The Words of the Seher Family
Kristina Seher's 60th
May 20, 2006
When I first joined the Unification Church I was 29 years old. One of the people that really helped me to understand the real meaning behind our movement was my first group leader Kristina Morrison. Although she was not the first UC member that I had met, somehow her ability to reach right into the depth of my heart is what motivated me to attend my first workshop and again to stay for the 7-day workshop. After that I was hooked. Since her birthday is May 18th and mine is June 13th it was also very easy for me to remember hers. Several months ago, I received an invitation from Kristina's husband Alan Seher, inviting me to attend Kristina's 60th birthday party, which was to be held in the Seher's home in Berkeley, California.
I, myself was born on Francisco Street in Chicago, grew up a Willie Mays and San Francisco Giants baseball fan and I always knew that as soon as I got my first car, I would drive immediately to San Francisco. This revelation proved itself to be true and on Christmas Eve, 1974, I accepted an invitation to dinner at a house on Washington Street in San Francisco, which was home to the members of the Unification Church.
I remained in San Francisco for about 6 years (until the July 1, 1982 Blessing in Madison Square Garden) working with Sheri Reuter and the new members (actionizers) and eventually working at a Jewish Deli/Coffee House called Aladdin's across the Bay on the Berkeley-Oakland border down the hill from the historic Claremont Hotel. Throughout my time in the Bay area, my relationship with Kristina Morrison was among the most important in my life.
She taught me so many of life's little lessons and as I matured both emotionally and spiritually, Kristina's influence was ever present in my life. So when I received Alan Seher's invitation to attend Kristina's 60th birthday party, there was no question in my mind that, God willing, I would travel out to Berkeley to celebrate with this great lady. I made arrangements to stay with Dr. and Mrs. Durst at their home. I arrived at the Oakland Airport on Friday morning in late May so that I could make the most of the weekend -- my first one in the Bay Area in over twenty years. My first stop was the Principled Academy where Kristina is the Principal.
I had the blessing to have lunch with Dr and Mrs. Durst and their youngest son, Chaim, who had just recently returned to the Bay area from New York. Later we met Noah and Kathy Ross and then Dr. Durst drove us across the Bay to experience the art and architecture exhibit at the new De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. After 2 days of reminiscing and sightseeing it was time for Kristina's party. Friends and relatives had been arriving from every corner of America. Kristina's brother Matthew had flown down from Seattle and her sister Jennifer and her husband David Hager had come down as well.
Russell Allen and Laurence Baer had flown in from New York and Washington, D.C. respectively and WFWP leader Caroline Betancourt had also come in from D.C. The bulk of the guests were local, including so many members of The Principled Academy and members of the Bay Area Family Church, including Pastor Kevin Thompson. Held in the Seher's Russell Street home, the evening began with the music of David and Jennifer Hager--David's flute accompanying Jennifer's melodic guitar. Throughout the evening each guest arose and offered both a personal testimony and a musical offering.
Dr. and Mrs. Durst sang together and then demonstrated their continuing prowess on the dance floor, as they filled the Seher living room with grace and joy. Brother Matthew and Noah Ross took over the M.C. role and together with Jennifer and Theo Townsend on drums, they led the evening's singing. Many times throughout the evening, one could not help but be taken back to the 1970's Chicken Palace in Boonville where so many of us had joined the movement. So many of our Oakland songs had been written during the Saturday night skits that we performed during the weekend workshop.
All the Lands that I loved, If Love Were Gracious Enough, What About Love, Now That I've Found You, Love Wagon, A Special Place in Your Heart, See Through Children's Eyes, Bright as the Sun, Springtime, Take Me Through the Doorway and We'll return our Love to You, to name but a few.
Many of these, if not written by Joshua Cotter or Ricky Joswick might very well have come right out of Kristina's group. As the evening moved on we dined on a sumptuous dinner prepared by Chef Alan. Then Kristina's beloved brothers and sisters stepped up to the microphone one by one and sang, danced and gave testimony to how Kristina had touched their lives.
Nicholas Buscovich and Laurence Baer sang songs that they had made famous while in Oakland. Laurence sang his immortal 'refrigerator song" and then he premiered a new song that he had just written. It was an incredible song about the relationship between a father, son and grandson centering on a Model T Ford. The song moved this author so much that I asked Laurence to send it to me and I have been listening to it nearly everyday since. Patricia Detlefsen, my old home church partner while at UTS in 1983 did a beautiful French improvisational dance and so many others brought joy to the evening through music and song.
When it was this author's turn, I was saved from public humiliation by my spiritual sister, Caroline Betancourt who rescued me by allowing me to perform a duet. Together we offered our own rendition of "Somewhere over the Rainbow" and although Judy Garland need not have any reason to worry, I believe that we were well received by our sympathetic audience. But the real heart of the evening lay in the testimonies to how Kristina had touched the lives of those assembled in the little house on Russell Street on this late May evening in Berkeley, California celebrating the incredible life of an incredible woman.
One special friend even stating that in his opinion, Kristina Morrison Seher was probably the most incredible American woman in history! Yet, the most overwhelming testimony came over and over from so many different voices. So many people shared how Kristina's faith and determination to establish a Foundation of Substance with Mrs. Durst had changed the Oakland movement, the American Movement and their lives in particular. So many of the testimonies resonated with this same point. Mrs. Detlefsen shared in particular how Kristina had walked every step of the way with her through her husband George's illness and eventual ascension. Testimony was given how folks had to learn to live with Kristina's intensity and how she has mellowed in the recent past.
Her accomplishments at the school and her accomplishments in her marriage and family resonated as well. Especially moving was the testimony of Kristina's husband Alan as she shared his incredible experience at the matching in New York in 1982. The next day, I was given the opportunity by my dear friend, Rev. Kevin Thompson to preach at the Sunday Service for their Bay Area Family Church. I was honored and enjoyed the experience fully. After a hearty lunch and a good walk through my beloved Oakland and Berkeley, it was suddenly time to return to my Midwestern home town. It had been quite a full weekend. Lots of memories, renewing old acquaintances and equally, many new and wonderful experiences.
I was grateful that I had been given the opportunity to thank a woman who had significantly changed the course of my life over these past 30 years. When I had gotten up to speak I had shared about how Kristina was one of the most significant people in my life. One who had caused me to always look inside of myself to find the greatness that God had already planted there. As much as I had always loved san Francisco,
Chicago was truly my physical home. Thus, as I reflected during my four hour late night flight back home, to my wife, my family and my church community, I reflected on how powerful that love, faith and commitment. Can change one life and therefore change the world. Happy Birthday Kristina. Thank you from the American Movement. God Bless you and your beautiful family!
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