April 17, 2001
Rev. Moon preaches message to crowd in Shepherdstown
By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town
An estimated 450 people gathered in Shepherdstown Tuesday to hear the Rev. Sun Myung Moon preach about how racism and different religious denominations have acted as barriers to helping people accept each other.
The 81-year-old spiritual leader and his wife are founders of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, formerly known as The Unification Church. They claim to have followers in 185 countries, and Moon is known for conducting mass marriage ceremonies.
In his latest crusade, the controversial Moon has vowed to travel to every state in the country to talk about what he thinks is keeping people apart.
Not only does Moon believe that different religious denominations have become barriers that prevent people from accepting and loving each other, but racism has existed in those churches too, said Falling Waters resident Henry Christopher, the West Virginia representative of Moon's church.
"We're not trying to run anyone's show. It's really just a message," said Christopher, who heads the state chapter of Moon's church with his wife Katsuko.
On Jan. 19 in Washington, Moon and 120 ministers from different denominations and faiths held a prayer luncheon to bring attention to the issue. Organizers said the response was so great that the group decided to visit every state in the country to spread their message.
Tuesday's prayer luncheon at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center served as the group's West Virginia visit, said Christopher. It was not known until recently that the prayer luncheon would be held at the hotel, and organizers worked quickly to set up the event, Christopher said.
"As you can see, we actually ended up with more people than we expected," said Christopher.
Moon spoke to a packed audience in a conference room that had a capacity for 350 people. Others stood in a hallway outside the room to hear Moon's words.
Although Moon can speak English, he spoke Korean through an interpreter Tuesday. The sermon was simultaneosly presented on a large screen television so everyone could see it.
Moon gave a long speech, then realized he had to close his presentation quickly to catch a plane to the group's next prayer function in Burlington, Vt.
"I didn't know I was spending so much time in West Virginia. Maybe I love you the most," Moon said to the cheering crowd.
In their state-by-state visit, the group invites local ministers to the prayer luncheons to hear Moon's message.
One of the local ministers in attendance Tuesday was Joe Liles Sr. of St. John Baptist Church in Shepherdstown. Liles said he has never followed Moon's teachings closely, but he said his message "is very needed in the world we live in today."
Moon served 13 months in federal prison in 1984 and 1985 on an income tax evasion conviction, according to his church's official Web site.
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