“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.”
Converting to Rev. Moon’s religion at age nineteen, I felt a little like Dorothy landing in Oz, in that part of the movie where everything switches from monochrome to glorious technicolor.
Growing up in the South Island of New Zealand, I was surrounded by white Caucasoid people. My church was always full of white folks but no one ever called it a white church. It was just a Catholic church.
As a Moonie, my world went from being somewhat limited in scope to rather more colorful and exciting than I had ever imagined.
For example, I made friends with Japanese and Korean people. I worked alongside Australians who are colorful in their own special way. And, at twenty-four, I visited New York City for the first time and attended my first ever black church. I describe in detail in the Free Maree chapter, A Whirlwind Courtship how, one Saturday in late June, my handsome, barrel-chested fiancé Bob and I were visiting churches in the Bronx to invite them to our giant wedding that would be happening July 1st at Madison Square Garden. That’s when we met Pastor Joseph Worrell and the Mount Calvary Church of God in Christ, who were in the midst of a 24-hour prayer meeting on the sidewalk of a rough-looking Bronx neighborhood. People were singing, clapping and smiling. Rev. Worrell, a middle-aged, gray-haired gentleman, kindly invited us into his church building where we could talk above all the joyful noise. I told him I’d never heard of a 24-hour prayer meeting either in the Catholic church or the Unification Church. I was amazed.
“Yes, it is still going on!” he replied. “I see so much sin in this world, so much filth. And I can’t do nothing about it except preach holiness, praise God!”
The man was so sincere, so passionate about his mission, it made an impression on me.
The next day we returned to visit his Sunday worship service and heard Pastor Worrell preach a fiery sermon on Encouragement. It was truly encouraging; then we all sang “We’re marching to Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion” and from that day on, the song and the memories were stamped onto my heart like a heavenly tattoo.
When Bob and I settled in California many years later, I took a temporary job as pianist at another black church, Mount Olivet Baptist in nearby Olivehurst. Again I heard the fiery Pentecostal preaching that I first heard in the Bronx. Again the people were warm and kind. They called me “Sister Maree” and “Little Richard” and treated me like family. I loved them for it and still do.
It wasn’t surprising, then, when I first had the idea to invite Yuba County churches to gather for an inter-church choral festival on Martin Luther King weekend, that Mt. Olivet was one of the churches that responded. Mt Olivet Pastor, Dr Carl Dorn, gave a powerful message at the Wheatland Chapel of the Latter-Day Saints. Episcopalians from Grace Church were there to support whole-heartedly as they always do.
It was probably the first time a black preacher had spoken in the building and although I can’t prove it, I could almost swear that God was smiling on us and that the Holy Spirit descended on the gathering, causing a general euphoria. Maybe it was a foretaste of beautiful Zion.
Occasionally I get homesick for my old monochrome life but, unlike Dorothy, I don’t want to go home to Kansas. I like it here.