40 Years in America
My Journey with God as a Unification Academician
Anthony J. Guerra
I joined the Unification Church on March 7, 1971. In these last 28 years I have been either a university student or professor/administrator for 24 of these years.
So, I will focus my reflections on my experience in my academia, although needless to say I have had many other precious experiences in the Unification movement. Soon after joining, I felt strongly that I would be helping this fledgling movement build an educational system commensurate with its global vision. I joined after attending a two-day workshop at the Upshur Street house in Washington, D.C. especially prepared for students of Georgetown University. The center members had all fasted three days and had made numerous other conditions for the conversion of Georgetown students. I was the lone Georgetown student who joined from this seminar. After joining I was eager to work full-time in the movement but was encouraged by Ms. Young Oon Kim to stay in school and gain my degree. I did so, but spent most of my time witnessing and teaching the Divine Principle. I was well known as a brilliant student and passed through the year infrequently attending classes, living off my reputation. After a long absence in one course, I returned to the classroom only to leave in the middle of the lecture because I was directed spiritually to witness to a certain student. I left the room and descending the staircase I met the student in question. There were so many experiences such as this throughout the early to mid 70s in the American church.
After graduating I worked for four years as a volunteer, first on the One World Crusade Mobile Team and then for several months assisting Professor Young Oon Kim with research for her first work on Unification theology. I returned to the field and in the course of the next three years served in Louisiana and then as State Leader in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Tennessee and then finally as a pioneer in Madison, Wisconsin. There I challenged various Marxist organizations to a public debate on campus. The event attracted more than 500 students in 1976. The avowed Marxist representative bowed out at the last minute, which provided me the opportunity to present a critique and counterproposal. After failing to produce a representative to debate me, a group of the Marxist students followed me on my way home and threatened to beat me. Although unarmed, at one point I turned slowly and put my hand in my pocket and suddenly, they fled.
After this I participated in the Washington Monument campaign. Following that, I attended the Unification Theological Seminary as a student of the second class from 1976-78. During 1977-78, Father visited UTS on several occasions and made fishing nets to catch carp in the Hudson River. On one of his many visits, Father mentioned that there were two ways to attend the True Parents. One was simply to follow what was asked without any plan of oneís own. The second was to develop ones own 21-year course and devote oneself to its fulfillment. In a heartbeat I knew that Father was speaking to me, and I spent the next several months developing my 21-year plan. The goal of the plan was to help the movement establish an educational system and to found an institution of higher learning. I began this 21-year course in late 1978 and in the first seven years I had in my goal to gain the credentials to complete the task. Perhaps because of offering this plan to Heavenly Father, I experienced a great deal of opposition in its fulfillment. In 1978 I enrolled in the Masters program at Harvard Divinity School. Later in 1980 I applied to the Harvard doctoral program but was rejected. Shortly thereafter, a faculty member on the committee told me that the rejection had nothing to do with my qualifications but rather my religious affiliation as a Unificationist. I had the opportunity to report this to Father who encouraged me to sue Harvard. In the course of the following year I was admitted to the Harvard doctoral program along with three other members.
My career at Harvard brought reconciliation and eventually strong support from the faculty with whom I worked. I recall that Father said after leaving UTS, "Donít come back and become the president of a university somewhere else." Accordingly, I began to apply for faculty appointments in my field. I learned that Bard College had an opening. Did God really want me to work for Bard? This was an institution of higher learning that had pressed legal charges against True Father and sought to imprison him. The answer came that I shouldapply and find out. I made the application and within a week of mailing it, I was called to an interview. Before going, I decided that I would answer any questions about my religious affiliation forthrightly, even though I was sure that this would kill any hope of winning the position. My interview and guest lecture went very well and they asked no questions about my religious affiliation. I left confident that they would offer me the job.
I remember praying, did God really want me to suffer at Bard because of my religious affiliation, which would soon be known after my arrival there? I received the offer and the answer was to go. My hope was to have at least one semester to demonstrate my suitability for the position without prejudice. Before leaving Harvard I had told a Bard alumni that I would be teaching at her alma mater. I was pretty sure that she would reveal my Unification affiliation to them. I was correct, and before the end of my first semester my department chair asked if it were true. I answered it was. He responded that it was okay with him as long as I continued doing an excellent job, but he feared the reaction of upper administration at Bard. Junior appointments were renewable after two years and during this six-year, pre-tenure period, I was heartened at the support of the many colleagues who lobbied the President to approve my reappointments. My career was going quite well, but sometime in late 1989 I had a premonition of my achieving tenure and remaining at this fine, small liberal arts college; I immediately felt that this path could not lead to the fulfillment of my 21-year plan. In early January 1990, David S.C. Kim informed me that True Father had asked him on Godís Day in Korea to find a site to establish a higher education institution in America. President Kim asked Daikon and myself to take up this task. Daikon and I looked at some institutions together and then we worked independently. In late June, Steve Post told me about the University of Bridgeport which was experiencing financial problems and suggested that I look into it.
In July 1990 I had the opportunity to accompany True Parents and True Children to Gloucester for 10 days. I called the president of the University of Bridgeport and identified myself as a Bard professor and a representative of a movement originating in Asia that had interest in investing in the right university. We arranged a meeting for August 1st. President Janet Greenwood of UB and I met for four hours. When I explained the Unification vision for higher education she seemed happy, even slightly ecstatic, and in the course of the meeting summoned her two vice presidents. Sometime later I became aware that there was a mid-size hospital close to UB that was also experiencing financial difficulties that was led by a UB graduate. I informed Dr. Chin about this and he became my colleague in the effort to associate with UB. In May 1992 PWPA signed an agreement to establish a perpetual partnership. Recently, I finished my 21-year course and Neil Salonen was installed as President.
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