Unificationists put on a bold show of their signature wedding celebration at satellite-wedding events in eight U.S. locations on March 23, 2012.
As church members around the world watched via the internet the main Blessing Ceremony at Gapyeong, Korea, approximately 30 television media and wire services, including the BBC, Reuters and the British-based ITN (Independent Television News) covered the event, including FOX news and the British Independent News Source (ITN). News of the Unification Church Marriage Blessing of 2,500 couples was printed in countless online news services that featured clouds of confetti and happy couples.
Stateside, the Blessing celebrations were observed by several reporters answering the call of press notices. In New York, the satellite Blessing was held with style at the Manhattan Center’s Grand Ballroom, where 43 couples along with 320 family members and friends celebrated historic nuptials. Reporting teams on hand included the Dallas-based Ester Davis Talk Show, the Religion News Service, Foreign-Policy magazine, the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) and the Japanese-language Weekly Business News.
Talk-show host Anderson Cooper aired a show on arranged marriages and interviewed Matthew and Maria Lohmann of Clark County, Virginia, who were matched by Rev. Sun Myung Moon in 1980 and married in New York City (at Madison Square Garden) in 1982. They have seven children. Their eldest daughter, Raquel, also interviewed on the show, will be married July 1, 2012 to Brett Hiroto of Riverside, California. They have three other children attending university and one son serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. Their youngest daughter lives and works in New York, and their youngest son is a junior in high school.
The Washington Times printed an article titled 2,500 Couples Exchange Vows in Korean Ceremony, which included mention of the smaller satellite event in Washington, D.C. To view the article, click here.
Los Angeles Church Effort for Media Outreach
The Los Angeles Lovin’ Life community held a beautiful ceremony as well, reports Pastor George Kazakos. Almost 200 people watched as eight couples pledged themselves to one another. “We had our own local program, along with the broadcast from Korea,” said Kazakos. “We had a little procession, live entertainment, and a catered meal. The general feeling was very uplifting and inspiring.”
Thanks to media outreach, the Pasadena Star News, a major daily newspaper in the Los Angeles area, included the Unification Church Blessing ceremony to an article that highlighted religious celebrations in the area.
Era Thompson, who organized the media team in Los Angeles wrote, “The guidance and press kit content we received from headquarters were very helpful. Ariana Moon and Doug Burton coached us a lot, and we were able to put a local spin on the content they gave us. What we’ve learned is that the media that respond are ones we built a personal relationship with, so I think this campaign was a really good start. We learned what needs to be done, and we have to continue building better relationships with them.”
Familial Ceremonies in San Francisco and San Diego
In the San Francisco area, the Blessing ceremony was held at Shimjung Gardens. “Everything came off wonderfully,” reported Rev. Kevin Thompson. “The weather was simply gorgeous after threatening to rain all week. The opportunity to take wedding pictures with a backdrop of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge was a gift from God. We really felt like we were participating live rather than watching a prepared video.”
Nine couples attended in total, with five second-generation couples and four first-generation attendees. “No one wanted to leave afterwards, which is always one of my tests for a good event!” Thompson continued, “It was all so wonderful and holy and filled with joy. We wish the whole world could have experienced it with us.”
The San Diego community held a small celebration with approximately 81 members and guests attending. Three couples participated in the Blessing ceremony, including Clayton and Anita Two Bears, a Native-American couple who are Ambassadors for Peace.
Pastor Walter Frank of San Diego Lovin' Life Ministries said, "We had four goals: to glorify True Parents by presenting the Blessing in a wonderful way: full of love, beauty, and clarity; to let the entire church be involved in the Blessing of our second generation, so they experience hope through our youth; to create a program that second generation will feel: 'Wow, that was great - I want to be married like that!’; and to show our local family and guests that the Blessing is desirable and attainable.
"This was a wonderful program for us in San Diego, since we are a very small community. Everyone was committed 100 percent to make this the best Blessing experience possible. In the end, it was well worth it for our witness to guests as well as our own children that they are special in the eyes of God and their parents."
The Blessing as a Tool for Minister Outreach in Chicago
Prior to the Blessing ceremony, a press conference titled "A God-Centered Marriage is the Answer to Build a Healthy Society" took place during the American Clergy Leadership Conference's (ACLC) monthly interfaith pastors' prayer breakfast at Bishop Paul Hall's Christ Universal Pentecostal Church of Holiness in Christ, in Chicago on Tuesday, March 20, 2012. 160 people attended the conference, including a Christian magazine, The 3:16 Magazine.
The press conference was moderated by Bishop Wendell Eubanks of the Little Rock Church of God in Christ. Rev. Kazuo Takami, pastor of Unification Church’s District 7 and co-chairman of ACLC Midwest, explained about the history of the Marriage Blessing.
Congregants then watched a video entitled "Power of Love," which contains testimonies from clergy couples. Following the video, five couples were invited to the stage to give testimonies on arranged marriage.
“The audience listened seriously to these presentations and testimonies,” said Rev. Takami. He added: “There have not been many opportunities for an interfaith, primarily Christian audience to hear direct Blessing testimonies of Unificationists. After the testimonies, the audience gave a big applause to each person who spoke on the stage.”
Press conferences for local media had been held in Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C. as well as Chicago. “The whole effort was a team-building experience and an educational effort for U.S. media," said Doug Burton, Unification Church Public Affairs Director.
The Chicago community also hosted a Holy Wine Blessing for ten ACLC couples on Sunday, March 4, 2012 hosted by Pastor T. L. Barrett, Jr. After the service, several congregants requested Rev. Takami to hold another Holy-Wine ceremony since their spouses were absent that day.
Around 100 people gathered at the Chicago church to support the Holy Blessing Ceremony on March 23, 2012. According to Takami, the church was decorated nicely, enhancing the joyful, elegant atmosphere. Two newly-blessed couples participated, including Samuel Lindsey, and Kayo Sakaguchi, whose desire to be Blessed in marriage was not hindered by his service in the United States Airforce. Sakaguchi held a photo of her fiance in full regalia.
Smaller but high-spirited ceremonies were held in Denver and Washington, D.C., as well as Detroit, where one couple re-dedicated their marriage.
For the first time, the Marriage Blessing was on the Associated Press Daybook in Washington, D.C. and New York City, and radio reports of the Blessing were broadcast in larger cities coast to coast.
Contributed by Yoshie Manaka and Doug Burton.