A History of the Unification Church in Canada: 1965-1991

by Franco Famularo

Chapter Two - A Community Emerges

Linna Miller Rapkins guides the emerging community -- Led by a Married Couple -- Outreach Activities and Legal Recognition -- Miss Kim visits Toronto and Experiments in Intensive Witnessing -- Visa Problems and End of an Era

A. Linna Miller Rapkins guides the emerging community

In September 1968, Marie Leckrone returned to her teaching job and missionary activities in the United States, while Linna, after a short trip to Washington D.C., decided to quit her teaching post in Virginia in order to advance the cause of Unificationism in Canada. Thus, Linna returned to Toronto and continued her mission with the three new "spiritual children",1 Vince, Katharine and Peter. The small apartment on Isabella Street was obviously too small to house the emerging community, and consequently on Friday, September 13, 1968, they all moved to a larger second floor flat at 98 Avenue Road in Toronto. Linna notes:

Well, we wanted a big place in a central location for a small amount of money. We got it, all right. In fact, we're so much in a central location, we step on a hippie every time we go out the door and compete with the "swinging" band next door when we sing. The apartment is on a busy highway and Yorkville (the Washington Square or Dupont Circle of Toronto) is about two blocks away. Many university students live in this area, and we are about a ten minute walk from the University and the park.2

Working from a central location was vital, since their outreach efforts were focused on inviting virtual strangers to hear the "new revelation" in their apartment. They approached people on Toronto's busiest streets, on the University campus, and in the parks nearby. Walking distance to the "center" was essential.

A favorite spot for meeting people was Queen's Park, near the Ontario Provincial Legislature, where Linna also met Alan Wilding on an autumnal day in 1968. After hearing the initial chapters of Divine Principle in Toronto, Alan agreed to attend a workshop in Washington D.C., where he later committed himself to join the Unification Church on November 3, 1968.

According to Alan, he arrived in Washington D.C. in the midst of race riots:

The city was on fire and I felt this was surely a sign of the 'Last Days'. It was a miracle that I made it from the bus station to the center alive.3

This experience left a profound impression on the young Englishman.

Alan, who would later play a significant role in the development of Unificationist activities in Canada, was born near Liverpool, England, in 1948 and, according to his testimony, grew up in a very unsettled home. The oldest of eight children, he had been rather introverted while growing up and accordingly found peace with nature and within himself. At the age of seventeen his family had moved to Canada and shortly afterwards he had decided to leave home in order to travel around Canada and live the life of a hippie. Having traveled across the country by age twenty, he had decided to return to Toronto, where within a short time of his arrival had met Linna and listened to the Unificationist teaching. After accepting Unificationism, Alan traveled back to England for about six months "to do some thinking", and upon returning to Canada he decided to finish high school, while holding a part-time job and participating in outreach activities with the Church.4

By the end of 1968 ninety-six guests had been introduced to the Divine Principle and four new members had joined the Unification Church in Canada. Linna described the lifestyle of the small community as follows:

Basically our life here is one of witnessing and teaching. Last week we taught most nights and three people heard the conclusion. This week we're witnessing most nights.5

The members held various forms of employment during the day time, and approached people in the evenings. Those who accepted their invitation, were invited to listen to the teachings in their apartment on Avenue Road. Besides approaching people on the streets and in the parks, they also visited spiritual groups and churches, hoping to meet "prepared" people.6

The task before the pioneers must have at times seemed overwhelming. The response from those approached was not always very pleasant and neither were the climatic circumstances. During her first experience of the cold Toronto winter, Linna expressed her determination to succeed regardless of the obstacles and wrote the song "We Promised to Win", which later became a well known song among Unificationists. The chorus of the song follows:

Oh, we promised to win, and we meant it, yes, we meant it!
We promised to win and not delay.
And we're determined, determined,
To fight and fight until the Kingdom is on this earth,
Yes we meant it when we said!7

Her fighting spirit and the ability to persevere, as expressed above, carried the group through the difficult times ahead. In the view of the early Canadian Unificationists, the response to their message was not overly receptive.

The new year began with the small group gathering to celebrate God's Day on January 1, a church holiday celebrated each New Year's Day since 1968. The day began with prayer at midnight, to inaugurate the new year with God, followed by a dedication prayer and worship service at 7:00 a.m., and concluded with a meal and simple entertainment in the evening. Activities continued in much the same way for the rest of the winter, but there was a slight interruption: the marriage of the leading Unificationist in Canada.

B. Led by a Married Couple

On February 28, just eight months after the founding of the mission in Toronto, an event took place which would have a significant effect on the development of the Unification Church in Canada. It was then that Linna was married to fellow American, Carl Rapkins. Carl had joined the Unification Church in California in 1962 and was among the earliest members of Miss Kim's group. In a Blessing Ceremony conducted by Rev. and Mrs. Moon in Washington D.C., thirteen American couples were blessed in matrimony. The first mass wedding of its kind in the Western world, the American ceremony was part of a larger "Blessing" of forty-three couples worldwide. The first international wedding included, eight European couples, who were married in Germany on March 28, 1969 and twenty-two Japanese couples who were wed on May 1 of the same year in Japan.

Carl Rapkins moved to Canada to join his wife Linna in April 1969. Due to a limitation of space in the Avenue Road apartment, it was decided to find a larger dwelling. Since the first four members, Vince, Katharine, Peter and Alan, had all been met at Queen's Park, the members spent much time approaching people there.8 Therefore, they sought to find a center and accommodations close to their favorite "witnessing" location. By June 15, a year after Linna had first arrived in Canada, the six members of the Canadian Unification Church moved to 76 Scollard Street, in downtown Toronto, a location that would become the center of Unification Church activities for the next three and half years.

At $300.00 per month, the three storey, 10-room row house was well situated. According to Carl Rapkins, Scollard Street, a few blocks away from the busiest intersection in Toronto, was a trendy area which housed many members of the hippie community and other unconventional young people.9 Carl also expressed that Toronto was a serene and pleasant place, despite it being a bustling metropolis. However, in his first report of July 4, 1969 he sensed a growing nationalism as well as an anti-American feeling among Canadians, which led him to reflect that eventually the Canadians would want Canadian leadership for the Unification movement.10 It would be hardly a year after Carl's letter that leadership passed to a Canadian. However, it was not because the Canadians particularly wanted to take the lead.

In the year since Linna's arrival, membership had more than doubled and consisted of Carl, Linna, Vince, Katharine, Alan, Peter Golding, and the newest recruit Larry Boyle, who had studied for two years toward becoming a priest for the Roman Catholic Church. Linna had also become a married woman and thus the small community which was then being led by a married couple, exhibited a new character. The small group continued to attract new guests and membership grew, although the increase was not immense.

C. Outreach Activities and Legal Recognition

On June 23, 1969 Marvi Ranniste joined. Actually, Marvi's introduction to the Unification Church came through a third party. She was given a pamphlet by her brother-in-law who assumed she would be "nutty" enough to be interested in what was being offered. To his surprise, she was very serious about what she had come to hear from the Unificationists and joined the church shortly thereafter. According to Linna, Marvi, who was twenty years old at the time, added a very sunny presence to the "family."11

Marvi's parents had escaped from Soviet controlled Estonia in 1944. She was born in Sweden in 1949, and after living in Argentina for some time, her family had moved to Toronto where she had been living for fifteen years, when she met the Unification Church. A pensive person, she had been looking for answers to her many questions about life. Therefore, her brother-in-law had asked, "Why can't you just be like everybody else? Why do you need to know the answer to the meaning of life." After listening to the Divine Principle, it seemed her questions were answered and she became the second woman to join the small group in Canada.12

A practice of the early Canadian Unificationist community was to determine a motto for each month. In keeping with this custom June 1969 was "Speak with Authority" month.13 The members accordingly challenged themselves to speak in public settings. For example, during that month of June, Vince Walsh spoke on the topic, "The Invisible World and Its Influence Upon Man" to the 20-30 Club of an Anglican Church. Out of a group of twenty people who attended, six people asked to know more about the Unification teaching after his presentation.14

A significant boost for the small community came when Matthew Smith, a former editor of the Winnipeg Free Press, came into contact with Linna. Smith, then a writer and businessman, had heard of Rev. Moon through Arthur Ford's book, Unknown but Known which included a chapter entitled "The Sun Myung Moon Sittings". Rev. Moon's role as religious and spiritual leader of the New Age was discussed extensively in Ford's book.15 Smith, who had taken a serious interest in spiritualism and the New Age, became fascinated by what he had read about Rev. Moon and thus made contact with the small Canadian Unification Church. Inspired by what he had read, he decided to join.

At this time Smith, who was in his mid-forties and well-connected, sought to help with the propagation of the Unificationist message. From his home in King City, just north of Toronto, he proceeded to organize a prayer group, where the Unificationists could speak about Rev. Moon's activities. This, therefore, gave the members of the young group access to people they might not have been able to meet otherwise.16

In August, Robert Duffy, the first Canadian national to join the Unification Church, returned from England. While on the first leg of an intended trip throughout Europe, Duffy met the Unification Church in London in late 1967. After spending almost two years with the British Unification Church he was advised by Miss Kim, who was touring Europe in 1969, to return to his native land and assist the mission there.17

Thus a trend began, where Canadians who joined the Unification Church while abroad returned to their home country. In future years a considerable number of Canadians would join the Unification Church in other countries such as the United States and in Western European nations. Some would eventually return to their native country which contributed to the growth of the Unification Church in Canada. During the month of August 1969, Unificationists made their first efforts to give lectures at the experimental Rochdale College, but primarily members approached people on Bloor Street, Yonge Street, at Queen's Park and near the Royal Ontario Museum on Avenue Road in Toronto.

In what was the boldest move to date, advertisements announcing that "Christ had Returned" were placed in daily and student newspapers in October, but the response was not overwhelming. Alan Wilding also placed advertisements in the classified section of major papers expressing his interest in finding prayer groups. This more indirect approach brought a better response as between twenty five and thirty people called to ask questions. For Children's Day in the autumn of 1969, the Toronto members ventured out to Marvi Ranniste's parents' summer house on Rice Lake near Peterborough, Ontario. Along with sharing in fellowship they participated in sensitivity group sessions directed by Carl and Linna.18 These introspective sessions were geared toward improving communication among the members of the small community.

Besides spiritually oriented activities, earning the necessary funds to support themselves was a constant concern. In spite of living a communal lifestyle and sharing everything they owned, there were neither outside sources of funds to support their activities, nor were any of the first members independently wealthy. Consequently, the members supported themselves through traditional forms of employment. Linna worked as a temporary secretary or "Kelly Girl"; Katharine continued her work as a secretary at a Roman Catholic high school; Marvi worked as a phone operator for CNCP Communications; Robert was a salesperson at the Florsheim Shoe Store in the Toronto Dominion Center; Alan drove taxi in Toronto; and Vince was a "service representative" for Litton Industries (which meant he fixed calculators). Outreach activities were reserved for evenings and weekends.

As the year came to a close, members sang Christmas Carols on the streets of Toronto, especially to their neighbors on Scollard Street. With Robert playing the guitar, they sang traditional songs, while leaving people with a special invitation to hear the "new revelation". They also experimented with "bar witnessing" during the holiday season. Through engaging in casual conversation with patrons of various bars, they hoped they would find those "prepared" people who were interested in spiritual issues. This, apparently, was not a very productive approach and was hence discontinued. For the year of 1969, according to the guest book, visitors signed upon entry to the church center; one-hundred-ninety-four people had visited and listened to the lectures.19

By the end of 1969 the young group had come to a point where a more formal arrangement was seen as necessary. Thus, marking a move toward institutionalization, the young church was officially registered as "The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity," an unincorporated charitable organization in Toronto on September 17, 1969. The document, signed by P.E. Roy of the Charitable Organizations Section of Revenue Canada, gave the young group the status of a recognized charitable organization.20 At the time Canadian law did not require charities to be incorporated.

D. Miss Kim visits Toronto and Experiments in Intensive Witnessing

On January 10, 1970, Miss Kim visited Toronto for two weeks. This was her first visit to the city in almost twenty years. As mentioned Miss Kim had previously studied at the University of Toronto. While in Toronto she regularly met with the members of the small Unification faith community and also spent time with her former professors and old friends. She provided the members with suggestions for their outreach activities and especially encouraged them to pursue the completion of their university degrees. She was especially concerned that in order to have a successful movement in Canada, the members needed a higher level of education.

During the same period, Miss Kim addressed a group of old friends and colleagues while in Toronto. In her speech, Miss Kim reflected on her time in Canada, her initial association with the Unification Church in Korea, and also introduced an overview of Unificationist teachings. In her introductory remarks, Miss Kim said, "This is an historical confrontation. Ever since I left Canada I have cherished my experience here with fond memories and have drawn from these rich experiences throughout later years."21

Later, Miss Kim called attention to the misunderstanding she had encountered from her colleagues when she first became associated with the Unification Church in Korea, and further explained to her audience what had attracted her to become involved with the movement founded by Rev. Moon. The speech given by Miss Kim, in a sense, was the beginning point for the development of contacts made among faculty members of the University of Toronto and other Canadian institutions. In later years there would be wider interest in the Unification Church by numerous academicians at Canadian institutions of higher learning.

During her stay in Toronto, Miss Kim also taught new guests at the Toronto center. Indeed, the month of January 1970 proved to be very busy as some thirty-two guests were taught, largely due to Miss Kim's presence. Another result of Miss Kim's visit was that the Canadian Unificationists initiated a forty-day witnessing campaign. Soon after Miss Kim's return to the United States, the Canadian members initiated an intensive outreach effort. Their efforts were concentrated on approaching people in an eighteen-storey building on Toronto's Bloor Street, known as Rochdale College. According to Carl Rapkins, Rochdale was "a residence and learning environment for Toronto's moribund radicals, and in his view could not be properly called a college since it was not accredited nor even generally taken seriously. It did, however, offer courses in ceramics, Zen, poetry and other exotic topics."22 In Carl's view, Rochdale was a big "Satanic" stronghold that the Unificationists needed to penetrate.

Robert Duffy explained that during this time they developed a lecture series in a "local hippie apartment house", called Rochdale College. The lecture series was formally presented as the "Christian I Ching".23 More recently, upon reflection, Duffy commented that this was "an effort to convert the unconvertible."24

Seeing that there was a strong interest in oriental thought at the time, Canadian Unificationists sought to adapt their message. According to Carl, Unificationists chose the name "Christian I Ching" to indicate the universal nature of the Divine Principle and to capitalize on then current interest in the occult. Although some people did question the wisdom of trying to combine Christianity and the I Ching, Unificationists explained that they sought to use what was valid in both.25

The lecture series "Christian I Ching" was based on the first chapter of Divine Principle and once a week for six weeks presentations were given. Through hanging a twenty-foot long sign in the window of their meeting room which was clearly visible from the street, and also through the more personal one-on-one approach, the first "class" attracted twenty-five students. Unificationists were enthused at the turnout and over the six week period more than one hundred people heard the lectures. The advertisement for the Rochdale event was as follows:

Want the "Perfect" career, prestige, success and money? Sorry, we can't help you. We haven't much time for that trip; just time for the search for truth, love and hope - and for the quest to make this world a little better.
Come join us as we show you a startling new world view merging East with West, deep social concern with cosmic consciousness, physical with spiritual reality, the teaching of I Ching with the real message of Jesus. It's in Room 210, Rochdale.26

However, not all participants had a serious interest in what was being taught as some had their own proclamations to make. At the first meeting, for example, someone who called himself "Dirty Dan" announced that he was God, Satan and Jesus. Presumably, he had not come searching for the truth, love and hope offered by the Unificationists. Still, as Carl reported, the experience gave the young group an opportunity to have a good experience in verbal rough and tumble, publicity and good education. As a result of their excursion into Rochdale, they also received free publicity from a popular Toronto radio station CHUM-FM.

During the long and cold winter months, Unificationists looked to approach people inside warm indoor shopping centers. Since mall management did not always find this type of activity acceptable they were often asked to leave; thus, response declined considerably during the winter months. In spite of the obstacles, their desire to convey their message was not eliminated as they decided to put posters in strategic locations and distribute pamphlets on busy streets. The members also put advertisements in University and "Underground" newspapers, asking questions such as, "Did Sun Myung Moon Open the Age of Aquarius?" Another attempt at attracting interested souls came when they initiated the "Interreligious Prayer Experience" at their Scollard Street center each Thursday night. According to Linna's report, results were not always direct but doors began to open.27

In March 1970, Robert spoke at the Yoga Forum to a group of twenty five people. Then on April 1, the first "Open House" was held at the Scollard Street center and fifteen guests came. This was a more informal gathering where old and new friends gathered for a relaxing evening of talk, song and pizza. The emphasis here was on befriending the potential new recruits. However, the winter months had been lean in terms of new members. Despite the many experiments, there were no announcements of new "brothers and sisters" during that period.

According to Duffy, the weekly schedule in Toronto was somewhat similar to centers in other parts of the world. While the main focus was to find new members for God, different aspects of witnessing were emphasized depending on the season's particular climate. In autumn the focus was on university students. During the long winter, the strategy was to meet people at indoor shopping plazas, restaurants and church discussion groups, as well as holding prayer meetings at the center. During the spring and summer they ventured out to the parks. Also, owing to a perceived increase in spiritualism, Unificationists visited a number of Spiritualist churches as well.

Besides their regular employment the weekly schedule consisted of the following:

Sunday: 5:00 a.m prayer and rededication service, visiting churches in the later morning to participate in Sunday School or church discussion groups, "internal" worship service at 1:00 p.m. and a lecture at 3:00 p.m.
Monday: Witnessing, Chapter One lecture in the evening.
Tuesday: Introductory lecture at Rochdale College.
Wednesday: Chapter One taught in the center at 8:00 pm.
Thursday: Interreligious prayer experience.
Friday: Witnessing in various locations including coffee houses, and church prayer groups.
Saturday: Clean up, shopping for groceries and laundry.28

It was undoubtedly a busy week.

Making use of the airwaves for the first time, Katharine Bell gave an interview on the University of Toronto Radio Station. She also started attending a course at the Catholic Information Center in Toronto with fellow Unificationist Carl Rapkins. According to Katharine, taking this course served a three-fold purpose: 1) an opportunity to meet people who may be interested in the Principle, 2) a chance to learn new teaching methods and approaches, 3) an opportunity to acquire a deeper understanding of Christianity and how it relates to Principle.29 The result of this effort was that Katharine could later teach her instructor the entire contents of the Divine Principle, although he did not become a member.

After what seemed to be a long dry spell, Grace Ross, a former Catholic nun, joined on May 7. Tish Szczebior, a nurse, also joined shortly thereafter. The first attempt to expand beyond Toronto came almost two years after the mission was founded. On June 17, 1970, Vince Walsh departed for Winnipeg, Manitoba to establish a second Canadian Unification Church center. Besides establishing a mission in Winnipeg, he was to attend the University of Manitoba that September. Shortly after arriving in Winnipeg, Vince had the occasion to speak on local television for about fifteen minutes about the Divine Principle. In his first letter from the field, he excitedly reports about having had the opportunity to speak to forty-thousand people through the medium of television.30

E. Visa Problems and the End of an Era

Although it was somewhat expected, in July 1970, an event which would influence the development of the Unification Church in Canada for some time took place. Due to problems with maintaining legal residence in Canada, the original pioneer, Linna Rapkins, permanently departed from Toronto. Indeed, her husband Carl had already established residence in Buffalo, New York as of April of the same year, while Linna had remained in Canada. Seeing that their difficulties with immigration would not be easily solved, they decided to return to the United States. The small group of Canadian members now found themselves without the mature leadership they had enjoyed until then.

Linna had been a stabilizing influence on the young church. At thirty-two, she was older and more experienced than any of the members in Toronto. Furthermore, she was well-loved and respected by the Canadians as the first pioneer. Although Carl and Linna were a mere 150 kilometers away in Buffalo, New York, their departure meant that the leadership of the young church would pass to a Canadian national.

Interestingly, during his first months in Canada, Carl had reflected that the Canadians would desire Canadian leadership at some point in the future. The passing on of responsibility to Katharine Bell was not because the small group yearned for Canadian leadership. Indeed, they had hoped that the Rapkins would have stayed on longer to lead them. It would not, however, be the case.


. "Spiritual children" is Unificationist terminology for new recruits. The "spiritual parent" refers to the person who introduces the new recruit to the "family" i.e. The Unification Church.

2. Linna Miller. "Letters and Reports - Toronto." NAF. October, 1968. p. 5.

3. Interview with Alan Wilding. January 15, 1994.

4. Alan Wilding. "Letters and Reports - Toronto." NAF. January, 1969. p. 19.

5. Linna Miller. "Letters and Reports - Toronto." NAF. November, 1968. p. 4.

6. It was the view of Unificationists that God had been working to prepare people who would be ready to accept the new messiah and the Unificationist message.

7. Linna Rapkins. "We Promised To Win." Songs of the Garden. New York: HSA-UWC. 1989. p. 197

The day may be long and the way rough and stony.
The light may fall from our eyes.
The rain may fall, our hearts despair,
But! Never will we give up the fight!
Our song may grow long and our legs weak and weary
Our voices may tire from the strain:
And knuckles bleed, our fingers raw,
But! Never will we give up the fight!
The people may mock us and take us for fools.
Reject us again and again;
And shoulders shrug; they turn their heads.
But! Never will we give up the fight!

8. Katharine Bell. "Letters and Reports - Toronto." NAF. May 1969. p. 3.

9. Carl Rapkins. "Scollard, Toronto. July 4, 1969." Way of The World. (hereafter WTW) HSA-UWC. Seoul, Korea. September 1969. p. 43. (International monthly publication of the Unification Church)

10. Ibid.

11. Linna Miller. "From the Land of the Maple Leaf." NAF. May, 1970. p. 34.

12. Interview with Marvi Ranniste Brabazon. January 17, 1994.

13. Alan Wilding. Diary. 1969-1975.

14. "Field Operations." NAF. August, 1969. p. 18.

15. Arthur Ford. "The Sun Myung Moon Sittings." Unknown but Known. New York: Harper & Row. 1968. pp. 114-123. (In 1965, Arthur Ford, then well known for his sittings with Madame Henri Houdini and Bishop James Pike, held a spiritual seance with Reverend Moon. The contents of the sitting with Reverend Moon were published in the above mentioned title. One chapter was devoted entirely to the role of Sun Myung Moon as a religious leader in the present era and at one point stated the following concerning his mission, "And remember one thing only, that if it is of God, it cannot fail. And it is of God.)

16. Interview with Robert Duffy. January 17, 1994.

17. Ibid.

18. Alan Wilding. "Letters and Reports - Toronto." NAF. November 1969. p. 4-5.

19. Unification Church of Toronto Guest Book.

20. Letter from T. Baran of Revenue Canada, Charitable Organizations Section to Katharine Bell. November 3, 1969. (HSA-UWC qualified for Registration effective September 17, 1969.)

21. Young Oon Kim. "Address of Young Oon Kim in Toronto, Canada." WTW. March, 1970. p. 16.

22. Carl Rapkins. "Cracking the radical fortress." WTW. June, 1970. p. 68.

23. Robert Duffy. "From the Land of the Maple Leaf - Canada! What's That?" NAF. May, 1970. p. 26. (This issue of NAF contains a series of reports and articles by the Canadian Unification Church members including a brief history of the first two years of activities.)

24. Interview with Robert Duffy. January 15, 1994.

25. Carl Rapkins. "Cracking the radical fortress." WTW. June, 1970. p. 68.

26. Carl Rapkins. "Cracking the Radical Fortress." NAF. May, 1970. p. 29.

27. Linna Miller. "From the Land of the Maple Leaf." NAF. May, 1970. p. 35.

28. Robert Duffy. "From the Land of the Maple Leaf." NAF. May, 1970. p. 26-27.

29. Katharine Bell. "Letter July 20, 1970." WTW. August, 1970. p. 80-81.

30. Vincent Walsh. "Letter from Winnipeg, September 10, 1970." WTW. October, 1970. p. 74.

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