The Words of the Tardy Family
The Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom was brightly lit on the evening of Friday, December 10, for the first-ever Honoring Our Tradition (HOT): Forty Years of Faith celebration. Individuals and couples attended from around the country, from as far away as Seattle and Miami. This reunion was nothing short of joyful and full of memories; many of the guests had not seen each other for many years.
As couples began to sit at their reserved tables for the banquet to begin, Mr. Farley Jones, an early president of the Unification Church in America, gave the invocation together with his wife, Betsy. This banquet was also in celebration of their 40-year wedding anniversary, together with many others, having been blessed in marriage by Rev. Sun Myung Moon as part of the 777 Couple Blessing in October 1970. "Tonight there is such an enormous amount of history in this room," Mr. Jones reminded them, "and each of you are truly history makers."
With more than 200 honorees present in New York that evening, there were also many more around the world taking part via satellite broadcasting. This night was an event for all to share in recognizing the great accomplishments that so many had undertaken and fulfilled with great passion. The night's MC, Rev. Joshua Cotter, also told the audience that this was not a onetime event but would instead be held annually to congratulate members having 40 years of membership.
Opening words were given by Dr. Chang Shik Yang, continental director for the United States, who first thanked Unification Church's President and Senior Pastor, Rev. In Jin Moon, for initiating this occasion to honor members around the country. Dr. Yang recalled the paths of the first Korean missionaries sent to America in 1959. (One of them, David S.C. Kim, who is now 95 years old, was represented by his son and sent his love through a letter that was read aloud.) Dr. Yang wished blessings upon each dedicated member, urging the whole assembly to "stand firmly with True Parents for the rest of our lives."
A 40-year honoree, Dr. Sandra Lowen, sang her original musical composition "Resurrection," based on the poem "White Lily-of-the-Valley" originally written by Mr. Barry Cohen, another 40-year member.
A major highlight of the evening was a sneak preview of a video of 22 interviews of pioneer members from around the country, offering their personal stories of meeting and being with Reverend Moon when he first came to the United States in 1972 and accompanied by numerous photos of the 43 Couple Blessing in 1969, the 777 Couple Blessing in 1970, and early missionary activities, including the Day of Hope tours. This video also enlightened the younger members of this movement, who could see that they wouldn't be here today if it weren't for the earlier generations.
The keynote address was given by Rev. In Jin Moon, president and CEO of HSA-UWC, who credited to the honorees that evening with important victories: "Your faith, loyalty, and dedication were able to accomplish something that the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ could not do 2,000 years ago. Your love, faith, and dedication kept our True Parents alive." She shared her personal experience of coming to America at the age of 8 and growing up with many of the members present that evening, some of whom helped to raise her as well as teach her English.
One of her many hopes is to create a space on the Internet, titled "HOT" -- H for honor, O for Our and T for tradition " -- where all of the personal stories of the members of 40- year members could be captured. "You guys are the hottest commodities we have in our movement," she explained.
After reflecting on the victories that had been accomplished in the past, Reverend Moon assured the honorees of the future prosperity that would now be able to be created by the up-and-coming generations of the movement due to the foundation set underneath them. As she concluded, she spoke in tears, saying that her entire family thanked them from the bottom of their hearts.
Dinner was accompanied with songs performed by the Lovin' Life Ministries Band; many honorees were on their feet dancing by the end of the performance. During dinner, Rev. In Jin Moon also took the time to go from table to table, congratulating all honorees individually for their honored life of faith.
A ballroom dance performance was offered by young adults from the community, which began the rest of the night. Soon the dance floor was full of couples dancing the waltz, the swing, and the fox trot.
Group photos were then taken on stage with Rev. In Jin Moon, first starting with the 36 blessed couples in 1969 all the way to the couples who had been blessed in 1982. At the end, the whole stage was full: Over 200 honorees stood in unison, smiling from cheek to cheek and holding beautiful crystal commemorative awards in their hands.
Farley and Betsy Jones later shared their impression of the event. "What struck me about tonight was the amazing collection of personal histories that are all represented here in this room, from those who have been following this path for over 40 years or more. I think it's phenomenal to bring them all together in one room, on one night. It's just such an uplifting environment," said Mr. Jones.
"This evening really went beyond our expectations," said Mrs. Jones. "I want to express how grateful I am for it. It was a special reunion remembering God and True Parents. When Rev. In Jin Moon spoke, I really felt the bond that the True Children have with everyone here tonight. I feel great hope for the future and Rev. In Jin Moon's work together with the Second Generation. We love them all and are so proud of them."