Unification News for March 2001

Rev. Moon's 50 City Tour - New York City—February 25

New York City Police cordoned off several blocks in front of the Garden of Prayer Cathedral in the Bronx. Church buses and vans delivered clergy and representation from congregations throughout the city. Lines streamed into the streets as participants of all races greeted and blessed each other joyfully, oblivious to the dull, gray, drizzly afternoon. As the sanctuary and balcony filled to capacity, the atmosphere was warm and the spirit high. By the time Rev. Doris Tongo of Ark of Safety Fellowship Church was well into the Praise Service, and the Garden of Prayer Choir had the diverse congregation on its feet, overflow crowds packed the church basement, making do with an audio hook-up.

No one could have scripted a better inaugural event for the "We Will Stand" tour. Sponsored by the American Clergy Leadership Conference, the tour’s theme is "Rebuild the Family, Restore the Community, Renew the Nation and World." A diversity of faith leadership will participate in each program. Keynote speaker is 81 year-old evangelist Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Beginning with this February 25 New York event, the tour will visit 50 states in nearly as many days, with the finale gathering in Washington, DC on April 16th.

Host pastor Bishop William Robinson of the Church of God in Christ, led his Garden of Prayer Cathedral Choir personally, breaking into joyous song at several points throughout the evening. Rev. Dennis Dillon, editor of "The New York Christian Times," shared an inspirational message. United Pentecostal Church pastor Rev. Pedro Barrios offered the invocation. Civil rights veteran Rev. Charles Kenyatta, pastor of Harlem’s White Rock Baptist Church, exemplified the special relationship that minority clergy have with the evening’s guest speaker.

"I can identify with Rev. Sun Myung Moon," Kenyatta said. "We both have had the misfortune of being persecuted and tortured. I know how he got here, and I want him to know that his time has come." Kenyatta, who was a bodyguard for Malcolm X in his youth, expressed confidence that God would speak to America through the tour. "By the time he gets through al 50 states, Rev. Moon will be one of the most honored prophets in America" he claimed.

Awards and recognition were given to individuals and organizations working with youth, rebuilding families and promoting racial and religious harmony at the community level. The Queens Federation of Churches, United Fellowship of Churches International and Rev. Gilbert McKenzie, Secretary of the Dutchess Interfaith Council in Poughkeepsie were recognized for their contributions to ecumenism. Grassroots champions Mother Daisy Berry, Rev. Copernic Augustin, Rev. Ashford Nimchan and Dr. Jo Anne Hickman were also honored.

Another special guest who graced the program was Rev. Jesse Edwards, President of the Pentecostals of Philadelphia. Highlighting the purpose of the tour, he noted: "AIDS does not discriminate by race or religion. "Drugs, crime, and family breakdown know no race or denomination. We must come together beyond our differences, if we are to confront these evils effectively," he said, to the cheers of those assembled. Referring to a Chicago Sun-Times description of the tour as a "hurricane across America," pastor Edwards challenged the congregation: "let’s begin this heavenly wind tonight, that it might blow across the nation."

Rev. Moon arrived with his wife and several of his 13 children, together with their wives. Looking youthful for his 81 years, he entered following the Youth Cadet Corps Colorguard. Many of the clergy who attended were dressed in their robes and vestments in honor of the occasion. Ascending the pulpit, Rev. Moon thanked all for their attendance, noted the rainbow of colors in the audience, and warmly joked with the standing-room-only crowd. Upon learning that most of those assembled were meeting him for the first time, he asked: "Am I young, or old; handsome, or ugly?" Doubting the generously shouted replies of "handsome" and "young," he noted, "When I was young I was more handsome, but now I am more wise. Though I may be old, my message has the spirit of youth, so please listen carefully." Although his speech was in Korean, with simultaneous translation, the audience responded with warm applause and repeated shouts of "Amen" numerous times. His theme was: "The Path for America and Humanity in the New Millennium." "When America becomes a place where people of all races can live together in harmony, it will be a model for the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth… I ask you to stand with me in accomplishing this historic task," he concluded.

Following Rev. Moon’s message, the audience rose in response. He warmly embraced Bishop Robinson, host pastor for the evening. As Mrs. Moon joined him on-stage, clergy from all over New York were called to the stage, where Mrs. Moon had joined as well. To honor the religious leaders and emphasize the bond of heart and commitment to work together, Rev. and Mrs. Moon presented gold watches to several leading clergy. Dr. Elgin Watkins of Nazarene Congregational United Church of Christ read a powerful message from Dr. Moon on the essentiality of sexual purity in the development of true love, and challenging the youth in the audience.

The Interdenominational Haitian Mass Choir erupted into joyful and thunderous song and praise, lifting the audience to its feet once again. Representatives of many of the city’s churches received door prizes. An offering was taken for the host church, and hand in hand, the gathering prayed in closing.

—Regional report

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