Articles From the November 1995 Unification News
Sunday Services Testimony: The Community of Believers
by Hugh and Nora Spurgin
The power of any church is in its congregation of believers. In the past, the Unification Church's congregation lived in centers. With growing families, we began living in our own homes. This has been a transition time during which we have to change our own way of thinking as a church. Now, during our tribal messiah time, we need to develop the concept of a community of believers, and use this community itself as the center of our witnessing; it must become the drawing power to the Divine Principle and the tradition of true love.
In September 1992, an event took place which changed our own lives dramatically. My husband, who is one of the vice presidents of the Unification Church, and I as director of the Blessed Family Department, were asked to take on the new mission of tribal messiah in our hometown.
Unlike most other missions, tribal messiahship presented the incredible challenge of establishing a whole new foundation as one individual family. It would be too long a story to tell our entire course here; suffice it to say that we experienced the tremendous loneliness and the awful financial insecurity of starting from scratch in a new place with no jobs. Without the support system of other church members and centers around us, we decided that we had to become a spiritual magnet with the drawing power to create our own congregation, building slowly to the point where it would be a stronger and stronger magnetic point.
The first year we drove over an hour every Sunday to the Philadelphia center for Sunday services. The next year we moved to Reading, Pennsylvania, closer to our physical family and further from Philadelphia. It was time to start a congregation. A few other tribal messiahs had begun moving into the Reading and surrounding areas as well. In making our move, we sought a house which would accommodate a small Sunday service and a Sunday school. We knew that a good Sunday school was the key to bringing families, our own church families as well as eventual guests. We found a house with a large family room downstairs, perfect for Sunday school. In the meantime, Geoffrey and Claire Hinkle had also moved to Reading, and Dr. and Mrs. Simon, an elderly Indian minister couple who were blessed in the 30,000 couple blessing, were already living there. We were a trinity. As soon as we moved, we began getting together for Sunday service.
The Sunday School
We had two teenage blessed children (high school students) still living at home. We heard that some of the Japanese blessed children born and raised in America wanted to continue school in America. So when we moved, we decided on a house with one extra bedroom and invited the Sugiyama girls, ages 17 and 15, to live with us. This had many mutual benefits, the greatest of which was companionship at an age when being alone in high school as blessed children was often a lonely or painful experience. So, we had four teenagers in our family. They joined clubs together, took music lessons together, occasionally went to parties together, and it was a joy to see them grow in faith. These four teenagers decided in a family meeting that they would like to take responsibility for teaching the Sunday school.
Rob and Sally Sayre, who lived about an hour away, joined our service and Sally took responsibility for supervising the Sunday school. The Sayres' own two children were so happy to have a Unification Church Sunday school. Several other couples, David and Anne Cantrell, Ken and Yaeko Grosklos, and David and Joelle Byrne, decided to join the service as Reading was geographically somewhat central to this group. We finally had 21 children in the Sunday school. They divided up into four groups, and each of the four older blessed children took a class. I was so moved when I saw these teenagers drawing names of the Sunday school members (they were dividing up the kids to pray for them!).
The Service and Congregation
About a half year after our small beginnings, Scott and Christy McKenna also moved to Reading, Scott's hometown, with their four children. Soon thereafter, Steve and Lydia Martin moved to Allentown, and both couples joined the congregation. The nine couples and 21 children have bonded into a warm and loving community of members who shared our faith, our struggles and our triumphs. We missed each other when someone couldn't come, and the children looked forward to Sunday school.
How did we handle the service? The couples took turns giving the service. Usually, one spouse moderated and the other gave the sermon. We decided to share testimonies on the first round, giving each husband and wife an opportunity to speak. The testimonies helped us to get to know each other more deeply.
After the service was over, we would share a potluck lunch and continue to share our lives of faith in a more casual way. We discussed witnessing methods, business and job opportunities, and raising children. Such sharing was an integral part of our community of faith, bringing faith into every aspect of life.
As we developed, we realized that we had reached a new stage in our community. Quite naturally, our sharing has turned to a desire to open up our services to other families as a witness. We prayed for each other's relatives, and welcomed each other's friends and contacts. The Sayres held a one-day workshop for two guests. The workshop was supported by our little church community in prayer, attendance and lecturing. Sally had been working with a prayer group in their home for over a year. Claire Hinkle, Christy McKenna and I have begun a women's Saturday running discussion group. Two wonderful women joined this group. Our hope is to make contacts as well as other friends and relatives a part of our church community. After about nine months of services every other Sunday, our congregation was ready to come out of the "womb" and be born into the real world of evangelization. A lot of healing and bonding took place during those nine months. We were feeling the need to consider moving our service to a larger, more public place. We believe people will join us as we embrace each other in true love, which is the living testimony of the Divine Principle and the work of our True Parents.
Our family was sad to leave our little congregation of love and care and faith. However, the demands of WFWP work for Nora and the need for a stable job took us to Washington, DC where we now worship with a much larger congregation.
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