Gun-wielding couples renew their vows

Local protestors clash with worshippers from several continents at the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary


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  • Protesters carrying signs that said things like "Father, forgive them" and "Shame!" clashed with worshippers at the blessing ceremony (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • This man holding an assault rifle walked near a woman carrying sacred wine for married parishioners (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Protestors outside the church (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • The ceremony inside the church (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Women wore white, and most parishioners wore crowns (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Parishioners in an overflow crowd watched the ceremony on a television in the entryway (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • A child sat drawing during the blessing and ceremonies (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • One of the couples that came to renew their vows (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • A woman holds a translator. Parishioners came to the ceremony from three continents. (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • The white Festival of Grace tent in front of the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Many parishioners were interviewed about their religious beliefs (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Couples renewed their wedding vows (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • After the services there was time for photos and a slice of cake decorated with strawberries (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Families enjoyed the day (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Children played outside (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Sweatshirts, cups and mugs were among the items available for purchase (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • A protester outside the church (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Protestors outside the church (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Koreans faced off with protestors following services. The sign says, “Thank you, USA. We will never forger (sic) America’s grace. Trump chosen by God, relocate the tactical nucleus to the 38th line.” (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Koreans held a sign saying, “Thank you, USA. We will never forger (sic) America’s grace. Trump chosen by God, relocate the tactical nucleus to the 38th line.” (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris) (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Protestors outside the church (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • A protester with a simple question (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • Three police cars were parked at the three entrances of the Wallenpaupack Elementary School, which was empty on the day of the church blessings (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)




  • After the ceremony, parishioners visited Kahr Arms' Tommy Gun Factory in Greeley owned by the Rev. Moon's brother, Justin Moon (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)



"If Florida hadn't happened, they'd just be having their ceremony as usual. They've never bothered anyone and are no trouble."
Christine Pizzi, Greentown


By Frances Ruth Harris

— Parishioners from three continents gathered Feb. 28 at the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary in Newfoundland for a day of blessings, wine, and food, as a gathering of local residents protested outside.

About one-third of the parishioners and delegates held AR-15s or similar weapons. The rifles were an integral part of the ceremony, and controversial too, coming so soon after the slaughter of 17 mostly high school students in Parkland, Fla., by a gunman with an AR-15.

"They've been having blessings for years, and it's poor timing for their ceremony comes on the heels of the mass shooting in Florida," said Christine Pizzi of Greentown, who is not a member of the church. "If Florida hadn't happened, they'd just be having their ceremony as usual. They've never bothered anyone and are no trouble. Some of the church members' children attend Wallenpaupack Schools. They're big users of the library and shop for groceries locally."

Protesters carried signs that said things like, "What would Jesus pack?" and "Worship God, not guns."

The Rev. Hyung Jin Moon, also called Sean Moon, prayed and told the assembled crowd that God gave people the right to bear arms and protect themselves and their families.

Children played under the white Festival of Grace tent in front of the church. An overflow crowed watched the festivities on a television in the large entryway.

Couples renewed their wedding vows. The women wore white, and nearly adult and some children wore crowns to signify the sovereignty of the kings and queens of the church.

A few adults wore crowns of bullets. One man proudly showed The Courier his pen with a bullet tip.

Each woman drank holy wine from a tiny glass, giving the remaining wine to her husband to drink.

The Rod of Iron is an off-shoot of the Sanctuary Church and is now in its fifth year. Pastor Moon encouraged parishioners to bring to the blessing AR-15s and similar weapons, which he said are the necessary tools of the nation of Cheon il Guk, the sovereign kingdom of heaven on earth. The Constitution of the United States of Cheon il Guk may be purchased just outside the sanctuary, along with many other church items; mementoes of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his wife, Sean Moon's parents; as well as Rod of Iron shirts, cups, and mouse pads.

Parishioners believe Sun Myung Moon is the "True Father," and that his son, the Rev. Sean Moon, is the "Second King" and the "True Father's" anointed heir. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the Rev. Sean Moon an "anti-LGBT cult leader."

The church was built originally as a theater in the round, then became St. Anthony's Roman Catholic Church, before it was purchased by the Sanctuary Church.

Safety firstParishioners enjoyed a $10 lunch, with some picnicking front of the church, beside a pond. A child burst a balloon, which sounded like a gunshot, and conversation stopped for a moment.

After lunch, one Korean group sang and chanted. Several delegations prepared to visit Kahr Arms in Greeley, the home of the Tommy Gun Factory, owned and operated by Justin Moon, the Rev. Sean Moon's brother.

One Swiss parishioner told The Courier that he couldn't bring his gun home on the plane, so he was taking his gift certificate to The Tommy Gun Factory in Greeley to see what other options were open to him. He wanted to take an AR-15 home to Switzerland. He said he hoped it could be shipped.

Protesters picketed in the small grassy space between the fence and the road for much of the day. A state trooper stopped for a moment early in the day and said from inside his car, "We want the protesters and those at the event to have a safe day."

A police car was parked in the lumberyard across the street from the church. The Koreans came out to chant while waving the American flag and displaying a banner with a giant head shot of President Trump. The poster said, "Thank you, USA. We will never forger (sic) America's grace. Trump chosen by God, relocate the tactical nucleus to the 38th line."

A man spoke in Korean to the crowd, repeating the same phrase again and again. Those with him waved the American flag and faced off with the protesters.

Early in the day, three police cars were parked at the three entrances of the Wallenpaupack Elementary School, which was empty. Students were moved to the high school for the day. When asked about the move, one officer replied, "Safety first."

Related story"Local church to hold four-day celebration of assault rifles": http://bit.ly/2EOpCgE





























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