At the Connect Point Church in Atlanta, Georgia, Reverend Mark Abernathy has dedicated his life to sharing the Holy Marriage Blessing and growing his family. Over the years, he has officiated hundreds of Blessing Ceremonies and now leads a tribe encompassing over 500 couples and their children.
“When you’re leading people, you have to be creative in how you minister to them,” says Abernathy, who sometimes spends six months educating a family before officiating their Blessing. He takes things slowly, allowing couples to complete requirements at their own pace. “I tell people, ‘we’re just glad you’re here with us,’ and I let them grow,” he explains.
Reaching out to people, and then letting them grow, has allowed Abernathy to be successful over the years. The son of a Pentecostal preacher, he was first introduced to Divine Principle and the Unification Movement in 1986. He felt immediately drawn to True Father’s emphasis on Jesus and the Bible. “Father was a Christian, and Jesus spoke to him,” offers Abernathy. “As a Christian, I connected to that side of Father… what he had piggybacked on the word of God.”
At the time, Abernathy was an assistant pastor at his father’s church in Atlanta. After working for years as a teacher and school principal, he joined his father’s calling and, along with his wife, began his ministry. The church leaders were, at first, wary of his involvement with the Unification Movement. Still, he gave Principled education to his congregation. “People loved it,” he remembers. Soon, many couples were lined up asking to receive the Blessing. “Christianity offered individual salvation, but this offered family salvation,” explains Abernathy. “If you will parallel what you’re speaking about with the Bible, there is not… a Christian who would not do the Blessing.” 51 couples took part in his very first ceremony.
Abernathy’s teaching of Divine Principle draws heavily from his Christian perspective. He refers to each person in his congregation as family, and emphasizes the importance of getting to know a couple before blessing them. “I ask, ‘What are your top three priorities as a family?’ ” Once they are Blessed, he keeps the relationship going through frequent phone calls and texting. “You’ve got to keep those that you have Blessed together,” he stresses. His church regularly meets outside, in the park. “We have barbecues, and we get out there and dance!”
What has kept Abernathy going with such enthusiasm over the years? “What I did was I allowed it to be part of my life, part of my ministry,” says Abernathy. “If you really believe that this Blessing is salvation, [you think] ‘why am I not out there day and night trying to save this world?’ ”
Mark Abernathy lives in Georgia with his wife Edna. To learn more about their work, check out their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/dmabernathy or visit their website: http://www.yourconnectpoint.