From sea to shining sea, couples and friends in the United States celebrated the Marriage Blessing this weekend. The recent celebrations of Heavenly Parents’ Day (the first day of the fourth year of Cheon Il Guk, or God’s Kingdom), True Parents’ Birthday, and the third anniversary of Foundation Day made for a festive season to celebrate the love of couples for each other and for God. On February 19, 2016, communities tuned in to the live broadcast happening the morning of Feb. 20 in Korea, and celebrated the Blessing in their own special ways:
The Foundation Day Blessing Ceremony closed the Holy Day season, of which each celebration was observed in style at the Chicago Family Church. In Chicago, the Blessing event was celebrated at the Elk Grove Village Pavilion. Over 200 community members came out to support the event, including Evangelist Greta Meyers and her husband of Love Train Ministry. Evangelist Greta was in awe with both events. “Father and Mother Moon are truly the True Parents of humanity,” she said. “They have really done everything to bring humankind back to God. I saw this in the Foundation Day Ceremony and more so in the Blessing Ceremony. The reciting of the vows is a deep responsibility for the couples to maintain.”
Two couples received the Marriage Blessing in Chicago, including a previously married couple renewing their vows. Unificationist Kazumi Murray offered a very beautiful congratulatory song to the couples. After the cutting of the cake and the bridegrooms and brides feeding it to each other, the bridegrooms each gave a speech.
Mr. Shivkumar Patil, who is Hindu, gave a very emotional speech, expressing his deepest gratitude to his spiritual father for teaching him and his wife, Shivlita Patil, the Divine Principle for over one year. He said that though he has been married for 12 years, he feels that only now could he truly offer his marriage to God. “I am eternally grateful to God and True Parents for giving this grace to everyone who seeks it,” he said.
The other couple’s groom, Brian Tymkiw, received the Blessing with Sarah Kim, daughter of FFWPU North America Continental Chairman, Dr. Ki Hoon Kim. Brian comes from a traditionally catholic family, of which all were impressed by the Foundation Day Ceremony and touched by the serenity of the Blessing Ceremony. He thanked Unificationist Min Han Rinkema and his wife for teaching him the Divine Principle and the support he received from Pastor John and Mrs. Porter.
“In the beginning, I was skeptical about studying the Divine Principle, but after talking with Sarah I realized how much it meant to her and her family,” he said. “So I started studying and quickly I realized the value of adopting this teaching. I will continue to practice this in my life with Sarah.” He also thanked his parents and the Kim family for supporting and accepting them on this new road of life, a path he promises to continue with Sarah.
“Seeing everyone come out and participate and show us love and support made me really happy,” said Sarah. “It makes my heart feel so full.”
Mrs. Tamme Kim then gave a speech in which she praised the couples for making this bold commitment and said that she, her husband and family will continue to support their daughter and new son-in-law in every way.
To end the celebration, they heard an original song performed by John and Keiko Healy, written just after they received the Blessing themselves in 1982. Then they had a group dance led by Mrs. Doraci Porter and her two children. Both couples joined the dance, after which the dance floor was opened up to everyone and the couples, families and guests danced the night away.
“Seeing these beautiful couples really gave me a lot of hope,” commented Unificationist Nadya Kamiyama, “because they are committing themselves not only to each other but, through their marriage, they want to show the world that there is the possibility to create true families centering on God.”
Las Vegas, NV
The Las Vegas Family Church welcomed over 95 people including Ambassadors for Peace, new members, first time guests and visiting Unificationists at the International Peace Education Center to celebrate Foundation Day and congratulate three couples who received the Blessing. The hall was decorated with beautiful flowers and chair accents to contribute to the wedding vibe. The evening began with the live broadcast of the Foundation Day festivities. After hearing the main message from True Mother, there was an overall sense of renewed hope for the upcoming year and for Vision 2020.
After participating in the Holy Wine Ceremony in an adjacent room, the couples entered the main hall by walking down the aisle on a red carpet as they made their way to their seats in the front of the room. The program continued as the officiators, Rev. Andy and Mrs. Lydia Compton, sprinkled Holy Water over the couples and gave the couples their rings. The couples affirmed their vows and received the Marriage Blessing from True Parents.
After the Blessing ceremony ended, all of the couples as well as their parents came on stage to join the officiators in cutting the cake.
Rev. Compton gave a congratulatory message, encouraging all the couples about the wonderful journey and bright future that they will share together. All in attendance lifted their glasses, filled with the Korean drink, McCol, and joined the couples in a wedding toast.
For the entertainment, two Las Vegas CARP members as well as a new guest who is currently studying the Divine Principle made a musical offering to congratulate the newlyweds. Local Unificationist Jonathan shared, “It was moving to see how the three couples here as well as all those in Korea committed themselves to a life of loving each other.” The night ended with a reception including cake and refreshments.
The newlywed couples walked out across the red carpet while being showered with applause, bubbles and rose petals. With their families and community members, the couples shared many unforgettable memories on this day.
In New York, the Blessing event was hosted by the Family Church of New York City located in Manhattan. The nine couples arrived on Thursday, February 18th and left on Saturday, February 20th. Among them, two were previously married couples. Besides scripture study, the schedule included the Holy Wine Ceremony in the evening of the 18th and the Blessing Ceremony on the evening of Friday the 19th. These ceremonies were officiated by Rev. Jesse Edwards and Pastor Tanya Edwards. On the day of the Blessing, over 90 guests, including parents and friends of the couples, came to celebrate. Rev. Daryl Clarke was the emcee, and Rev. Tom Corley gave congratulatory remarks to the couples. Christian Nseka was the event coordinator.
With the combined effort of the Clifton Family Church staff, the local Blessing & Family Ministry (BFM), and countless volunteers from the community, six beautiful couples of first and second-generation Unificationists from New Jersey and the surrounding area, were Blessed in holy matrimony during the Foundation Day Marriage Blessing at the Clifton Family Church.
The day started off with the Holy Wine Ceremony, officiated by Dr. and Mrs. Ang, an elder Blessed couple and members of the Clifton Family Church community. The couples gathered in the chapel to participate in the Holy Wine Ceremony. Following that, the couples had the opportunity to be led in a dance practice by accomplished ballroom dancer, Unificationist Mi Sook Mendonca. Mi Sook showed the couples some simple waltz steps so that they would be comfortable and ready for their first dance as Blessed couples later that evening.
The couples then joined their families and friends in the fellowship hall for a celebratory banquet. Members of the Clifton Family Church staff and community prepared a delicious meal for the couples, their families and friends. Unificationist Karen Nishinaga, accompanied by Masaaki Saito on guitar, sang two beautiful songs dedicated to the couples.
After the banquet, couples retreated to the parsonage to don their wedding attire in preparation for the Blessing Ceremony. The Foundation Day commemoration and Blessing Ceremony began with welcoming remarks by Victor Quesada, and an opening prayer by his wife, Andria Rogers, Director of the BFM for Clifton Family Church. Five attendant couples lined the aisle before the six bright and beautiful couples of the day processed into the chapel.
The whole congregation was led in two songs, Blessing of Glory and Song of the Banquet, by the Clifton Family Church choir. They then tuned in to the live stream from Korea where they were able to witness the commemorative events in honor of Foundation Day. They were also able to be led in the Cosmic Blessing Ceremony by True Mother via satellite. Their own representative officiators, Dr. and Mrs. Ang, guided the couples through the Marriage Blessing Ceremony. Mrs. Rany Jacob, wife of Pastor Manoj Jacob, personally congratulated the couples and thanked all the staff and volunteers who made the local event possible.
With the support of family, friends, and guests these six couples were happily and gratefully Blessed by our Heavenly Parent and True Parents. As the newly-Blessed couples recessed, the whole audience erupted into applause and cheers of joy and encouragement. After the ceremony, everyone was invited back into the fellowship hall to witness the couples share their first dance as husband and wife. A lovely toast, given by Unificationists Mr. and Mrs. Brunkhorst, congratulated the couples one final time before everyone enjoyed sparkling cider, cake, and dancing.
Four couples received the Blessing in the Bay Area, their ceremony overlooking the San Francisco Bay on a beautiful California evening. With special remarks by Dr. Mose Durst and officiated by Rev. Charles and Elinore de Watteville, family and friends connected to True Parents in Korea and our worldwide family.
The Boston Family Church had a high-spirited Marriage Blessing ceremony carried out in coordination with the live broadcast from Korea. One couple, Patrick Crosthwaite from England and Ivana Groenendyk from Boston, Massachusetts, received the Blessing.
The ceremony was officiated by True Parents, represented by the local pastor couple, James and Kinuyo Edgerly. One hundred Unificationists and guests were in attendance. The audience began arriving about one hour before the Blessing ceremony to watch the pre-program in Korea and enjoy light food and beverages, and stayed until long after the broadcast was completed. They enjoyed a wedding cake, toasts and cheers together.
“After our beautiful experience this evening, others will be more confident to support local Blessing ceremonies in the future,” said Rev. Edgerly.
The February 2016 Marriage Blessing Ceremony in Maryland was held at the New Hope Family Church for five couples. Although the brides had been warned to stay inside and not get their dresses dirty, the day was too beautiful for them to listen and they took beautiful photos of the brides and grooms together.
A lovely musical offering was provided by Clair Stein, who sang ‘At Last’ by Etta James for the couples’ first song as officially Blessed couples.
Ennio Garau emceed the event, and the couples followed along with the video broadcast from Korea from the night prior. Unificationists Rex and Emiko Butler officiated the ceremony, providing a Holy Water shower for the couples and receiving beautiful bouquets of flowers on behalf of True Parents.
“There was definitely the magic of God’s love in the air,” said Pastor Andrew Love. “It was a very precious moment to see how focused the couples were on each other throughout the procession.”
At the end of the ceremony, the five brides threw their bouquets all at once to a crowd of single friends, increasing the odds of catching a bouquet dramatically.
The couples and their families came from all over the country. There were parents from Korea, Los Angeles, New Jersey and more.
“It really felt like a family gathering and all of the couples were on cloud nine,” said Pastor Love.
An elaborate spread of Italian food was provided, thanks to young Unificationist Amael Rodrigues. The food was exceptional, with scallops and salmon donated by one of the grooms, who happens to own a fish business.
A representative for each couple gave a toast of blessing for their future together as a Blessed family. With music in the background provided by Clair Stein, there were many laughs and tears throughout. The first dance as blessed couples, to the song “I Will”, provided both an intimate, yet communal moment for everyone to enjoy. After the love fest was over, it was time to let loose.
“Each couple had their own cake to cut after the toast, and of course icing found its way onto the faces of the brides and grooms,” described Pastor Love. “Then we had some amazing dance moves cutting up the floor.”
There was a photo booth for everyone to enjoy a moment in the spotlight after the ceremony. People ages 1-70 were seen laughing, dancing, hugging and generally soaking up the atmosphere of love that our True Parents have provided through the tradition of the Blessing.
“At the end of the day, what our community was a part of was watching God, our Heavenly Parent, become flesh in the love of the couples who were committing their marriage and love to one another, to us, and up to Heaven,” said Pastor Love. “It was a wonderful event and we ask for continual prayer for each couple that was Blessed.”
Eighty people joined in the Blessing and Foundation Day celebration at the Dallas Family Church. One local couple consisting of a Unificationist born bride and groom received the Blessing. The bride’s parents traveled from Korea to join them, and the whole congregation came out to support them.
“After True Mother’s speech, we all felt so much hope for the future of Cheon Il Guk and the next four years,” said Pastor John Jackson.
After the Foundation Day Blessing, everyone met in the fellowship room for a reception.
Kansas City, KS
An intimate group of 12 Unificationists in Kansas City witnessed the Blessing of one couple at the Unification Family Life Center alongside the activities in Korea through the live broadcast. The whole community came together to make this happen; on the day before the Blessing, the local pastor and his family had to suddenly go to their hometown when his father ascended to the spirit world. In their place, another couple came down from Omaha, which is several hours away, and all the community members chipped in to made it a very successful event.
“I’m really happy for today because when I talked to God he answered me,” said the groom. “I asked him in 2015 and in 2016 He answered me. My girlfriend wanted to marry me, and today was a beautiful day. I want to say thank you to all the brothers and sisters here who took care of me so well. May God bless you for this Blessing you have given me.”
On February 19, a young couple, Yasu Kawamura and Mikako Kizuka, attended the Blessing Ceremony in Seattle, officiated by True Parents through the live broadcast from Korea. The main hall of the Windermere Mansion was filled with bright and joyful spirits from both family and friends of the bride and bridegroom. A Christian minister who came to the event expressed his opinion that events such as this that promote family values are what God wants.
After the conclusion of the Blessing Ceremony, the Seattle Family Church held a brief celebration for the newly Blessed Couple with a wedding cake. Families, friends, and members of the Seattle Family Church were excited and eager to congratulate and take photos with the beautiful couple.
“Everyone in the hall was filled with joy!” shared Pastor Nelson Mira.
The bride shared her testimony: “I really believe that this Blessing was a miracle, a miracle that God has given to me. Coming from Japan to America was a big challenge for me and a lot of struggle, but knowing that God is with me kept me strong. The Unificationist community on both the east coast and in the northwest has been really supportive of me. I feel like it’s a miracle that I am still here in America now with my husband. God truly does make miracles happen in our lives.”
St. Louis, MO
A young couple in their twenties, Shaun and Keila Hykes, received the Blessing in St. Louis. Twenty-seven guests attended, including their family members who were very inspired. As first generation Unificationists, they decided to receive the Blessing because of a testimony they heard from Unificationist Kathy Rigney about the many Blessing ceremonies taking place in Africa just a couple of weeks ago.
One of the couple’s family members said, “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for opening the doors to us. I could never have imagined such beautiful ceremony!”
One young couple, Claude Rowe and Stella Karimi, received the Marriage Blessing at the nation’s capital, with 40 guests in attendance.
Stella is originally from Kenya, and her mother originally heard about True Parents and the Blessing through Claude’s mother, Wanji. “God helped orchestrate in bringing this couple together to receive the Blessing,” shared Pastor Zagery Oliver.
The DC Family Church and young volunteers, prepared a beautiful pre-program, complete with flowers and ring bearers. Both bride and groom said that it was a very beautiful and heart-warming ceremony.
The Metro Detroit Family Church put on a interfaith, intercultural Blessing ceremony. Of the four couples who received the Blessing, one was a Jewish couple, one couple was from Africa, another couple was a Buddhist husband married to a Christian wife, and the fourth couple was a Baptist Christian couple. Thirty people attended the ceremony to wish these couples well in their journey as Blessed couples. To begin the evening, they had an international dinner prepared by Unificationists who cooked foods their own countries, including Japan and Africa. Then they had entertainment by their international choir, after which they showed photos of the Blessing at the United Nations, Nepal, and the Philippines.
“We were inspired by Robert Kittel’s work in Asia, so we decide to reach out to a variety of faiths to make it an international event,” said Pastor Rev. David Kasbow. “Those receiving the Blessing today are religious leaders, and we hope they will hold Blessing ceremonies in their places of worship as well.”
The wife of the Jewish couple has been studying the Divine Principle. She said she feels close to our movement because in many ways our teaching and traditions are similar to the Jewish tradition. Also, they feel a warm sense of family with Unificationists. The African couple said that they felt such a nice atmosphere, and that the group of couples receiving the Blessing tonight seemed “like a little United Nations.”
Last year, the South Florida Family Church purchased a new church building in Plantation, Florida. In the process of growing their church, this is the first time they were able to use their new church building for a Foundation Day celebration and the Marriage Blessing ceremony.
One Unificationist-born couple received the Marriage Blessing, and fourteen other first- and second-generation Unificationist couples rededicated their Marriage Blessings. They had a total of 56 people celebrating the Blessing Ceremony and Foundation Day together.
“I understand well the scripture: ‘If I had 99, and one was lost, I would leave that 99 and go searching for that one,'” said Rev. Elma King of the King Home Church in Kissimee, Florida. “We started out our Tribal Messiahship by bringing one couple to the Blessing, and celebrated them as if we were celebrating thousands. We were so happy to see them, and our guests couldn’t believe that we would celebrate them in this way. Many last night talked about the spirit of God, and the love they feel when they are with us.”
One couple received the Marriage Blessing with nine others there to celebrate with them. The couple was captivated by the love everyone expressed in welcoming them to the family.They enjoyed the ceremony with a promise to return. After watching the broadcast from Korea, some stayed long after the ceremony ended.
Los Angeles, CA
The Los Angeles Family Church celebrated Foundation Day and the Blessing on Friday, February 19 at the Pasadena House. Over 60 people attended to congratulate the young Unificationist-born couple, Seiji Ueda and Youngmi Kuroha, receiving the Blessing through the live broadcast from Korea. Local officiators were Pastor George Kazakos and his wife. The couples’ families invited their co-workers and employers to watch the Cosmic Blessing ceremony for the first time. Also, more than 40 young friends of the second generation Unificationist youth from high school to college age came from Southern and Northern California.
With beautiful white and pink decor, the Minneapolis Family Church was set to host a local Marriage Blessing for a young couple: Isamu Tsubaki and Johanna Henry. There were 60 guests including family members of the couple and church members. After watching the live broadcast, the local event transitioned into a dinner reception where a Middle Eastern cuisine was served. The night concluded with an entertaining dance party which included the couple’s first dance together, a father-daughter dance, and a mother-son dance.
Rev. Jim Bard led the Holy Wine ceremony and emceed the event. A musical performance was also offered by Haruna Asanuma, Seok Jun Ha, and Keiko Takahashi. It was a personal and special moment for newly appointed blessing officiators, Steve and Jeannette Henry, as they officiated the blessing for their daughter, Johanna.
“It was such a beautiful experience,” remarked Isamu Tsubaki. “Although we were unable to attend the ceremony in Korea, we are so grateful that we were still able to share this experience with our local community and especially our parents. As second generation members of this movement, it was all the more precious for our parents to take part in not just our matching process, but also in conducting our Marriage Blessing. We feel that this is True Parents vision for what the Blessing is truly to become for families. Thank you to Heavenly Parent, True Parents, our families, and our Minneapolis community for making this life moment so special.”
In Portland, Oregon, Pastors Keiko and Eric Sylte officiated the Blessing of one couple, Ambassadors for Peace Gary and Nancy Spanovich, with the live broadcast from Korea held in the chapel of the Portland Family Church. Twenty-four people attended, including 9 guests. After the broadcast they celebrated with dinner and had a beautiful evening together.
“Thank you to True Parents and Heavenly Parent!” said Pastor Eric Style.
Philadelphia Tribal Messiahs Jizly and Julien Dohou held a Marriage Blessing Ceremony at the Sayre Recreation Center on Saturday at 12:30PM. Jizly Dohou and 12 Filipino community members, several local Philadelphia ministries as well as numerous members of the Women’s Federation for World Peace (WFWP) facilitated registration, food and decorations. DJ Howard performed several music selections to uplift the atmosphere, and emcee Joy Miller, long time special education advocate, opened up the program. Mrs. Josephine Gimany offered an opening prayer with such a genuine love, radiating to all 40 participants a deep, divine presence. This spirit set tone of the entire ceremony. Guest speaker Rev. Dr. Almeda Johnson spoke on the importance of staying committed in marriage.
The group watched the recording of the recent Blessing ceremony in Korea. Many of the guests were impressed by how wonderful all the young couples looked who were sitting at the ceremony.
Rev. Shota Iwasaki then shared a few words about the Blessing of Marriage and its power to bring healing and strong bonding within each couple.
The Blessing Officiators were Rev. Paquit and Mrs. Diovani from the Philippine Community Association, who gave the Holy Wine and conducted the Blessing ceremony for three previously married couples.
“After the ceremony I felt a divine presence surrounding the place,” said Shota Iwasaki. At the end of the ceremony, everyone celebrated as they enjoyed dancing and singing along with DJ Howard.
Five couples received the Blessing in a beautifully dignified and intimately joyful ceremony held at the Metropolitan Grand Ballroom in Columbus, Ohio. Their families and friends, numbering over 100, were present and the live broadcast of the ceremony in Korea was projected onto a screen on stage.
Local BFM leaders, Vincent and Su Young, served as the officiators representing True Parents. Local Pastor Frank Sanchez gave the Invocation Prayer and District Pastor Garrun Abrahams gave the congratulatory remarks, reminding the couples to love God first.
The Montana Family Church in Billings, Montana enjoyed a number of get-togethers in celebration of the recent festive Holy Days.
The primary celebration took place on Sunday the 14th in order to include a special service dedicated to sharing the meaning of each of the three Holy Days. Pastor Clint Woods talked about the origin and meaning of True Heavenly Parent’s Day. Elder Chad Martin spoke of the meaning of True Parents’ Birthday, and elder Paul DiLorenzo gave a clear understanding of the meaning of Foundation Day. In addition, the church community held an Asian potluck following service, with delicious presentations from all of the families and a number of guests.
Foundation Day was projected on a big screen live at the church for anyone in the area that could attend. The necessary links to view the program were emailed to all members, since many young people are attending college in towns rather distant, and some of the local families also live half a state away or more. Everyone that watched the live event felt that the spirit and tone of the program was moving, healing and educational. All especially enjoyed the unique and well-acted entertainment portion.
The Kona Family Church held their Blessing Ceremony on Sunday evening, February 21, at the Hawaiian Queen Coffee Garden in Kona, Hawaii. The six couples who received the Blessing were all previously married couples.
“Originally we thought maybe our small church might have two or maybe three couples participating, but to our surprise six couples decided to participate,” said Rev. Chuck Frumin. Three couples were from the same family, as one couple convinced two of their grown children to participate with their spouses.
First, Rev. Frumin gave a short educational talk about the Holy Wine and Blessing Ceremony. Following the Holy Wine Ceremony they had the Blessing Ceremony. Unificationist Mary Ellen Legay provided the background sounds of live music during the ceremony with her superb piano playing. All the couples were inspired to renew their vows and also take part in a life changing ceremony.
Rev. and Mrs. Frumin were the officiators. Following the ceremony, all had a great roast beef dinner prepared by Mr. Koji Sano. This Blessing Ceremony has also given local FFWPU members more confidence to continue in efforts of reaching out to others in the community to receive the Marriage Blessing.
New Orleans, LA
The Louisiana Family Church observed all three Holy Days with video collages of the beautiful celebrations, events and entertainment in Korea plus a sharing of the proclamation and words from True Mother on the third anniversary of Foundation Day as their Sunday sermon.
“The young brides and grooms of the Cosmic Blessing were so inspiring and we imagined a day when we will have a Cosmic Blessing here at the Superdome in New Orleans,” shared John Monestere.
Officiated by Pastor and Mrs. Haruki Kimura, the Atlanta Family Church celebrated the Marriage Blessing together with five couples on Sunday morning, February 21, 2016. The air was electric as the five couples, all previously married couple, entered the beautifully decorated sanctuary.
Emcee Rev. Myrna Lapres guided the couples through the program following the recorded ceremony held in Korea and officiated by True Mother. Several Blessed couples took this opportunity to rededicate their Blessing as well.
Congratulatory remarks were offered by Rev. Willie Malcom, a minister who has been a long-time supporter of True Parents’ world peace and interfaith work. The couples and guests were uplifted by congratulatory songs sung by Prophetess Dee Lawson (one of the 172 clergy who historically met with True Father) and Ms. Nandi Moton.
Afterward everyone was invited to join the couples for a delicious lunch. Family and friends had the opportunity to offer their congratulations to the couples over food, cake and fellowship. The ceremony and the celebration reminded everyone of the power of the Marriage Blessing as it connects couples and families together with our Heavenly Parent as one family under God.
In Honolulu, Hawaii, a local Foundation Day event was held in unison with the recorded main event in Korea on Sunday, February 21, at 5pm at the Fred Ballard Veteran center in Honolulu. Eighty-two people attended, including adults, children and guests. During the event, one family member reported about their local Honolulu TV news channel featuring the Blessing event in Korea. In a very positive tone and in reference to Valentine’s week, the news reporter stated that thousands of couples both newlywed and previously married participated in a Marriage Blessing ceremony of the Unification church. Her final comment was, “How sweet, how cool.”
Two of the three Blessing participants from Hawaii, Young Hirata and Shokoku Shigeta, returned from Korea just in time to attend the local event in Honolulu. Their faces were bright and beaming. Shokoku repeatedly said that the whole Blessing experience was “surreal”. The guests attending were positive and amazed by the Blessing ceremony and were encouraged to participate in a planned Blessing in May.