The Words of the Tardy Family
On April 12, 2009, Lovin' Life Ministries opened with its first service, drawing a standing ovation as its senior pastor, Rev. In Jin Moon, appeared on the stage to give her first sermon on Easter Sunday. When Lovin' Life services opened at the Manhattan Center a year ago, few at the time could have foreseen the impact Rev. In Jin Moon's new ministry would make in a year's time. But by all accounts, church members of all ages have been energized by her weekly sermon, which now is broadcast through live feed to 104 locations nationwide every Sunday.
"When I first heard Rev. In Jin Moon describe her vision for Lovin' Life, I was so inspired," remembered Rev. Kevin Thompson from the San Francisco Bay Area, California, one of the first people to assist Reverend Moon in the formation of Lovin' Life. He shared that Reverend Moon had said, "I want to create a church where the young people are the ones saying to their parents on Sunday morning, 'Come on, Mom, get ready! We don't want to be late for church.'"
Enthusiasm about worship, and pride in its value, had to be the first order of business in order to share faith with others. "She wanted to create a church service that was relevant and would leave people feeling uplifted, as well as a place where she herself would be happy to invite her friends from the entertainment world, as well as even her own children bringing classmates. I thought that this is what we have been waiting for, and surely she is the one to lift us to a whole new level," Reverend Thompson explained.
Rev. In Jin Moon took a risk with the first move of combining the congregations from four states into one service in Manhattan for Lovin' Life, thinking that the larger, high-production service would give the church a boost. David Eaton, Lovin' Life Ministries' current production coordinator, who follows through with plans as they are developed by Lovin' Life executives, shared about one speech that he remembered Rev. In Jin Moon giving to the youth and parents after a Sports Fest in August 2009. "She mentioned that sometimes when the team isn't doing so well, you have to bring in a new coach. A new coach has new plays and new tactics, and you can't really judge the coach until you try the new plays and tactics. In Jin Nim has been implementing new tactics, new strategies; on the whole, they are working very well. As the new coach here, I think she has a great vision, and you can see how it is all tied in to really creating an image for our movement."
Lovin' Life Ministries is truly a package deal, including sermons, scripture, community building, and more. One congregant shared, "When bringing friends to the services, I noticed that one thing they are always interested in is how big the congregation is. They are used to going to churches with 50 to 100 people, so when they show up at the Grand Ballroom or the Hammerstein, which seats 2,000 people, they are very impressed that this service has developed along these lines."
What has been applied from Lovin' Life to events all over the world this year? Music. "Part of In Jin Nim's vision is to really develop the music ministry," explained David Eaton. With the building of a band of devoted musicians over the past year who have incorporated numerous songs that the audience could relate to, as well as shared songs written on their own, music has been one of the keys for worshiping at Lovin' Life Ministries.
"I've really been impressed with how the band has developed; they have become very smooth," Eaton continued. "When we did a program out in Las Vegas, we had one banquet manager who saw the band and said, 'Who are these guys?' He really wanted to know. I began to explain that they are a part of In Jin Nim's ministry, and he said, 'They are as good as any band I've seen out here, and I've been working in Vegas for 28 years.' So it's the quality of the band, together with their heart to engage people. You can see that they've really grown and developed a lot."
Eaton added, "Using media and culture as part of the witness, something that as a long-time member in the arts is always something I've felt was important, so it's really great to see that she is really building that momentum. One thing that might be very interesting down the road is to invite guest artists who would like to contribute, who share this vision about Unificationism and peace, and would like to maybe participate in some way. I think we are getting to that point now."
Beyond weekly services, Lovin' Life Ministries has created outreach activities that have made the Forty-Third Street Center a hive of activity. "What Rev. In Jin Moon has done is re-energize the movement to a new level of activity," explained Jonathan Gullery, assistant director for Lovin' Life Learning Center. "She has provided a vehicle, the Learning Center, that appeals to the modern sensibility."
With free programs that enable many to develop skills to learn How to Get Everything You've Ever Wanted, Real Relationship Seminars, and how to create a life of value through The Lasting Imprint, the Learning Center is active daily. Participants are also able to meet new people in programs such as weekly Ballroom Dancing classes, Open Mike Night, and Martial Arts, or just sitting back and having fun with movie nights.
Participants are also offered The Power of the Principle, Compass Bible Study, and DP Masters, as well as the up-and-coming program Junction, a young-adult led worship service that allows fellowship for young adults during the midweek.
"What I'm seeing is people coming to the Sunday Service and then getting involved with the Learning Center programs or vice versa. We see a majority of people who come to something at the Learning Center -- whether ballroom dancing or an open mike -- coming back again and again." says Gullery.
Gullery also pointed out that under Reverend Moon's direction, the entire first floor of the old headquarters building has been brought up to date, including new lighting and the creation of a members' art gallery.
Lovin' Life Ministries is also directing itself to educational philosophy and youth ministry for Unificationists today. Each sermon given by Rev. In Jin Moon is relevant to parents, children, and educators. The next step is the application. Lovin' Life sermons have started with looking directly at parenting and family itself. "Every Unificationist parent that I know has made incredible effort to discover what it means to be a true parent to their own children," according to Heather Thalheimer, director of education. "Our senior pastor's stories of her intimate moments with her own father and mother, our True Parents, are the wisdom we have been yearning for. Rev. In Jin Moon brings a unique gift to Lovin' Life Ministries in that our First Generation couples can relate to her as a parent of adult children, while our Second Generation resonates with her experience of being born into our faith. Her experience growing up in the movement is helping us to better understand the needs and lives of our children and bringing a new breadth and depth to our educational philosophy and programs."
When asked about the infusion of Rev. In Jin Moon's vision into youth ministry, David Hunter, New Jersey's youth pastor, explained that the goal is for youth and young adults to be able to present our movement through their own lives. "The main transition I see has been moving on beyond only teaching of Divine Principle to applying the Divine Principle. Knowing how to present your faith is an application." This has been seen through programs such as FUSE for Young Adults, the Witnessing Summit, and the weekly Junction program, according to David Hunter.
"Youth Ministry should also be reinforcing Lovin' Life Ministry messages so that a consistent message can be filtered down to youth around the country," said Hunter. "Much of our content being delivered to youth now is taken directly from Rev. In Jin Moon's messages being conveyed weekly at services." Hunter also added the simple fact that "Lovin' Life Youth Ministry should also have a greater emphasis on having fun, in order for kids to really love life through youth ministry."
Feedback is already being heard from local church members regarding the impact on the youth. One First Generation parent reflected, "Having two young daughters, I think the impact of Lovin' Life on the Second Generation is huge. They get so much from their senior pastor, but they also love the music: the new vibe that she is bringing. To see our Second Generation really engaged more and more, not only at the main Sunday Service but at some other programs too, like the ballroom dancing and the Junction program, is something that is huge."
Outside of the New York area, Unification Church pastoral teams are starting to reformulate Sunday worship based on the Lovin' Life Ministries model. After sending out DVDs of past Sunday Services to churches around the country, Lovin' Life Ministries is now streaming live services to 104 locations each week.
James Gavin, former outreach pastor for the Minnesota Family Church, expressed that the biggest impact of Lovin' Life Ministries on his community took place due to Rev. In Jin Moon's initial visit to families in Minnesota. "We were able to hear her speak and connect with her one on one before the starting of Lovin' Life Ministries. So when Lovin' Life Ministries actually started, all of us already knew the senior pastor a little bit because of her first visit."
Members have been hearing personal stories of Reverend Moon's life that were connecting even more with her father and mother, who are the founders of our movement. "We were able to get a little bit more in depth of what it was like to be a member of the Moon family. This was a big impact for not only the adults, but also the youth in our community," Gavin said.
The message being received around the country is always very professionally delivered. Having a high standard, Rev. In Jin Moon gives it with passion, using the method of parables in order to convey messages more clearly that really keep people interested in her message. "She personalizes the message and brings an understanding of how it applies to their lives. Both the adults and youth feel they can relate with and listen to her," stressed Gavin.
As a result, Blessed Children nationwide are taking a second look at Sunday worship services and the church in general. Rev. Mike Lamson, district director of the Unification Church in the Ohio River region, told a gathering of church leaders on January 22, 2010, that several youth in his congregation recently told him that the Lovin' Life Ministries makes them proud to call themselves Unificationists.
In conjunction with the change of tides of our national service, the Unification Church's Second Generation was a topic of National Public Radio's popular program "All Things Considered" on February 17, 2010. NPR reporter Barbara Hagerty was the first reporter to interview Reverend In Jin Moon and the first media professional to tell Americans about the growing ministry of Lovin' Life.
With the energizing of a movement regarded as America's best kept secret and the unity of members nationwide with Rev. In Jin Moon's new vision, the future is on its way, with impacts being made daily. "Change doesn't happen overnight," shared Reverend Thompson, "but the first year of Lovin' Life Ministries has sown the seeds for the emergence of a new church nationwide."