UTS Cornerstone - A Newsletter for the UTS Alumni Association - March 2005

A Letter from the Field - Dealing With Reality

Marilyn Morris (UTS '83)

I am deeply pondering how we honestly market the American Church to a wider audience, given a top-down and sometimes heavy handed oriental leadership style?

How to create a product in the USA that deals with that? I haven't figured it out. The current version leaves many of the faithful uninspired. In fact, in an anonymous survey, the word "uninspired" might be downright polite. What does this construct do for the casual visitor to the church?  I think the stats over the years have drawn the picture for us.

My husband and I have had several acquaintances excited by the many outreach initiatives of the movement, but when they draw a little closer, it is not long before they cool down, quickly and considerably. They remain as our friends, but after several DP lectures and Sunday services; after they begin to see our church in its reality, they lose their original enthusiasm. They continue to help in some external project, WFWP or IRFF, but they clearly share with us they are not interested in becoming core blessed members. That prospect is not at all appealing to our American friends.

It is a real conundrum, and I think it is only fruitful dialogue if we are honest with our Asian counterparts, not resentfully so, but more pointedly than we have been in the past. They came here in response to Father's call. Most must have responded out of a sincere desire to accomplish something. That they may obfuscate the providence in America , is something they and we have to deal with together. I'm all for dialogue and I do enter into it as a serious alumna of UTS, an institution that Father himself sweated, prayed and cried over. I think he did want us to grab the bull by the horns -- but I'm not sure he estimated just how much bull we would end up having to grab.

            For the last five years, I went outside the church (though remaining up front as a member of the church) to utilize my skills in ministry. Frankly prior to that, within the church, the extent of my usefulness to the leadership was in a secretarial position. Instead, I trained seriously with other ministers in a two-year course to become a hospital chaplain. I graduated from intern, to resident, to contract, to contingent. Finally, in 2004, competing against 65 other candidates, I was hired as a full time Staff Chaplain into a large metropolitan hospital in Ohio .

            I think I am the first in the country to be hired in this field as a Unificationist. Perhaps it is a first for the entire world. I think one of the reasons for my success is that I have been honest and remain honest about my church, though not disparaging. I have given short teachings on Unificationist beliefs, and then expressed where the movement is in trying to make those beliefs reality. Since Christianity is also rife with high ideals and lowly hypocrisy, I have found many an understanding and sympathetic ear.

Sometimes, serving with humility is simply giving the honest truth without fanfare or hype, but neither with self-deprecation. I now work in the Emergency Department and the Intensive Care Units, helping families cope with their loved one's dying. It is gritty work, but I appreciate the fact that somewhere in the universe my talents are honestly assessed and appropriately utilized. The more I work in my profession, ahem, the more deaths I attend (and I've been to hundreds now), the more irrelevant my current church experience becomes to me. It's very hard for me now to get all excited by the "stuff" that seems to occupy us, all the conditions and conferences and so on and so forth. These are important things to do, but in the end, it's just "stuff."

            When I first joined the UC, I dreamed how it would someday take flight and soar like an eagle. Rather, I spent decades riding a trudging mule, more stubborn and resistant to change with each passing year. One day, I got off the mule, I don't know when, perhaps the night I held a tiny baby's hand and blessed her while her parents wept for the tiny body that wouldn't last but a few minutes longer. Perhaps it was one of the many times I've prayed over an old drunk who had no one to claim his body.

            Maybe I let the mule go on a long hot afternoon watching an old farmer die. His wife held his hand and couldn't let go of it hours past his death for they had been married 73 years. He was survived by five generations and a sixth on the way, all crowded into one room, while he went peacefully in his sleep. His family sang and prayed and told stories and laughed and cried and told more stories and laughed and cried some more.

Somewhere, in all of this, I got off the mule, knelt down in front of life, and humbled by the vast mystery of death and who knows what all goes on beyond its borders, bowed my head and admitted that I didn't know anything at all.

It was the start of a new life.

Marilyn Morris

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