National Marriage Blessing Is Celebrated Across the United States
On Saturday, October 3, 2015, America celebrated the Marriage Blessing in churches and congregations all around the country as 123 couples rededicated their marriages before God and True Parents and began their journey in marriage as Blessed couples.
A main celebration was held at the International Peace Education Center in Las Vegas, with other Blessing ceremonies taking place in other locations across America, including New Jersey; Lakeland, Florida; Seattle, Washington; and Los Angeles, where the event coincided with Family Street Festival organized by several local Christian pastors. On Sunday, October 4, congregations in Yonkers, New York; Lakeland, Florida; Fairfax, Virginia; and Detroit, Michigan, held Blessing Ceremonies.
Here are a few highlights and photos from the various celebrations. Thank you to all those who made them possible. Hear more about these special Marriage Blessing ceremonies in the weekly update video.
In Las Vegas, 36 couples, including three newlyweds, participated in a marriage re-dedication Blessing ceremony at the International Peace Education Center with hundreds of friends, relatives and community members in attendance. Participants from around the country included four former members of Congress and their spouses, as well as pastors and bishops from various Christian denominations. The combination of civic and religious leaders created an exciting dynamic during this universal ceremony for all faiths. All resonated with the theme of reclaiming marriage in God’s image.
“This Marriage Blessing is so important to me,” said T. L. Barrett, Senior Pastor of New Life Center Church of God in Christ, Chicago. “My church in Chicago is holding an important Regional Purity Rally but I had to be here to support this Blessing. God made everything in families, and then he left it up to humankind to make human families.”
Dr. and Mrs. Ki Hoon Kim officiated the program. In preparation for the Blessing Ceremony, a presentation was given on the meaning of the Holy Wine Ceremony and Marriage Blessing, after which the Holy Wine was administered. Prayers and testimonies were offered by American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC) pastors before the couples finally filed down the sweeping marble stairs of the Peace Education Center for the ceremony. The couples and guests were delighted by the program, which included musical presentations by Suziliane MacDonald, opening remarks by Pastor Mark Abernathy, an Opening Prayer by Rev. Jesse Edwards, a Blessing Address by Rev. Andrew Compton, a Holy Water Ceremony, the Recitation of the Blessing Vows, a Blessing Prayer by FFWPU North American Continental Chair Dr. Ki Hoon Kim, and the Exchange of Rings.
Pastor Ray Giddens, Unity Baptist Church of Las Vegas, said, “Today we have recognized and honored marriage as God ordained it. With the Blessing Ceremony we are doing ‘what saith the Lord’, and not what man may say. What matters is not our denomination and beliefs, but a true relationship with God.”
“God has a stake in us,” said the wife of a former Congressman. “He designed the family as a father and a mother. In fact, our couple is the smallest church.”
“This ceremony has been so beautiful,” said the wife of another former Congressman. “From the abundant sprays of flowers, to the delicious food, and participants from around the country. All of this was to honor God’s role in the love between a husband and a wife. Thank you for the lavish way you have blessed us all, in honoring our partnership with God in the institution of marriage.”
The Blessing was followed by a gala luncheon on the second floor of the International Peace Education Center. During the luncheon all the civic leaders and many of the religious leaders were able to share their impressions of the Blessing program. Many were so inspired by the day that they held Blessing Ceremonies in their own churches. Rev. Keith Allen and First Lady Paulette Allen of Baltimore participated in the Las Vegas program, and flew home Saturday evening in order to hold a Marriage Blessing with their Rehoboth Church of God in Christ Jesus Apostolic congregation. Others plan to hold Blessing events at a later date.
Contributed by Tom Cutts
In Berkeley, California, two young couples received the Holy Blessing on October 3. With a backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge, surrounded by family and friends, Gabriel Pugnoli and Molly Adshead, and Hyojin Light and Kairene Posas, committed their lives to God and each other and to building true families in service to the world. “Thank you, True Parents, for making the Blessing a possibility for myself and Kairene,” said Hyojin Light.
It was a lovely, simple ceremony, but with the same dignity as if True Parents were physically there. Forty guests welcomed and cheered on the couples. “I felt as if God smiled down in contentment,” said Satomi Adshead, Molly’s mother, “watching the lineage continue and feeling so much hope for the future.”
The Northern Virginia Family Church hosted over 100 people, including 20 guests, for a 3 pm Holy Marriage Blessing Ceremony. A young Unificationist couple and a pastor couple from the Bible Way Church in Fairfax, Virginia, received the Marriage Blessing in front of friends, family and community. Participants enjoyed a wonderful dinner, congratulatory remarks, and an amazing ballet performance by a young Unificationist from the Kirov Academy of Ballet. The entire day was a beautiful tribute to Heavenly Parent and True Parents.
Two couples participated in the Holy Wine Ceremony and Marriage Blessing in Detroit. The whole congregation enjoyed the day and had a wonderful experience. The next day, Rev. Willie Downer of Greater Love MBC invited Detroit Unificationists to conduct the Blessing as a part of his church service. After Rev. Downer’s sermon on the coming Kingdom of Heaven, he turned the service over to Rev. David Kasbow, who opened with a reading of Gen. 1:28. After explaining God’s original desire to bless Adam and Eve, he spoke about the basics of the Human Fall and how the Holy Wine ceremony was initiated by Rev. and Mrs. Moon under Jesus’ guidance to “reverse the curse.” After he demonstrated how the Communion of Holy Wine is taken, he had the married couples take part and then had everyone in the church take the Holy Wine.
After the Holy Water ceremony and the ring ceremony Rev. Kasbow explained the three other parts of the Blessing process and then read a portion of Father Moon’s message on marriage. The Unificationist church choir concluded the Blessing portion of the service by singing “Song of the Banquet.”
Rev. Downer expressed that it was a beautiful experience. “My heart was warmed by the Blessing ceremony,” he said. Another elder said that it is in marriage that God’s love is revealed to us. He said this ceremony was special to him and his wife because they had just gotten married in May but since it was just a legal ceremony this was a beautiful experience for them to begin their marriage again with a ceremony centered on God.
Rev. Downer agreed to have further education for his congregation on the Blessing and marriage. Rev. Kasbow and the Unificationist congregation felt hopeful that this can now be a model to bless many more local congregations.
It was a beautiful Sunday morning on October 4, 2015, when Seattle Unificationists celebrated a marriage rededication ceremony at the Day Star Baptist Church in Renton, Washington. The host pastor and officiant were Pastor Donald Ward Sr. and his wife, Mary Ward. Pastor Ward gave a wonderful Divine Principle-centered sermon on the family titled “The Enemy of the Families,” in which he talked about five enemies of churches and families and encouraged all married couples to be transparent with their belief in their daily family life.
A simple ceremony followed in which six couples rededicated their marriage. The day concluded with pictures and a celebration cake.
Clifton, New Jersey
Two couples participated in the Holy Marriage Blessing at the Clifton Family Church in New Jersey. Dr. Michael Balcomb, President of FFWPU USA, and Mrs. Fumiko Balcomb, officiated the ceremony and gave a congratulatory message. “The spirit of our Heavenly Parent was present and glowing with joy during the Blessing Ceremony,” said Pastor Manoj Jacob, who assisted in officiating the ceremony.
The couple was joined by over 100 well-wishers and celebrated with a luncheon reception where family, friends and guests were able to toast and celebrate the two beautiful couples and the commitment they made to the Blessing.
A Marriage Blessing ceremony was held in Baltimore, Maryland on October 4 at the Rehoboth Church of Christ Apostolic. Ten couples rededicated their marriage and received the Holy Marriage Blessing. The service was officiated by Rev. James and Matilda Steward, pastors of the Baltimore Family Church. FFWPU District 1 Pastor, Rev. Ernest Patton, emceed the event. Rev. Keith G. Allen and Mrs. Paulette Allen received the Holy Marriage Blessing in Las Vegas one day prior, and returned to their congregation to lead the Marriage Blessing there. Among the Blessing recipients were the assistant pastor couple and elders of the church.
“This is only the beginning,” said Rev. Keith G. Allen. “This marriage re-dedication and Blessing movement will sweep across the nation.”
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
One couple in Sioux Falls, South Dakota received the Holy Marriage Blessing. Rev. Dennis and Mayuri Hoffman officiated the ceremony. Dennis Hoffman offered the opening prayer, and there was entertainment by Mayuri Hoffman. They read about the meaning of the Holy Marriage Blessing and the Holy Wine Ceremony and read their vows. The occasion was celebrated with entertainment and cake.
On October 3, 2015, in observance of the day of the Holy Marriage Blessing, the Chicago Blessed Family Department held a celebration for all Blessed couples. Over 70 people attended. Mrs. Motoko Sugiyama shared a beautiful testimony about her life with True Parents. Sadako Maeda also shared about the experience she had with her husband before he ascended to the spirit world and the experience she continues to have with him. Couples shared before and after photos of themselves, which was quite entertaining. They closed the ceremony with a group dance.
A second ceremony was held in Chicago on Sunday, October 4 at the Christian Unity Pentecostal Church. Pastor Maxine Williams, a frequent guest of the ACLC Prayer Breakfasts and Pastors Forums, hosted the event. Thirty-four people, one-third of whom were married, received the Holy Wine. Rev. Ken and Kazumi Murray officiated the ceremony, and all couples enthusiastically affirmed “yes” to the four vows and affirmations of purity and true love. Everyone exuded happiness, high spirits and gratitude toward True Parents. Pastor Williams closed the event with a prayer.
On October 3, 13 clergy couples received the Holy Marriage Blessing in Lakeland, Florida at the First Baptist Institutional Church, answering the call for a national, interfaith revival of the institution of marriage and families centered on God.
Rev. George Bing of the Abundant Life Ministries of Winter Haven acted as emcee. Rev. Dr. Alex Harper of the Lakeland church gave the invocation, and Rev. Isabelle Davati, director of the local ACLC chapter, gave welcoming remarks.
A musical selection was offered by Rev. Winston and Celia Pitters of the Soul Searchers Outreach of Orlando. Following this, two presentations were given, by Mr. Gow Fields, trustee of the church, and Rev. Reginald Web of the New Bethel Progressive Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa, Florida.
Rev. Isabelle Davati officiated the ceremony, asking couples to take a public stand for God-centered marriages and individuals.
Winter Haven, Florida
One of the pastors attending the Lakeland Blessing ceremony, Rev. George Bing, liked it so much that he invited Rev. Davati to come to his church the next day and give the Blessing to his members. She Blessed eight couples at the Abundant Life Ministries International in Winter Haven, Florida.
A Holy Marriage Blessing was held at the Kingdom of Faith and Restoration Church in Gladstone, Missouri. Juan and Lay Choo Acosta officiated and Bill Dellinger coordinated the event. Pastor Dean P. Scott gave a powerful sermon about family.
“Everyone’s faces were shining after his sermon,” said Rev. Acosta.
Rev. and Mrs. Acosta blessed the pastor and his wife first, then offered them flowers and asked them to bless the congregation. The spirit was bright and prayerful.
Los Angeles, California
The Holy Spirit showed up in an incredible way at the Blessing of Marriage and Family on October 3rd in South Central Los Angeles, an area of L.A. which is infamous for crime, violence, gang activity and racial tension. Approximately 100 participants and volunteers, including four couples and several singles preparing for a Blessed marriage, gathered under an 80-foot tent in the parking lot of Mt. Pleasant Hill MBC for a Gospel Peace Festival and Holy Marriage Blessing ceremony.
“The juxtaposition of a Holy Blessing from True Parents outside in this type of venue had to truly move the Heart of God,” said one participant.
A week before the event members of the LA Family Church and volunteers from the local community held an Adopt a Block event which included picking up trash and cleaning two blocks surrounding the church and the parking lot where the Blessing was held.
Rev. Michael Sykes was emcee together with Rev. Zena Sykes. They powerfully testified to the opening of a whole new realm of understanding of a Blessed marriage according to God’s original plan.
“I felt such a sense of reconciliation, closeness and family between all who attended,” said Unificationist Carol Tahkar. “We are building a strong foundation for peace and love.”
On Sunday, October 4, 2015 the New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky held a Marriage Rededication Blessing Ceremony at their Sunday worship service. At the start of the service Pastor James Elliott opened with a talk about the many experiences he has had with the ACLC and True Father. He talked about how Satan and the world is always teaching us things that lead us away from God and cause confusion, violence and destruction, while ACLC and True Father has expanded his vision, brought clarity and deeper understanding of the Bible.
He then talked about the family as the school of love and how the breakdown of the family is the cause of the breakdown of our communities and nation, and the hope for solving these problems lies in God-centered families. We then showed a video called, “The Power of True Love” and announced that a marriage rededication ceremony would be held after service.
At the close of Sunday Service, 15 couples and 36 single individuals attended the ceremony. Rev. Elliott called the married couples to gather around the front of the church, and called the singles, widowed and divorced also. Rev. Elliott and his wife, representing True Parents, passed out the Holy Wine, recited the vows for married couples and for singles, and said the blessing prayer.
Yonkers, New York
On October 4, 2015, 35 people in the Yonkers First Arabic Baptist Church, Yonkers, New York held a very special and different kind of Sunday service: A Holy Marriage Blessing and Rededication Ceremony.
The service began with the Master of Ceremony, Mrs. Julia Okamoto, welcoming everyone warmly and introducing the Co-Pastor, Rev. Emma Loftin-Woods, who greeted all and thanked everyone for joining this service. Rabbi Sarah Hadassah, Founder of Lion of Judah Hebrew Saphardic Union, rendered a prayer, bestowing grace and blessings to everyone in attendance. Kyoko Tachinaka of the WestRock Family Church sang beautifully, the historic and meaningful “Song of the Banquet”. Through words, prayers and song, the atmosphere lifted to receive the Blessing message given by Rev. Jesse Edwards, ACLC National Evangelist, fresh from Las Vegas where another Marriage Blessing Ceremony had just taken place.
Rev. Jesse Edwards’ Blessing message would encourage everyone to think beyond the conventional thought of the life and death of Jesus. His sermon was a collection of questions that very few of the faithful ever really considered. “What if Jesus didn’t die—what if he married?” “What if they had a child—would that child be sinless?” These were some of the challenging questions posed to the congregation. The pallet of words brought together by Rev. Edwards’ message helped paint a different picture—of God’s original intended desire to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
Directly after Rev. Edwards’ thought provoking message the short but powerful video, “Power of True Love,” was shown. A beautiful musical offering was sung by Mrs. Tachinaka, which segued into the Holy Wine ceremony. Three couples, together with the congregation, partook.
Rev. Bruce and Debby Grodner officiated the ceremony. Mr. Mike Chapman and Soo Kyung Chapman presented floral offerings to the Blessing Officiators and the newly blessed couples gathered to cut the celebration cake. Rev. Dr. Nagi Yousef, Co-Pastor of the Yonkers First Arabic Baptist Church, gave closing remarks, a prayer and an invitation to join in a banquet feast prepared by members of his church.
It was an outstanding day for the members of the Yonkers First Arabic Baptist Church and all in attendance.