This year marks the 30th anniversary of the 1982 marriage blessing over which the Rev. Sun Myung Moon officiated.


The ceremony took place at Madison Square Garden, where 2,075 couples married hours after being matched by Moon, founder and leader of the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity.


The first blessing took place in 1961 in Seoul, Korea. The 1982 ceremony was Moon’s first mass wedding outside Korea.


Alan and Margaret Jessen are among several Cedar Valley couples who met and married at the 1982 event.


“It’s been an amazing course,” says Jessen.


Since then, thousands worldwide have taken part in Unification Church marriage blessings. In 1992, the UC opened the blessing to people of all faiths. At that time, people from many nations and religions began taking part.


Moon believes cross-cultural, international marriages are a path to peace.


“Things that would take seemingly forever can be accomplished like miracles through these types of marriages in just two or three generations,” Moon writes in his autobiography, “As a Peace-Loving Global Citizen.” “People should marry across national and cultural boundaries with people from countries they consider to be their enemies so that the world of peace can come that much more quickly.”


Arranged marriage and matchmaking is an age-old tradition in many cultures. Moon has matched couples in person and by looking at their photos.


Last month, psychologist Robert Epstein, a United Methodist Church pastor, delivered a report on the success of arranged marriages at the “Why Arranged Marriages Work” event in New York City.


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“My research, which I’ve been conducting since 2003, suggests that arranged marriage in the Unification Church works as well as arranged marriages in other cultures and certainly far better on average than mainstream marriages in the United States,” Epstein said at the event.


The UC reports that its divorce rate is 10 percent --- significantly lower than divorce rates in the United States and Europe.


Epstein studies looked at 10 different cultures and explored how love arises in arranged marriages. Couples in his studies knew each for an average of 14.3 months before marrying, though some met a only few hours prior to marrying.


Arranged marriages, said Epstein, are a model for marriages in which “two committed people work together over time to create stronger bonds … (and) build a love that gets deeper over the years.” 


The Jessens believe their successful marriage can serve as an example.


“We have a unique perspective, and … we live to serve and strengthen families and expand God’s love,” says Alan Jessen. “We believe God is working through all religions and perspectives, with the goal of a unified world in heart and spirit.”


Today, the Unification Movement continues to promote its marriage and family values. Moon’s daughter, the Rev. Jin Moon, is senior pastor of the American UC.


On March 23, the church hosted simultaneous marriage blessings in New York City and Korea. Moon, now 93, presided at the Korea ceremony.


For more information on the UC, go to LovinLifeMinistries.org.


Golden writes the Courier’s weekly faith and values column. E-mail her at onfaith@karrisgolden.com.


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