We’re all looking for ways to share the Marriage Blessing with friends, family and for the sake of building our tribe. Pastor Heather Thalheimer of the Faith Fusion chapter in New Hampshire explains how her need to do just that brought about the creation of More Than Marriage: Love as God Intended, a small but powerful book about the meaning and value of love between a man and a woman. It explains in plain language the intention of creating love as God intended through the Holy Marriage Blessing.
What made you write this book?
I was sitting in my office one day when the phone rang. The caller had found our website www.nhfaithfusion.com and wanted to know if I performed marriages for people who did not belong to our church community. I told the bride-to-be that I could perform a marriage ceremony and asked what she was looking for. Was she a person of faith, or was she looking for a more secular ceremony? (I explained we didn’t have stained-glass windows, and, if that was important to her, I could put her in touch with a pastor who does.)
After some discussion I offered her three options:
- A beautiful, more secular ceremony through which the couple could dedicate their love to each other
- A traditional Christian ceremony through which they could pledge their love to each other in the presence of God and commit until “death do us part,” or
- (My personal favorite) a Unificationist Holy Marriage Blessing through which, in the presence of our Heavenly Parent, they could pledge eternal love to each other.
Without hesitation, she declared, “I want the last one!” And so began our journey together. I met with the couple several times to provide guidance and education. On one occasion, she brought her mother along. Her mother listened intently, then turned to her daughter and said, “Your brother needs to hear this.”
At one point the bride-to-be asked, “Do you have anything written that we could read at home?” I paused and replied, “Oh, yes. I’ll bring it next week,” and feverishly started planning how I could write it all down by the following Saturday.
At the same time, we had a new member who was ready to receive the Blessing. She had been attending Faith Fusion with her children every week for eighteen months, in addition to participating in every workshop we put on, but her husband had serious medical issues and couldn’t easily leave the house. She told me that her husband had asked if there was anything he could read that would explain the Blessing. “I’ll bring you something next week,” I told her.
Pushed to action
Although I had been planning to write something for some time, these two couples stimulated me to action! I wanted to write a booklet that didn’t require a biblical background, as many of the people I witness to do not connect to the Bible. Some are Muslim, while others describe themselves as “spiritual” but don’t subscribe to a particular doctrine. I felt the booklet must appeal to a broad audience and allow people to be convinced because it resonates for them—their own original mind tells them it is true.
The couples in question found the explanation very helpful. Although the book doesn’t describe the chastening ceremony, in the rehearsal I explained the ceremony in an easy-to-understand way and they chose to participate.
What was really inspiring to me was that on the day of their Blessing, the couples brought family and friends. For the bride who called me at my office, this was her big wedding. I gave a little message about the meaning of the Holy Marriage Blessing, and her guests were literally on the edge of their seats, filming and audio-recording. Everyone thought it was so beautiful.
I spoke to the parents of the bride and groom and explained that because I was marrying them, I would always be there for their couple. Inevitably, couples will go through ups and downs, and I would always be available to them. The parents knew the truth of that and were deeply grateful for my commitment.
Some Unificationist-born young adults who have become engaged or have married outside our church community have found the book helpful in explaining the Holy Marriage Blessing to their partner. It has served as a bridge to our community and traditions.
How else have you used the book?
I have offered to mixed audiences, including Christian pastors, workshops that delivered the same content but in a bit more detail. To tell you the truth, I was a little intimidated to offer the content to Christian pastors, as I recognized that my presentation is not very biblically based. I suggested to the local pastor that instead she should invite a pastor from the American Clergy Leadership Conference (ACLC) to present the content to these guests. The local pastor asked me to make the presentation anyway, and so I did. The Christian pastors ate it up. I think the simple explanation and realness resonated for them. In their congregations they are leading people who are all over the map and need practical support. The pastors asked me for the PowerPoint so that they could show it to their congregations. Now we just have to get them blessed.
I also was able to give the Holy Wine to a Muslim friend with whom I am collaborating. He was getting married and, knowing that I am a pastor, asked me to give a Blessing on their marriage as part of their wedding day celebrations that were officiated by an imam. They received the Holy Juice and prayer, and I was able to speak briefly with the guests. It was useful to have the book as a follow-up. I am trying to support this friend’s spiritual journey, and I recently gave him True Father’s autobiography. What we have to offer is so beautiful and big. I firmly believe that the Blessing takes you to a higher place.
What is the premise of the book?
By understanding the nature of God’s love, we can unfold our own true potential for loving relationships. We can discover the source and value of the qualities that allow us to create the kind of love we hope for, which is unchanging, absolute, eternal and unique – qualities that reflect the nature of our Heavenly Parent. Marriage takes on new meaning and depth when we understand the sacredness of the bond between a man and a woman, in relationship with God.
How do we create a love that lasts?
More Than Marriage addresses important questions, such as “How do we define love?” The book probes our greatest uncertainty: Is lasting love even possible?
Here is an excerpt from the book:
Everyone’s greatest desire in life is to love and be loved. You don’t have to think about it to know this is true. It’s a natural and universal longing. But knowing what you want, by itself, is not enough to accomplish your goals when it comes to love.
All kinds of love exist in the world today, but that doesn’t mean they are all good or true. We know this because some love relationships can end up hurting, degrading or limiting you. These and other negative outcomes are not part of the original love that your mind and heart desire. Instead, people find themselves in relationships that don’t bring out the best in themselves or their partner. However, we intuitively know we deserve a deeper, richer love.
Our highest ideals originate in God, the author of love. It is interesting that the love that we all long for, regardless of our cultural background or upbringing, reflects God’s nature and heart, which is unchanging, absolute, eternal and unique.
However, when we look around us, we don’t see love as God intended. The problem with broken love is not a new one. History is full of tragic stories of corrupted love. If you decide to pursue the ideal of love, it helps to understand why love can go wrong and, more importantly, how to help it go right. To fully comprehend difficulty, you must get to the root or origin of a particular problem. When you trace problems in families, you inevitably go back in time and uncover lineal threads that hold secrets and unhealthy patterns of behavior.
More Than Marriage explores the origins of the breakdown in human relationships. It reveals how what we have learned through spiritual traditions intersects with new scientific understanding and points humanity to a place of growth and healing.
Additionally, More Than Marriage asks familiar questions such as: “Why does it make a difference to include God in your relationship?”
A new perspective on love
More Than Marriage seeks to offer new perspectives on age-old questions about love. The book offers insights based on the wisdom of Rev. and Mrs. Moon, our True Parents, who have spent their lives in search of God’s heart and a way to bridge the gap between God and humanity. The Holy Marriage Blessing is offered as a framework to purify the corrupted love that steals people’s lives and to re-establish the foundation to receive God’s original love. Rev. and Mrs. Moon believe that the ultimate purpose of spirituality, religion and faith traditions, as well as the motivation of people of conscience, is to restore truly loving men and women, emotionally and spiritually healthy families, and, by extension, a peaceful world.
To learn more, go to loveasgodintended.org. You can download the book for free or order a hard copy to share with family and friends. I’d love to hear your thoughts and to learn how you’ve used the book in your personal ministry. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
God bless your efforts to share the Holy Marriage Blessing.