40 Years in America

Blessing ’97

Dr. Tyler Hendricks, president of the True Family Values Ministry, lecturing in Washington, D.C.

Blessing ’97 presented a different set of circumstances and confronted the American movement far more directly. Previously, members had assumed that Korea, as the birthplace and holy land not only of Unification faith but of an expected new global culture, would be the site of all future World Culture and Sports Festivals and International Blessings. After the completion of Blessing ’95, many were surprised when it was announced that the Third World Culture and Sports Festival and the main ceremony for an International Holy Wedding of 3.6 Million Couples would be held in Washington, D.C. at RFK Stadium on November 29, 1997.

The rationale for the decision to hold Blessing ’97 in the U.S. was not entirely clear. There was a sense that Rev. Moon wanted the next Blessing to have a more substantial global impact, particularly in terms of media coverage. Although Korea was regarded as the future center of world civilization, that was not the case at present. In this respect, the U.S. offered intriguing possibilities. Rev. Moon’s attention already had been drawn to South America as an alternative starting point for a new global culture. It may have been that he wanted to draw upon the resources of the entire Americas. Or it may have been that he simply wanted a more substantial return on his investment in the American movement. There also was evidence that Rev. Moon relished a challenge. Having been there and done that in Korea, he may have wanted to test the movement’s mettle in the capitol of the world’s only remaining superpower.

Whatever the reasoning process, the American movement was left with responsibility to spearhead Blessing ’97. This would be a time of testing for the membership. There were ongoing anxieties, frustration, despair and agony over lacking or slow results, dramatic shifts of strategy, significant breakthroughs, and eventual vindication. In the end, members learned an important lesson about the Completed Testament Age. It was about members, themselves, taking responsibility. As early as 1980, Rev. Moon proclaimed that the era of the leader-centered movement had ended and that of the member-centered movement had begun. It took most members more than a decade and a half to realize and experience the meaning of that proclamation. Even then, it was a lesson easy to forget and one that required continual reinforcement. Once the 3.6 Million Couple Blessing total had been attained, an event which he sealed with the blessing in marriage of his two youngest sons, Rev. Moon proclaimed the "Era of the Fourth Adam." Although once again there was ambiguity about the precise meaning of the proclamation, essentially it indicated that the mission of the Third Adam, the Lord of the Second Advent, was complete and that humankind as a whole, the Fourth Adam, was ready to inherit their birthright.

However, this all lay in the future. The immediate concern was how to prepare for Blessing ’97. Initially, the American movement attempted to work from its perceived strengths. The leadership believed that the movement’s major asset lay in its ability to mobilize elites. Literally thousands of scholars, religious leaders, media professionals and civic officials had attended conferences or lent their support in one or another way since the late 1970s. Therefore, it was logical that the movement should start from them in mobilizing support for Blessing ’97.

For Blessing ’97, Christian ministers were the specific targeted elite. The movement had been quite successful in mobilizing thousands of them to Korea during the late 1980s. The assumption was that not only ministers but their entire congregations could be mobilized for the Blessing. To that end, the movement sponsored three-day, expenses-paid "Empowering Christianity Through True Family Values" seminars at the Sheraton National Hotel in suburban Washington, D.C. weekly between June and December 1996. Several seminar sessions were based on Rev. Joong Hyun Pak and Dr. Andrew Wilson’s book True Family Values (1996), a text that presented the movement’s teaching on marriage and family as a faith-based message "addressing issues faced by individuals and in today’s society." Dr. Tyler Hendricks, President of the Unification Church in America, led a team that adapted the text into workbooks of the "fill-in-the-blanks" type, which were completed by participants. The movement’s top lecturers from the earlier ICC Minister Conferences also spoke.

The seminar series was remarkably successful. More than 4,500 clergy and religious leaders from all regions of the country and virtually every religious denomination attended. A large number expressed interest in the Blessing. Some indicated that they might like to hold a blessing in their church. This was consistent with Rev. Joong Hyun Pak’s "Five-stage strategy" for success at RFK. These stages included the:

True Family Values education of ministers;
education of members to become True Family Values presenters;
teaching of True Family Values in churches;
giving of pre-Blessings at True Family Value Festivals; and
bringing of pre-Blessed couples to the main Blessing event.

The major innovation in this formula was the concept of pre-Blessings and pre- Blessed couples. Basically, this meant movement leaders began to conduct Blessings, with all the ceremonial components, on behalf of Rev. and Mrs. Moon. The only missing element was True Parent’s prayer of consecration, which would be given November 29th at RFK Stadium.

In December 1996 and January 1997, the movement conducted seventeen True Family Values Festivals in thirteen North American cities. These resulted in eighty pre-Blessings or an average of slightly more than four at each. This level of result continued through February and March 1997 at which point the movement had held 50 True Family Festivals nationwide and pre-Blessed 200 couples, still an average of four per festival. It was encouraging that the first round of pre-Blessings in December and January included thirty Christian ministers, two Muslim imams, and three Native American chiefs. By mid-March, the total of 200 included 85 ministers. However, there was little evidence that ministers were bringing their congregations. There were two main reasons for this. First, while ministers might be open to the promptings of the spirit, congregations and review boards tended to be more conservative or at least less adventuresome. Second, the True Family Values Festivals format was too unwieldy. It simply was expecting too much that ministers and their congregations sit through several hours or even a full day of True Family Values lectures, and then change their attire and mindsets to be pre-Blessed.

While there may have been some limitations of strategy, the more serious problem was that the UC membership had not yet caught the spirit. In an important speech, Rev. Joong Hyun Pak emphasized that members, like the early Christians, needed to make the transition "from Disciple to Apostle." Pentecost was the "turning point" in this shift for early Christians. Unfortunately, the general membership had not yet experienced Pentecost. Some were intimidated by the prospect of facing ministers and congregations. Others, having barely been exposed to the True Family Values material, were equally intimidated by the prospect of having to lecture it.

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