A Proposal for a New Way of Worship

By Tyler Hendricks

Sociological research finds that healthy marriage and family life is the key to personal happiness and societal peace and progress. Natural families — lifelong, married, two-parent (man-woman) households — produce individuals who are significantly happier, healthier and more successful than those created out of any other family structure. Historical research finds that societies that sustain natural family life thrive, and societies that fail to do so collapse.

This means that, from the viewpoint of creating peace and happiness in this world, the main responsibility of religion is to foster healthy marriage and family life. None have accomplished this; in fact, none have even set it as a major goal.

A new religious movement, that of Reverend Sun Myung Moon and Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, has set it as a major goal. It teaches that God is our Heavenly Parent who created the universe according to the God-centered family design, and placed us in it with the responsibility to create healthy marriage and family life. Naturally, Reverend Moon defined the believers’ faith commitment as a Family Pledge. For the last three decades of his life, he and Dr. Moon crisscrossed the globe teaching God’s ideal of family life as the key to world peace.

The theological presupposition, based on movement teachings, is that the family is God’s eternal purpose of creation and eternal dwelling place of God on earth. God is love, and the quintessential embodiment of love is in the intimate, spiritual-psychological-biological relationships that take place only in the family. This would indicate that the deepest worship of God and experience of God happens in family relationships. Based on all of this, I propose that the Unification movement design its weekly worship for the purpose of creating healthy marriage and family life.

Thus far in history, God has entered the world through gifted individuals. The Unificationist idea is that God enters the world through every family. Each member of the family is created to be a vehicle of God’s love and Word to each of the others. Parents embody Heavenly Parent giving life to children. Husband and wife embody the oneness of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. Children are born into the bosom of Heavenly Parent, and grow to eventually embody Heavenly Parent themselves in their own family.

This, together with social science, calls us to envision worship based not on the individual paradigm (the God-centered unity of mind and body, creating an ideal individual) but on the family paradigm (the God-centered unity of husband and wife, parents and children, creating an ideal three-generation family).

Family-centered worship would be an environment in which each family realizes the “four position foundation” by fulfilling the “three object purpose.” This means that God, husband, wife, and child in turn act as the subject partner to the other three. Appropriate to natural circumstances, God may take the subject partner position, or the mother might, or the father, or the child. Familial heart liberates all to exchange subject and object partner roles harmoniously.

Family worship, as I propose it, would be an environment for the celebration and practice of this in every family, every week. Its experience in community would set the foundation for it to take place at home. Unificationism teaches that heaven on earth is nothing more or less than this happening in every family throughout the world.

Let’s consider a possible format for this kind of worship.

A Sacrament-Based Model for Worship

The Unificationist marriage Blessing is a sacrament. Rev. and Mrs. Moon created a deep sacramental tradition, and the marriage Blessing is its center. When they ministered the Blessing in stadiums, they were officiating sacramental worship. The liturgy I outline draws upon Unificationist formats for holy days, the marriage Blessing and the Il Shim Ceremony. The local community can decide attire and altar setup, and the degree of formality and informality.

Order of service:

  • Gathering and call to begin
  • Entry/recognition of officiator couple (and their family, if present)
  • Lighting candle(s)
  • Bow to Heavenly Parent and True Parents
  • Recitation of the Family Pledge (partial or entire)
  • Scripture reading and short reflection
  • Family members share with each other: Husband and wife, children and parents.

Comment: The seventh point, family sharing, is the substance of worship. The service creates an environment for heart-to-heart communication, a safe-space for sensitive disclosure. Family members share gratitude, confession, forgiveness, what they are going through right now, and displays of affection. Each family is free to make their own mini-ritual, should they so choose. I envision this would be 10-12 minutes long, but it is up to the community.

  • Recitation of the Blessing vows by couples
  • Blessing sacrament for spouses

Comment: The Blessing sacrament — the vow, sprinkling and holy wine communion — is an infusion of divine love into the blessed marriage, based upon a re-affirmed mutual commitment. All couples, including guests who participate fully, receive the sacrament. It is conceivable that a congregation could integrate the marriage Blessing of a new bride and groom into the service at this point, as well as ceremonial steps toward a couple’s marriage Blessing. These of course could also take place separately.

  • Recitation of the Purity Pledge by children, youth and singles
  • Purity pledge sacrament for youth

Comment: I would suggest to begin as young as 12 years old. This will empower teens to maintain sexual abstinence in preparation for the marriage Blessing. They will gain strength by sharing how they are doing in this area, and making this pledge every week. In the 1990s, UTS professor Dr. Kathy Winings and alumnus Brian Sabourin created the Il Shim Ceremony, and the U.S. church put it into practice. In 2021, Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon established a similar program on the international scale, called at present the Blessing Festival.

  • Closing prayer and sending forth

Comment: This altogether would establish what Catholics call the penitential system, but on the level of family. In place of priests as surrogate fathers, parents serve as counselors and mentors to their children (as well as to each other). This practice is essential to true parenthood.

Dr. and Mrs. Hendricks conducted a “form stage” family worship in the Kingston, NY church in 2016.

Additional Comments

On the Holy Wine Ceremony: Is it permissible to drink holy wine more than once? Blessed couples often drink holy wine with new couples when they minister it. I am not aware of any objections to this. Sharing holy wine means husband and wife spiritually engraft regularly. Couples make love regularly, right?

In Catholic tradition, baptism, confirmation and the eucharist are distinct sacraments. Baptism is rebirth, and it is received once. Confirmation seals one’s baptism, and it is received once. The eucharist reaffirms one’s membership in the body of Christ, and it is received regularly. Rev. and Mrs. Moon established ceremonies corresponding to baptism (eighth-day and 103rd-day), confirmation (Il Shim Ceremony) and the Eucharist (holy wine). They had blessed couples receive holy wine multiple times as the movement progressed. Rev. and Mrs. Moon created a sacrament of ascension (Seonghwa), and sacrament-like rituals for the sanctification of domestic life and engagement with the spirit world. Unificationists have yet to develop a sacramental theology; this is a start.

The repair shop function: In Rev. Moon’s view, worship traditionally serves as a “repair shop” to free people from sin. Family worship would continue that as well as provide a trajectory beyond it. The methods by which we prepare for, receive and substantiate the Blessing are the very methods that vanquish the root of sin. So worship that multiplies the Blessing and strengthens its success is the true “repair shop.” Beyond the repair shop function, family worship is essential to the growing period. In the future, it will transition from repair shop to production facility.

Family ownership: In family worship, Heavenly Parent speaks less from the pulpit and more through my children, siblings, spouse, and parents—and listens as well. This confirms the Unificationist view that each family owns Cheon Il Guk.

It is guest-friendly: All of the above has just as much value to a first-time guest couple and family as it does to members. Everyone wants to find the love of their life, keep their marriage together and raise healthy children. During each worship service, every new couple in attendance is invited to affirm the Blessing vow, and on that foundation to receive the marriage Blessing. Every new single person is invited to commit to sexual purity in preparation for blessed marriage.

It is evangelical: A happy marriage and family is the world’s greatest product. If Unificationists share this treasure effectively, the world will want them in their neighborhood. This worship service helps blessed families expand community networks.

It is educational: The service includes readings that illuminate the meaning of the liturgy. Each service should be followed by education for couples on sexual integrity, for singles on preparation for the Blessing, for spouses on marital and parenting skills, and for children on the Fifth Commandment.

It fulfills Divine Principle prophecy: Family worship assumes that a large demographic is prepared to receive the marriage Blessing. This fulfills Exposition of Divine Principle’s “Introduction to Restoration” prophecy: “During the period when the providence of restoration is to be completed after the Second Coming of Christ, people are to be fully resurrected to the divine-spirit level based on the Completed Testament Word and the merit of the age.” Further, family worship empowers families to “DIY.” It is designed for a world prophesied in “The Messiah: His Advent and the Purpose of His Second Coming,” where people “do not have the original sin. …They do not need to pray arduously or practice a faith. …their children are naturally born good and sinless and likewise have no need of a savior for the redemption of their sins.”

It makes Unificationism applicable: All religions affirm true family values, and can update their traditions through this proposal. Governments can recast applicable policies based upon true family values.

It recasts the pastoral vocation: Spiritual leadership depends upon parental heart, not sermons and stage productions. In his January 31, 1976 “Message at the Unification Ceremony,” Rev. Moon defined it in terms of advising, counseling, setting the example and establishing the tradition:

“Father and mother must be united and be examples for their children to follow. For instance, the father should demonstrate how a man should live and how he should care for a woman. We must establish this kind of tradition. …Such a family can be the model for their neighbors and relatives, starting a unified circle. …Then neighbors come spontaneously …to ask for advice. And relatives will come to them for counseling when difficulties arise.”

It transcends the generations: I described all of this to my children, and here’s what one daughter sent back (italics mine):

“I totally agree that the church should focus on marriage and family life — Especially if they want to keep upcoming generations interested in the church — it’s got to be focused on the family. My husband was talking to a Family Fed youth pastor the other day …and he said that there are a couple of groups around America that are building more family-centered church communities. …I think these groups will naturally be more successful in building communities larger than just our church members — which is what we want, isn’t it?”

To which I answer, yes.♦

Dr. Tyler Hendricks (UTS Class of 1978) received his doctorate in religion from Vanderbilt University in 1983. He was President of the Unification Church of America (1995-2000) and of Unification Theological Seminary (2000-10). He is currently a research fellow at FFWPU International in Korea, and adjunct professor at UTS, Sun Moon University, and SunHak UP Graduate University. 

15 thoughts on “A Proposal for a New Way of Worship

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  1. This proposal of Dr. Hendrick’s is an example of an idea that is long overdue in terms of what is needed by our American (and beyond) for our Unification church/federation/movement/holy community. It makes sense that the family, centered on the blessing, should be the center of what we focus on and what we do daily, including on Sundays. To emphasize the “sage on the stage” sermon model doesn’t work well nor do elaborate musical productions. No need to try to duplicate what a lot of or most other churches or religions do, although — of course — we can and should learn some applicable best practices from them. It’s really important to rethink (and re-do) what aspects of Heavenly Parent’s and True Parents’ love and truth we showcase and practice on Sundays … as well the other days of the week.

  2. Ah … sort of … but I have a feeling that this misses something.

    My wife and I have friends who have been church members for years, but who stopped coming to services because their Blessing failed, or they couldn’t have children. Though their circumstances were beyond their control, they were continually being judged because they “had not completed the four position foundation,” and felt totally out of place at our events.

    Wouldn’t your proposal make this situation worse? What about homosexual second generation? That too was beyond their control. Where is their place in this? My heart longs for something more inclusive that celebrates God’s presence in all people without judgement.

    1. Good points, David. The fact is that our theology places the man-woman/parent-child family at the center of creation, rooted in God’s very nature. It assumes that the conscience of every human being agrees with that, if and as it is presented effectively related to where the person is at. This worship is designed for those who agree with it.

      Ministering to those with broken families, yes, is a matter for serious consideration in terms of this proposal. That would nonetheless take place in the context of a model that works for, supports, strengthens, and celebrates those who are committed to the natural family, no matter where they are at in relation to that ideal. One would hope that those with broken families would find hope in it. Ministering to those who reject the natural family as normative is another discussion.

  3. I do not see much of a relevant difference between an individual paradigm and a family paradigm. I can see a relevant difference between a political status and prestige paradigm pursued by the church and a family paradigm. Catholics have Catholic Charities as a nonprofit here in the US and elsewhere. Unificationism has what? Other denominations have their charities to provide tangible services to their elderly members, etc. Unificationism has what? While the house is on fire, we should worry about using the right kind of candles during prayer?

    1. Thank you, Tom. Your comment causes me to reflect on the “relevant difference between an individual paradigm and family paradigm.” What comes to mind is: The individual paradigm focuses on the individual’s relationship with God. The family paradigm focuses on the individual’s relationship with their parents, children, siblings, spouse–real time, face to face. Social science shows that healthy three-generation families and kinship networks are the frontline social service. It is taking 1 John 4:20b: “for he who does not love his brother (spouse, parent, child) whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” to the next step: when I’m loving my spouse, my child, my parent, I am loving God. The family paradigm turns a spiritual practice into a social practice. That’s my reflection.

  4. Dear concerned friends,

    One might rightfully consider it’s better to light a small candle than curse the darkness…

    Those however who have never seen a perfect ideal model family whose obvious genuine loving unity undeniably reflects a universal standard everyone would enthusiastically want to embody are left unsatisfied with the idealized theoretical 4 position diagram to bow to and/or look up to…

    Then one might also rightfully consider a dim candle is far from enough to grant the satisfactory lasting enlightenment everyone is expecting.

    It therefore seems our troubled world will still for a while remain divided between the lucky partly enlightened ones and the very significantly numerous other beloved children of God.

  5. I think David and Tom make good points, that if we pitch our worship service to honor those who meet the standard of the Principle, we run the risk of being non-inclusive.

    As a Jewish person, I felt the sting of Christian exclusiveness when I went to a church that was offering holy communion and did not feel welcome to take it, as I was not a baptized Christian. When I was a Harvard Divinity School student, I went to an Episcopal church with a high liturgy, with a few fellow students and took the communion (unbeknownst to the pastor). It is something I remember to this day, because I had an experience with Jesus. Still, if I wasn’t with Christian friends I wouldn’t have tried it. Normally the barrier is there, and I know a lot of Jews who feel it with me.

    If Unificationism stands for anything these days, with True Mother’s leadership, it is that God wants to embrace all 7.8 billion people as Her children. Our worship ought to demonstrate that.

    Here’s an idea: What about honoring with sacramental grace everyone as members of God’s family? Even the most broken members, even those struggling with broken marriages, are loved by God, as God’s children. If we get away from the nuclear family, at least when it comes to public worship, and instead focus on everyone as participating in God’s family, we might create a more attractive worship experience for everyone.

    In that case, let everyone drink the holy wine and participate in the Blessing, at whatever stage of growth they are at. For married couples, the Blessing reaffirms their marriage. For single people, the Blessing signifies that God’s love reaches them in their singleness. There is precedent for this when we participated in holy wine ceremonies with our children, and they drank it with their parents. I think we could create a liturgy like that and provide a sacred experience for everyone.

    1. Thank you, Andrew, and thank you all for your comments. They made me realize the main point, namely: everyone who believes in and assents to the ideals expressed in the liturgy — and this should be made simple and clear — and is committed to practice them, with the atmosphere of no judgment, and admission that we all fall short, can take the holy wine. The ideals are, absolute fidelity in man-woman marriage, and sexual abstinence before marriage. Doesn’t matter if you are a couple that is on the verge of divorce; if you confirm that ideal, you receive the cup. Doesn’t matter if you have SSA, or are struggling with porn, if you confirm that ideal, you receive the cup. It doesn’t matter what your religion is. It is not a faith commitment to Rev. and Mrs. Moon. Suit and tie, jeans and tee-shirt, doesn’t matter.

      For singles there without family — glad that came up. The community should have trained members — like in Joel Osteen’s church and I’m sure many others. Such singles would be invited to meditate on the ideals during the family-sharing time, or if they want, to approach one of those members to talk to / share with / pray with / prepare to take the cup.

      For gay couples, a trained member would, at some point during the sharing time, ask to talk with them, and get to know them. LGBTQ+’s, in my personal experience, are very kind. We would offer them each their own cup, based upon his / her / x / y / z’s commitment to sexual abstinence.

      The concept is that a world in which all people honor the ideals of fidelity in man-woman marriage and celibacy before marriage, no matter religion, race, nation, political system, will be one through which God can work miracles.

    2. That nasty issue of exclusiveness seems to be grounded implicitly as a systemic issue in theology. One cannot arbitrarily try to create a ‘friendly’ liturgy without running into conflict with doctrines. I mean, telling non-Christian people that they cannot go to Heaven without surrendering to Jesus or holding the Unification belief that people cannot go to Heaven without getting matched by Rev. Moon and/or nowadays cannot go without receiving the Cosmic Blessing, etc., is a bit preposterous to me. Doctrines breed attitudes and vice versa. Doctrines create fenced-off country clubs for people with attitudes at best.

      1. Indeed, “Doctrines create fenced-off country clubs for people with attitudes at best.”

        Hopefully God is passionately loving each and every one of us for who we are and not for what we believe. Religious doctrines definitely appear not to be a one-size-fits-all outfit.

        We can experience the limit of our universality through meeting other people who hold different “universal beliefs”.
        Contrary to the past, will proselytizing today through being insistent on one’s doctrine on “God’s point of view” ultimately foster peace or religious wars?

        A good friend of mine recently told me, “I am glad salvation is neither based on regurgitating theological doctrines nor on absorbing holy wine”.

        It possibly neither depends on which Unificationist group we may or not belong to.

        As Jesus said: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

  6. I can fully relate with Andrew Wilson’s educational experience of being banned from Holy Communion while whole-heartedly trying to worship together with Christian friends.

    In my case, the basic reason was I had previously advertised with great enthusiasm my then Unificationist creed from the 1970s to this young, dynamic, devoted Catholic priest. Since we both mistakenly believed we had a monopoly of God’s grace and the unshared exclusivity of salvation, we remained cornered to separately enjoy our respective incomparable blessings.

    I feel God might have let out a sigh along with an amused smile at our pristine immaturity and stiff adamant certainties…

  7. I enjoyed this essay of Dr. Hendricks, which covers the theoretical and providential reasons for a family-centered worship and offers much guidance on how to apply this. Dr. Hendricks is a scholar with much pastoral experience and is very concerned about the applications of our faith in the daily life.

    What we need is a collection of case studies showing practically what a family worship means.

    I would like to give an account of an experience I had on September 18-20, 2021 with our Unificationist community in Bretagne (Britanny), France. The 3-day program was so attractive and thrilling that no one in the community would miss it. I am now living near Paris, but was born in Bretagne, a small region which provided about one-third of the French membership. It used to be a Catholic stronghold in the past, with many missionaries and a very influential clergy. The spirit world there is still very active.

    The Britanny members wanted to be at the right place at the right time and have a unique experience. As we were drawing close to the event, the excitement got so strong that our national leader and his wife determined to attend the entire 3 days, and even motivated our regional leader leader for Western Europe, Hugo Veracx, to come all the way from Belgium to be there for 3 days.

    The program lasted for 3 days consecutively (Saturday, Sunday, Monday), was completely Unificationist in spirit, but was also outreach oriented. It was a sampling of our best practices in family values, Unificationist business, the Ocean Providence, interreligious work, character education and education for peace. But all of this was extremely natural, exciting and really savy. We just enjoyed and were intoxicated.

    The highlight of the whole program was the inauguration of an oyster farming business by the whole Drevici family, but especially the second generations of this large Unificationist family (8 children). Patrick Drevici, the father, had complete training in the Ocean Providence for many years in America, and has also been recognized by the local mayor for his large family, which is very involved in the local life. Patrick is also a jazz musician and has created several associations.

    In Bretagne, the Ocean is everywhere, and the oyster business is very important. It is a major business and can be very profitable, when well-managed.

    Only one Blessed family in Britanny has endured to the end in this difficult Ocean Providence. We had a very vibrant Sunday service on site, just near the sea. We gathered in the hall where oysters are examined, and we sat on benches. We felt God’s creation so deeply, the wind and all the elements of the creation were there. A small white dog was so excited. Every song, every praise, every prayer was so fervent. The room was jampacked, all stayed focused until the end, because we felt God’s blessing. The place was sanctified, not only with holy salt, but with our tears, because we all felt so grateful and pure.

    It was followed by a huge banquet and we were all the high priests tasting shrimp, crab, oysters, fish, seaweeds, and offering them to God and to our stomachs. It is the best offering table I ever saw, with the sounds and smells of the sea all around. Mind and flesh were one.

    The event was all the more exciting that many couples had just spent the night together in the Drevicis’ house. We had been together for many hours.

    The day before, about 25 Unificationists had attended two “Peace Road” events nearby. First, we visited an Orthodox community in the countryside and the bishop with a long beard gave us a short sermon on the grass about God’s love. We took pictures with him, and he later attended some of our interreligious programs. He is now reading True Father’s autobiography

    After leaving his monastery, we dashed to the next place, a local memorial to the Korean War. Nine residents from this region had given their lives in Korea and there is a special monument. The deputy mayor of the village was there, as well as two Catholic priests. All our members wore white T-shirts with the logo of Peace Road. We sang a Korean song, and the old colonel was very moved. Then, one second generation who lives nearby read a letter from his Korean wife. She expressed her very deep appreciation for the people of western France who had come and died in her nation. As the letter was read in the beautiful nature, we experienced a very fresh connection with our fatherland. Several people cried.

    When we had a banquet on Saturday evening, the spirit was very high. We were really one. Patrick Drevici and his wife offered the highest quality of hospitality. We really sang songs together with great joy and were so deeply happy to spend the night (about 25 people) in the same house.

    On Sunday morning before going to the oyster field, Patrick made a special announcement. He declared that the book about the Ocean Providence will be completely translated from English into French. And we read some excerpts. It was solemn and very natural. Seven months later, the job is almost complete.

    I have already told about the main event. The business will be run completely by the sons and daughters of Patrick and Mei Yu Drevici. During the Sunday service, a donation of $2,200 was offered by the whole community to the business.

    On the third day (Monday), some couples continued, 110 miles north from there. A program of character education and culture of peace was given in a public school for more than 100 teenagers. They could hear about UPF from French, American, Japanese members, and were very impressed.

    These 3 days gave me a very deep joy. I praised and worshiped God from the bottom of my heart. I lived every second of every day as if it was God’s direct revelation to me. We felt that we had been living in a place which is certainly Cheon Il Guk. And it was so natural.

    1. Thank you, Laurent. It sounds as if you all had a big family reunion, a family reunion with a mission and vision. Some of the best experiences of my life were when we could house all our children and their young families for two week long family reunions. The joy is just, like, non-stop, from morning HDH with grandsons getting up punctually and son spicing it up with discussion questions, to big meals, to recreation, to just hanging out. Why not — clan reunions, or what you describe, a tribe reunion? Every Sunday worship experience should have the spirit of a family reunion. The joy of it is in the inclusive heart, and the multi-generational dynamics… babies, children, teens and adults of all ages, situations and perspectives. I believe this is the center of joy. This is what Heavenly Parent has given us and our future generations through True Parents. Yes, we should as you say experiment in terms of format, etc. My heart is not to tell others to do this, but to do it myself… as I have when circumstances permitted in the past. You’ve gone back to France… I will have to go back the the US. As time and tides permit.

  8. In the Hoon Dok Hae [12-title15-books], the holy wine ceremony is stated to be baptism. This seems logical, as baptism creates a change of lineage — originally from Gentile to Jew, then, as officiated by the prophet John, from old man to new man, saying that the claim of lineage from Abraham provided no exception since “God can raise children of Abraham from these stones.”

  9. Dr. Sonneborn, thank you for your comment. I addressed this issue briefly in the section of my article “On the Holy Wine Ceremony.” There is certainly more work to be done in this area. As I noted at the end of that paragraph, “Unificationists have yet to develop a sacramental theology; this is a start.” Basically, I am treating the Holy Wine Ceremony as a sacrament that involves both rebirth and resurrection into eternal life.

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