave a summary of providential history and the Blessings leading up to todays.
Following his address, the massed choirs burst into "Amazing Grace" with a lady soloist who filled the hall with her soaring rendition.
Mr. Salonen introduced the next section by noting that, while religions have many differences, "today we can celebrate the real important points we have in common" by inviting representatives of eight world religions to give their benediction to the couples.
The hall lights dimmed, and a video introduction to Hinduism ran on the Jumbotrons-images of bathing in the Ganges, a Hindu marriage ceremony, a holy man, a celebration. The Hindu representative, Sri Srivasta Goswami, sang a blessing and then spoke about "the enlarged self of husband and wife." He concluded with a song invoking Krishnas gifts on the brides and grooms.
The video introduction to Judaism contained images of the shofar, menorah, prayer at the Western Wall set to Hebraic chant/cantorial music. As Mr. Salonen explained, the Jewish representative, Rabbi Herzel Kranz, could not be present in person because of the Sabbath, so he had videotaped his benediction. He concluded his address on the sanctity of marriage with his appreciation for the "dedicated work Rev. Moon is doing to strengthen holy matrimony."
The video introduction to Buddhism had images of statues, incense burning, monks dancing and temple ceremonies. The Venerable Seol Jung Jeon, the Buddhist representative-simply dressed in purple and white robes-spoke a few words in Korean and concluded with a deep bow.
The video introduction to Christianity had images of nuns in white, stained glass windows and cathedrals-accompanied by glorious choral music-ending with a picture of Mother Teresa, which elicited a round of applause from the audience.
There were three Christian speakers representating the many different denominations:
Mr. Vyacheslav Petrovich Miskov, the representative of Ukrainian Orthodoxy-dressed in black, priestly robes-intoned a sung, liturgical blessing in Ukrainian with arms outstretched.
Rev. Paul Swanson, dean emeritus of the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, citing the traditional "till death do us part" vows, said, "These vows are not to be relegated to the romantic legends of the past."
The Rev. Hycel Taylor, a black Baptist pastor in New York, said the event was an "awesome occasion" but urged the audience not to forget that such a blessing is needed by many single women raising families or in search of good husbands. "My people are familiar with the brokenness of family," Mr. Taylor said. "My people are children of slavery."
The video introduction to Sikhism had images of the desert, people in prayer and fierce-looking bearded men. The Sikh representative, Sarbject Singh Gobindpuri-attired in deep blue robes-began with a sonorous chant and then spoke in English of sharing the blessing of marriage and of "no divorce, only love." Reverting to his own tongue, he bestowed a blessing.
The video introduction to Islam was images of sand, camels, schoolchildren in prayer, a mosque and a prayer gathering. The Muslim representative, Amb. El Bekaye Sidi Moctar from Mali, dressed in long, white flowing robes, spoke in French about Allah and gave a blessing to the couples.
Report to Heaven
Mr. Salonen thanked the speakers and introduced the 40 senior couples as attendants to the officiators. They entered down the red-carpeted steps-men on the left dressed all in white, women on the right in white with a pink pinafore-and arrayed themselves along the back of the stage and up the stairs.
To a standing ovation, Reverend and Mrs. Moon appeared at the top of the stairs, and then slowly descended to the stage.
Chairs were brought to them, and they sat for the "physical and spiritual world ceremony" presided over by Reverend and Mrs. Kwak.
In this "Report to Heaven," Rev. Kwak announced, that along with the new couples and the previously married couples directly in attendance at the stadium, couples in spirit world would also be blessed at the same time, officiated by Jesus and Heung Jin Nim in the spirit world and Rev. Kwak and his wife in the physical world. He said:
"True Parents are establishing the couples of Heung Jin Nim and Jesus as spiritual representatives, and our couple as the physical representative in this ceremony, to bestow a special grace. This will tear down all existing walls in the spiritual world, including the wall of Hell.
"On this occasion, we representative families now extend the pre-Blessing to all spirits, in the name of True Parents. This pre-Blessing, which includes 16 billion couples in the spiritual world, thus prepares the way for the actual Blessing ceremony which now follows.
"True Parents clearly understand the law and content of the spiritual world, which remained vague and uncertain until now. True Parents have sent and instructed their emissary in the spiritual world to meet saints from the highest level, all the way down to those suffering in the nethermost bowels of Hell. In this way all situations will be understood and all will be educated. This may sound unbelievable, but it is true. These contents already have been published.
"Included in the Blessing of numerous spirits are 34 couples, who will receive a special Blessing as the representatives both from God's side and from Satan's side. These include: Jesus, Confucius, Sakyamuni, Mohammed, Mary, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Caleb, John the Baptist, Socrates, Swedenborg, Sandar Singh, Syngman Rhee, Hwal Lan Kim, Maria Pak, Park Chung Hee, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Guishi, Fukuda, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tze Tung, Kim Il Sung, Adolf Hitler, Tojo and Benvenito Mussolini. Among the representatives from God's side, there are also special individuals receiving the Blessing with earthly partners.
"There is no corner that the Blessing of true love cannot reach. It is an amazing grace, not just for good spirits but for evil spirits as well, since it opens even the door of Hell and allows evil spirits to start their journey toward Heaven.
"The door of Hell and the door of Heaven are open. Good spirits and evil spirits can receive the Blessing together and stand as the restored younger brothers who can follow the elder brothers from the side of goodness who are already Blessed.
"God felt unbearable heartache when He observed the elder brother Cain murder the younger brother Abel. Now however, God is forgiving His enemies dwelling in Hell and Blessing them so that they may follow the footsteps of the beloved elder brothers. This is the Providence of true love.
"Through this historic Blessing ceremony of the spiritual world and the earthly world, officiated by True Parents, all religious spheres can be harmonized to form a unified Realm of Blessing. The spiritual and the physical worlds can unite into one, thus establishing the Realm of Liberation. With this, I proclaim that this is the great, pivotal Blessing ceremony that will launch the era of Heaven on earth and in heaven centered on God and True Parents."
After Rev. Kwaks Report, Mr. Salonen then introduced four Korean women elders who were to be blessed as wives on earth to four major saints of the spirit world-Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed and Socrates. Mrs. Won Pok Choi was blessed to Buddha! Rev. and Mrs. Kwak spoke the Blessing in Korean with hands outstretched over the heads of the four ladies. They bowed and left the stage.
Father and Mother advanced to the front of the stage as Mr. Salonen explained the symbolism of the sprinkling of Holy Water as representing Heavens Blessing. Two second-generation girl attendants brought silver bowls to True Parents and Father spoke in English as he sprinkled the couples standing before him: "In the power of True Parents, as heaven and earth are watching, may God's blessing be abundantly bestowed on all couples," he said.
As Father was doing this, elders in holy robes moved throughout the auditorium sprinkling with holy water the new couples as well as those there to rededicate their marriages.
Father then intoned, in a powerful voice, the four vows in Korean-with a simultaneous translation into English-and everyone roared back, "Yes, I do!"
As Father and Mother stretched out their hands over the couples before them, Father invoked the Blessing. His impassioned prayer in Korean concluded with three "Amens" which were echoed back by the gathering.
For the exchange of rings, three representative couples ascended the dais and stood before True Parents who gave them their rings. Mr. Salonen asked all the other couples to exchange their rings and for those rededicating their marriages to also do so, if possible.
Father then read the Proclamation of the Blessing in Korean and concluded with, in English, "As heaven and earth are watching, may God's blessing be abundantly bestowed on all couples." The auditorium erupted into prolonged and enthusiastic applause.
There were two Congratulatory Addresses.
The first was given by Dr. Aziz Sidky, Prime Minister of Egypt from 1972 to 1973 and former ambassador to France.
A dapper, gray-haired gentleman, he spoke earnestly about the sorry state of the world and the hope he saw in the Blessing. "We are all born into the family of God," he said, "but even as we gather here we see brothers fighting, killing-God didnt say we should do that!" He concluded, "Your vision, Reverend Moon, is in the right direction, calling for peace and justice."
The second address was given by Kenneth Kaunda, the first president of independent Zambia (1964-1991). He started off by leading the audience in a chant: "One World, One Revolution! One Revolution, One True Family Love!" He spoke of the hope for the future. "We are all human beings, beyond color or religion. We have come here from all points to hear your powerful message of true family love, Rev. Moon, and we thank the Lord for this example."
Gloria del Paraguay, swathed in magnificent magenta, took to the stage and sang a beautiful operatic aria.
After her song, flowers and a trophy were presented to True Parents, and Mr. Salonen asked all to make a bow of respect. He explained the oriental custom of "three cheers for long life," and Father and Mother stepped forward and led us all in a resounding and exuberant "Mansei!"
As Father and Mother left the stage followed by the attendants, the choir erupted into the "Hallelujah" chorus. The hall was rocking!
The day concluded with entertainment. First, recording star Vickie Winans sang a powerful rendition of "Didnt You Know That Youre My Hero?/...You Are The Wind Beneath My Wings" followed by ___ who sang Japanese and Korean songs. Jaime Baer Peterson sang a heavenly "Morning Of An Age." The New Life Tabernacle Choir concluded the day with a series of spirited Christian soul-stirrers.
The event was officially over and the action shifted to the outdoors where the brides and grooms assembled on the steps of the magnificent, historical, main New York Post Office Building for a group photo, and everyone else renewed old acquaintances both inside and outside the New Yorker.
This was truly a fabulous day!
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