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

by Franco Famularo

Chapter Three - Struggling To Expand [Part 2]

Canadian Leadership -- Rev. Moon's Second Visit to Canada -- Interim Leadership of Alan Wilding Katharine Bell Reassumes Responsibility -- Initial Phase of Centralization

C. Interim Leadership of Alan Wilding

Alan rose quickly to the occasion and implemented a tight organization, the results of which would prove to be somewhat problematic for the fledgling group. Alan, at least in his own view, was duplicating the pattern established by Rev. Moon in the United States.24 In America, Rev. Moon had mobilized the membership to conduct a seven-city speaking tour through which outreach activities were intensified in the United States. Although Alan saw himself as copying Rev. Moon's model, some of the members perceived this differently.

At twenty-four years of age, Alan saw his opportunity to enhance the growth of the Unification Church in Canada. He had not been satisfied with the way things were run until then, and thus assumed that under his leadership he could radically change the situation, albeit, in a hurry.25

Immediately after Katharine left, a witnessing condition was instituted. Members went out every Monday through Thursday from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and were encouraged to invite people to attend the Friday evening "Open House" or a regularly scheduled workshop every Saturday. Moreover, a competitive approach was utilized and two witnessing teams were formed; a "Sun" team and a "Moon" team. These teams competed with each other to bring guests to the center. Additionally, every evening two members would preach on the street at busy intersections in Toronto, while others held "faith marches" regularly down Yonge Street, the busiest shopping street in downtown Toronto. To proclaim their message more boldly, members wore sandwich-board placards and also advertised their message through placing posters in strategic locations. Accordingly people responded, called, and some attended the workshop.26

1. Aggressive outreach efforts

Because the nature of activities was visibly different from the previous period, Karen Dyck described the mood of the small community as follows:

...there also arrived the deep feeling that the Canadian Family is due for expansion into more active realms of spiritual work. Lack of money and members has always kept us from taking an open aggressive stand with the public... so we put this aside and concentrated on reaching people by an all-out full scale witnessing campaign... On Thursday evenings we organized a demonstration for God on the strongest Satanic stronghold, - Yonge Street.27

Ostensibly, the small group of Unificationists had taken to a more aggressive approach, most likely the result of Alan's new leadership style. Some claimed it was because until then the church had been led by women and the visible difference resulted from the then new male leadership in place. Unquestionably, Alan's outlook and personality differed substantially from Katharine's. Alan wanted to see things get done; he wanted to see results quickly. On the other hand Katharine's approach was more introspective and reflective.

Under Alan's leadership, the members also made attempts to approach people in difficult environments, when they once again ventured into the trendy Rochdale "College". By that time it was known as a "drug center" for the local hippie community. To "awaken" those they considered to be spiritually asleep, a fairly noisy approach was taken. Karen Dyck described one such venture into Rochdale as follows:

We shouted "Mansei" and sang "God is not Dead", hoping to see the walls come down. They didn't... many people opened their windows as Vince Walsh spoke, but later a few dish pans of water came sailing down the sides of the building. No casualties were reported and we are happy to say that a number of people have stopped us and stated that they saw us outside "Roachdale" and admired our attempts to preach about God in such an area.28

The opposition they experienced was hardly unprovoked, yet they felt that they were taking a stand for their convictions. The emphasis here was not so much on achieving visible results, and to "proselytize those who appeared to be unproselytizable," but to make a statement.29

During the same period, they also had a fellowship meeting at the Bahai Center in Toronto where according to Karen Dyck, a number of the Bahai members were close friends of the Unificationists. It was deemed important to work together with members of other groups and share beliefs. The Toronto members also considered it important to help newly established outlying centers.

2. Activities in London, Ontario

Robert Duffy, had set out for London, Ontario, in early April 1972. His purpose was to establish a permanent mission in the city. He had been there about three weeks when help arrived in the form of seven members from Toronto. They had come to assist Duffy in his outreach activities for the entire weekend of April 28-30.

Again, due to Wilding's style, a bold approach was devised. Press releases were issued to television and radio stations and to the London newspapers announcing that the Unificationists had "arrived". According to Karen Dyck, the people of London were "very receptive" to the Unificationists. As part of their effort, the members donned sandwich boards which stated: "A Day of Hope", "The Unification Church", "Recycle Yourself - You Need Joy", and paraded down the main street while singing religious hymns and folk songs. Later they preached on the street in front of a department store to passersby, only to be asked to leave by the store manager.30 The results were slow in coming, however, as only two people visited the church center in London that month.

A similar effort by five Unificationists was attempted the following month. After doing a poster campaign in both London and Toronto, a one-day workshop was held in London's Dundas Street United Church for seven guests who heard an overview of the Divine Principle.31 The members were quite happy that "many" people were now aware of the Church and its activities. Visible numbers of recruits, however, had yet to materialize. The mission to London lasted about a year but was discontinued when Duffy was called to the United States.

3. Open House Meetings

An important feature of the Unification movement's activities at the time were the "Open House" meetings. These informal gatherings were instrumental in leading people to hear the "new revelation". The turnout at other Unificationist events was largely the result of persistent efforts to invite people to the "Open House" meetings. The small row house on Scollard Street was filled with people every Friday evening. A full house meant that between six to ten guests attended.

Initially conceived as an opportunity to share in fellowship, discussion and pizza, the "Open House" took on a new character as the organizers became more creative in their presentations. New member, Glen Morehouse, organized guest speakers, films and invited representatives from various groups to participate in the meetings. One example, of a more creative approach was when Mr. Denney, a spokesman from the group "Jesus to the Communist World Mission", visited and gave a presentation which included a film and speech about Richard Wurmbrand, founder of the organization. Because of the nature of the program, general interest was high.

Open House meetings were seen as an "indirect" approach which complimented the more "direct" approaches. Both methods, nonetheless, were designed ultimately to attract people to study the Divine Principle.

4. Workshops and Study Groups

The program that members hoped all their guests would attend was the regular Saturday workshop held each week at the Scollard Street center. Usually attended by between five to ten people, an overview presentation of the entire Divine Principle would be jointly given by the more experienced Unificationists such as Alan or Vince. Once the guests had heard a general overview, it was realized that more in-depth study was necessary. Alan thus organized an "Advanced Study Group" for Monday and Wednesday evenings. When guests began participating in the more in-depth study groups, it was then also decided to involve "near" members, as they were referred to, in the activities of the Church. Therefore, those who expressed greater interest were invited to participate in demonstrating, witnessing, and street speaking, for example.32

The Toronto center was now filled with a new sense of dynamism, perhaps the result of an enthusiastic "young" leader. Karen expressed as much in her first report after Katharine's departure to Korea:

With Katharine in Korea this month, Alan Wilding has led the Canadian movement. We have been very active; a great amount of enthusiasm is manifested when we see how the fruits of all this work appear in the form of more positive people for Father's family. This feeling of joy is precious...33

Whether this enthusiasm would endure through more trying times was not evident at the time. The schedule was not altered and a three-point approach was agreed to: holding workshops every Saturday; open house meetings every Friday; and regular street preaching. The three-point approach served as the framework for other activities.

5. New Approaches and New Organization

In an effort to bring their message to unfamiliar territory, Unificationists ventured to the Toronto suburb of Scarborough and held a three-day lecture series at the local community center. This was the first attempt at approaching people door to door. Advertisements were placed in all the local newspapers, posters were placed in strategic locations, and press releases were issued to the local media. However, according to Wilding's letter of July 3, the public meeting was disturbed by "Satan's interference". He notes:

Satan attacked the effort severely. Almost every "ad" that appeared in the newspapers was printed incorrectly, especially our Master's name. The room that we rented in a local community hall held a mass meeting upstairs in a room above us; there was little sound proofing and the lecture was destroyed by the noise... The series was also marked by low attendance.34

This disastrous experience led the members to hold an all night prayer vigil in order to discuss seriously how to improve the effectiveness of the Toronto center.

The result of this prayer and discussion was the departmentalization of all activities into eight areas: 1) Teaching, 2) Witnessing, 3) Public Relations, 4) Publications, 5) Administration, 6) Art, 7) International Federation For Victory Over Communism, 8) Household. Each department was led by one of the members in the Toronto center. Additionally, the members took the opportunity to clarify the goals set out by Rev. Moon and determined to set long-term as well as short-term objectives. The goals were then taken and integrated into the structure of each department.35 Alan's view was that departmentalization would give the members more time to develop their capabilities in their respective areas.

At this point in time, a radical financial decision was also made with a view to enhance outreach activities. Due to confidence felt in the then developing business activities, it was decided that all members would quit their jobs. Accordingly, from that time on, Unificationist activities and the personal needs of the members were supported through the painting business and the ongoing sales of the orange spicy tea called Rapkin's Special Brew. Alan hoped that this move to quit their traditional forms of employment would serve to intensify outreach activities. He wrote:

In this way we can use the summer months to reach out day and night to find Father's children.36

No doubt increasing membership was the prime focus of the young church. Without new members, they could hardly accomplish their plans to "restore" the whole country of Canada and lead Canadians into God's ideal world centered on the new Messiah.

During the summer months, members lectured in the open air at Queen's Park every weekend, as well as engaging in all-day outreach campaigns. To amplify their street speaking activities, a megaphone was purchased and street preaching continued every afternoon and evening. Also at that time, the members experimented with setting up a literature and information table on major Toronto streets. Through this approach the members could sell speeches, books and other information as well as attract people to their meetings.

In August a weekend retreat at the Ranniste summer house was held. Twenty people, including members of the Unification Church, attended this workshop in the country-side. Then on three consecutive Saturdays and Sundays a lecture series was presented in Queen's Park. Edward Alleyne, Anne Ranniste and Alan Wilding lectured as some forty people listened to the lectures. Some of those who listened later visited the church center a short walk away.

Also in August 1972, an attempt to produce a Canadian Unificationist publication was made. New Life, a newsletter advertising the Unification Church in Toronto, was printed with Karen Dyck as publication director. The first issue was sold on the streets of Toronto.37 Meanwhile, Bruce Casino sent a press release to one of the major radio stations in Toronto announcing the ongoing lectures in the parks. The result was a 22-minute interview on a Sunday morning radio talk show in August 1972. Karen Dyck expressed her excitement as the "word" was then being propagated to the masses through the Toronto airwaves:

Vince Walsh and Bruce spoke on our activities, membership and goals here in Toronto as well as a history of the movement... our first interview of its kind in the history of the Canadian movement.38

It might have appeared that the Unificationists were taking the airwaves by storm when on October 2, the first television appearance by Unification Church representatives was made by Alan Wilding and Anne Ranniste.

In what would be her final report as a Unification Church member, Karen also explained that the center was filled to overflowing and that more space was needed:

Once more we begin the search for a larger center... but that is difficult in Toronto because of zoning laws and prices. We know that we need much guidance in obtaining a larger center and we pray that Father will lead us soon.39

At least externally it appeared the movement was truly on the move, but there were other undercurrents.

6. Division in the Family

In spite of all the bold efforts, there appears to have been some rather serious underlying disagreements in the community, for on Friday, October 13, 1972 some of the key members left the Unification Church center in Toronto. The "Unified Family" was experiencing severe disunity. On that "unlucky" Friday, the first Canadian member Vince Walsh, along with Karen Dyck, Eva Casino, Glen Morehouse and others decided that they would go their own way. Wilding had earlier hinted at the difficulties being faced in his monthly report for August 1972 when he wrote:

This month we have faced many trials in the area of personal relationships, group harmony and direction. We hope that with our hearts fixed on our Master and Father we will overcome all obstacles that stand in our way and bring the victory to His throne.40

Upon reflection, Alan commented that he sensed a great deal of jealousy from Vince. Accordingly, in Alan's view, Vince considered himself as being more capable than Alan and thought he should have been appointed the leader while Katharine was away. However, Alan also expressed that his shortcomings contributed to the situation. In an interview he said:

When we were in the heat of confrontation Vince wanted me to hand leadership of the center to him. But I was not going to submit to him. It was contrary to the Principle in my view... Looking back, however, I must have been too hard on everyone, since I was so strict and applied the law so severely. I would have done things differently now.41

According to one of the members familiar with the situation, some of the members were holding out in hope that when Katharine Bell would return from Korea the conflict would be resolved. But this did not happen either. Duffy observed that although Alan was well motivated and had rightly noted a lack of activity, in his first experience as leader of the community Alan was unfortunately lacking in refinement.42

Whatever the reasons for the confrontation and eventual split, the situation was never resolved. On the day the members departed, a twenty-one day prayer condition for reconciliation was initiated among the remaining faithful. The prayers and efforts to contact the disenchanted members did not rectify the situation as they did not return.

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