The sons and daughters of clergy yesterday participated in a ceremony extolling marriage, saying it was their generation's turn to make family relationships work and teach the young the value of godly matrimony.
"We're here to challenge you of the second generation," Torrey Barrett, son of a Chicago pastor, told those gathered in Arlington for the Interreligious and International Couples' Blessing and Rededication Ceremony.
Civil rights leaders and pastors of his parents' generation were the welcome "noise of a train coming," said Mr. Barrett, who rededicated his own marriage at the event organized by clergy working with the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the Korean evangelist.
Now, he added, "We are the train," referring to a next generation that must avoid divorce and family breakdown.
The event, which drew more than 1,000 to the Sheraton National Hotel, included young newlyweds from area churches, children of ministers and married couples rededicating their vows.
"Marriage is honorable in all respects," said the Rev. C. Phillip Johnson of New Prospect Family Center in the District. "Bless now this second generation."
The event was transmitted by satellite and Internet to all 50 states and dozens of countries, organizers said, reaching a potential 1.8 million participants who were renewing their own vows or looking forward to marriage.
The Rev. Timothy Cleary and his wife, Sandra, who came from Baltimore, participated in a clergy "blessing" earlier this year. This time, they brought their two children to introduce them to marriage and its commitments.
"It is good for them to see something of this magnitude," Mr. Cleary said, adding that common work in building families helps resolve racial, ethnic and religious conflicts.
"Rev. Moon is putting pastors on the spot," he said, referring to the ecumenical "blessing movement" started by the religious leader in 1992. "We're trying to safeguard the next generation, pull our children back" from moral decline.
Representatives of different faiths spoke about marriage and offered prayers. Rev. Moon and his wife, Hak Ja Han Moon, officiated at the ceremony, in which holy water was sprinkled on couples, many of whom exchanged rings. Couples vowed lifelong marital fidelity and to rear children to have faith in God. "In our religion, without marriage, a couple cannot live with each other," said Fakhronisa Mohammad, a Muslim attending with her husband and their 6-month-old son. If dedication to family continues to grow in America, she said, their son is "going to have a good future."
This "family movement" was the theme of remarks by Rep. Danny K. Davis, Illinois Democrat, who said such blessing events parallel data on the health, wealth and longevity of married couples and harmonious families. "Families are the moral and spiritual anchor of our society," he said.
Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican, contributed a welcoming statement that was read at the event sponsored by the American Clergy Leadership Conference, which often convenes in Northern Virginia.
"The sons and daughters of some of the world's greatest religious leaders are here today," said the Rev. Michael Jenkins, an officer with the conference who also is a pastor in Rev. Moon's Unification Church.
The Rev. George Augustus Stallings, a former Catholic priest who took a bride at a previous blessing event and now has an infant child, urged clergy and their families to expand the cause to more churches.