Our special thanks to the Seonghwa Ministry USA and the Family Federation for a Heavenly USA for allowing us to use their materials.
The following guidance was edited (for clarity and relevance to the FFWPU UK) from the original created by the District One Seonghwa Ministry Committee, which you can find here.
According to our faith tradition, a person’s life goes through three stages. The first stage is the nine months spent in the mother’s womb. The second stage is the 100 years in the physical world and the third stage is eternal life in the spirit world. Since we know that ascension into the spirit world is inevitable, it would be natural to take simple steps to prepare.
Dealing with the end of physical life, or the process of ascension to the Spiritual World, follows from the understanding that reality has two dimensions: physical and spiritual. The Heavenly Parent created men and women as microcosms of both the physical and the spiritual worlds. Ascension to the Spirit World is a normal part of each person’s eternal life. In the Creator’s ideal, graduation to the Spirit World is a momentous event, awakening new joy and gratitude. In Unification tradition, the greatest consideration and respect is thus accorded the ascended.
Both the practical and ritual aspects of Seonghwa Ceremonies are supervised in Unificationist communities by a Seonghwa Committee, composed of volunteers who aid the bereaved, ensuring that appropriate practices are followed. When a member of a community passes, it is the community’s responsibility to lovingly assist that person’s family in carrying out a Seonghwa as a sincere act of devotion and respect. The Seonghwa Committee is prepared to assist families in making
arrangements with a funeral home and to offer advice and assistance to them concerning all traditional practices and rituals.
The time of ascension can be emotionally and spiritually challenging for families and friends, and it is hoped that this manual will lessen the stress, giving families reassurance that they are doing all the essential things needed to support the person who is ascending.
The following information is a combination of the ceremony described in The Tradition, Book One, published more than 30 years ago, and oral tradition from the True Parents and elder Blessed Couples.
In conclusion, this guide does not claim to be the final word on the Seonghwa tradition. In talking to various people who have extensive experience with Seonghwa’s, we found that there were variations in what was believed to be essential vs. recommended aspects and Unificationist vs. Oriental tradition, as well as the practical and feasible. Please know that the most important element of a Seonghwa is attitude: showing love, honour, and respect for the ascended person and aiding in a joyful release for that individual to begin his or her life as an exclusively spiritual being.
This summary is offered as an aid to our Blessed families. Ascension to the spirit world is part of the three stages of life that our True Parents have taught us; therefore, members should consider simple steps to prepare for our inevitable graduation to our eternal life in the spirit world.
The meaning of Seonghwa: The Seonghwa ceremony is the celebration of the commencement of one’s life as an exclusively spiritual being. According to the Principle, the Seonghwa ceremony is to be regarded as more beautiful, enlightening, and joyful than even the Blessing ceremony.
As hospitalisation or hospice is needed: Contact your local FFWPU Pastor and friends to start a prayer chain or other condition. Lighting of the Holy Candle and simple home gatherings are encouraged. Begin to prepare announcements and a care team for spouse and children of the family.
At the time of passing: Ideally, prayer can be offered as the person takes their last earthly breaths. Hospital and hospice staff will allow you to spend as much time as needed at the bedside. Someone on your care team should begin to inform the pastor and all members to start the Seonghwa Prayer vigil from this time, if possible, until the morning of the Seonghwa Ceremony.
Four phases of the Seonghwa Ceremony: The Seonghwa ceremony has four phases: Ipjeon, Ghihwan, Seonghwa, and Wonjeon: (This info is from the printed program of True Father’s Universal Seonghwa Ceremony, 9/15/12). These are offered as guidelines and may be modified by the wishes of the family.
- Ipjeon (“Placing the body in the casket”). The ceremony to wash, dress, and place the body in the casket. It is an act of respect that supports the person’s transition to the spirit world with the utmost honour and dignity.
- Ghihwan (“Returning to joy”). The farewell greetings that the immediate family share with the ascended spirit. Invite the member to strive for joy, happiness, and thankfulness by removing and releasing any grudge or “han” that may have been held by and between close family members or others. This ceremony takes place the morning of the Seonghwa and is conducted at the casket side with the local or designated pastor, as part of the family viewing.
- Seonghwa (“Heavenly harmony”). The service held with family, friends, and community. The ceremony usually takes place three, five or seven days after the person ascends. It is the final farewell ceremony for the departing spirt. If cremation is chosen, then it is suggested that the Seonghwa Ceremony be held before the cremation.
- Wonjeon (“Returning home to the palace”). The ceremony at the burial site. The Wonjeon Ceremony sends the body back to its place of origin and is part of the interment ceremony. Wonjeon can be defined as the physical body returning to its home, that is, the earth.
When offering a prayer at the memorial service, pray that the ascended person can lead a purposeful life in the eternal Spirit World centred on God’s will.
The Seonghwa ceremony is the celebration of the commencement of one’s life as an exclusively spiritual being. According to the True Parents, the Seonghwa ceremony is to be regarded as a more beautiful, enlightening, and joyful event than even the Blessing Ceremony.
This tradition was taught by the True Parents after the passing of their son, Heung Jin Moon in 1984.
At the ascension ceremony held at Belvedere on January 7, 1984, True Father said, “The Seonghwa ceremony is actually comparable to a wedding, when men and women get married. It’s not a sorrowful occasion at all. It’s like an insect coming out of its cocoon, getting rid of a shackle and becoming a new body and a new existence, a new entity. That’s exactly the same kind of process. In our way of life and tradition, spirit world and physical world are one, and by our living up to that kind of idea, we bring the two worlds together into one. In the secular world, death signifies the end of the life. However in our world,
death is like a rebirth or a new birth into another world.” (Today’s World, Jan/Feb 1984)
Shortly before early disciple David S.C. Kim passed away in 2011, True Father modified the Seunghwa ceremony and referred to it as the Seonghwa ceremony. The meaning was clarified to mean not merely ascension and change, but to mean Heavenly harmony, like the evaporation of water—it is still water, but in a different form.
“Is God happier on the day we are born into the physical world, or at that moment we leave our physical body behind? At that moment, we are born a second time into the realm of the infinite expansion of love. We become His new children through death. Of course, God is happier at the second birth. I am telling you this because you need to know that you cannot have a relationship with God unless you are released from the fear of death.” — Sun Myung Moon
The Seonghwa Ceremony has four phases : Ipjeon, Ghihwan, Seonghwa, and Wonjeon. The following points are offered as guidelines and may be modified according to the wishes of the Blessed Family.
- Ipjeon (“Placing the Body in the Casket”) is a very personal, final service to the ascended loved one. In the Unification tradition, the ceremony of washing, dressing and placing the body in the casket is an act of respect that allows the loved one to transition to the spirit world with the utmost honor and dignity.
- Ghihwan (“Returning to Joy”) is the farewell that the immediate family shares with the ascended spirit, inviting the person in transition to move forward with joy, happiness and gratitude. This ceremony may take place in the home, hospital, hospice, or funeral home.
- Seonghwa (“Heavenly Harmony”) is the service held with family, friends, and community. The ceremony takes place three, five or seven days after the person ascends. It is the final farewell ceremony for the ascending loved one and may be considered a passport to the Unification Sphere of the Spirit World. (This reference was conveyed by Dr. Sang Hun Lee and reported in “St. Augustine’s Confessions from the Spirit World,” May 2000.)
- Wonjeon (“Returning Home to the Palace”) is the ceremony held at the loved one’s burial site. The Wonjeon Ceremony is the interment ceremony, returning the body to its place of origin. Wonjeon can be defined as returning the physical body to its home, the earth.
These four phases of the Seonghwa take place over the course of three, five or seven days (an odd number of days). Traditionally, considering the day of physical death as Day 1, memorial services may then be offered at the Wonjeon 3, 21, 40, and 100 days after the ascension.
An important activity that traditionally takes place in the interim between ascension and the Seonghwa Ceremony itself is an around-the-clock prayer vigil for the departed loved one. The vigil should begin as soon after the ascension (physical passing) as possible and continue until the Seonghwa Ceremony begins.
There can be variations on the 24 hour schedule. For example, prayers might be offered from midnight until 4 a.m. , an evening memorial service in the family’s home (or other chosen location) from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., or the family may decide if it is one night or more, until the Seonghwa Ceremony begins.
If there are periods during the vigil when no one is praying, or praying before the altar in the room, Holy Songs or other favorite music may be played in the room instead.
If more than one person is present for the prayer vigil at any one time period, testimonies and remembrance of the ascended person may be offered instead of or in addition to an offered reading (Hoon dok hae or other appropriate scripture or words).
Suggested Prayer Vigil format
- To begin, light the Cheon Il Guk candle (it remains lit throughout the vigil)
- Greet True Parents and the departed loved one with a half bow (those present facing in the direction of the altar table)
- Light and offer a stick of incense to begin the prayer period
- Sing a Holy Song or songs
- Offer a representative prayer
- Offer a period of individual prayer (aloud or silently)
- Offer a reading (hoon dok hae or other appropriate scripture or words)
- Close the prayer period by singing a Holy Song
Note: For volunteers it is always paramount to support and serve the family of the departed loved one. Sensitivity to the family members’ needs and condition is most important. Friends and volunteers can best help carry out the traditional program when in prayerful coordination with the family, recognising their authority yet offering them options which can relieve them of the pressures and duties of playing host or overseeing and coordinating the details of the various ceremonies and events.
Community Support: Immediately after the passing of a member of the community, or even prior to it in the case of a terminal illness’s final stage, an ad-hoc committee may be formed that can include the pastor, community leaders, and friends to offer support to the ascended person’s family.
Other people can be of great help by taking responsibility for organising the prayer vigil, handling donations, the reception (venue and food), accommodations and logistics for out-of-town family and guests and, importantly, clean-up after the Prayer Vigils, Seonghwa, Wonjeon and Reception events, all in coordination with the designated person.
These persons can offer their services in carrying out the many responsibilities required. An experienced person from the church community should offer to assist the person or persons the family designates as the one to take primary responsibility for organising and to provide information and advice during the process.
Many hands make light work.
This ceremony is a very personal, final service to the ascended loved one. In the Unification tradition, the ceremony of washing, dressing and placing the body in the casket is an act of respect that allows the loved one to transition to the spirit world with the utmost honor and dignity.
A two-hour time period should be allotted for the Ipjeon Ceremony. A typical schedule might be to perform the ceremony in the morning one day before the Seonghwa Ceremony, from 10 am to noon, for example. This would allow for a viewing during the day and prayers in the evening.
Persons needed for the Ipjeon Ceremony:
Usually four to six people are needed for the Ipjeon ceremony. Any additional persons wanting to attend may wait in the parlour until the dressing task is completed.
Playing Holy Songs during the ceremony helps maintain an uplifting spiritual atmosphere.
- The loved one’s clothing: newly purchased underwear and socks, Holy Robe or a favourite or new suit of clothing, white gloves.
- The photo on a stand, the same one which will be used in the Seonghwa Ceremony. This picture will also help as a reference for makeup preparation.
- Holy Salt, Holy Candle, matches, candle stand to be placed on a small table in the
- Bottle (1-2oz) of rubbing alcohol, spring water, bowl and 1-2 washcloths.
- Request the funeral home to provide two extra sheets and latex-free gloves. A qualified funeral home staff member should be available to assist if needed.
Outline of the Ipjeon Ceremony:
The purpose of the ceremony is to provide comfort for the departing spirit and respectful care for the body. The family may decide that only women care for the females and only men care for the males. This is a decision of the family and those present.
After everyone gathers in the funeral home’s preparation room where the loved one’s body is lying on a stainless steel table, spread the extra white sheets on the floor and lay out the loved one’s clothing in the reverse order of putting them on. Place the outer garments on the bottom, then underwear and socks just as they would be placed on the body.
Room preparation and prayer
The funeral home may have placed the body in a plastic bag. In this case, the funeral director will guide on how to open the bag and then proceed with the ceremonial washing.
After lighting the Cheon Il Guk Holy Candle, all items being used need to be Holy Salted, particularly the casket. Then Holy Salt the room: Stand in the centre of the room facing north with Holy Salt in your right hand. Toss a small quantity of the salt toward the north wall of the room. Next toss the salt to the south, east, and west.
Those present offer a half bow towards the loved one’s body and then a representative prayer is offered expressing, “how grateful we are to be able to attend and serve the loved one this final time.”
Start the washing by combining a pinch of Holy Salt and one to two ounces of rubbing alcohol in the bowl. Then fill the bowl half-way with spring water, mixing the water together with the alcohol. Dip the washcloths in this mixture.
Taking the washcloths, and beginning from the top of the head, wash with a soft rubbing motion first the hair, then the face, neck, and so forth down to the feet. This action is only ceremonial and is meant to be a soothing wash. The body need not be soaked, just gently wiped. After washing the entire body, place the cloths to the side. The person or persons who washed the loved one’s body should then dry his or her hands or change gloves.
Dressing the loved one’s body
Next, begin the dressing starting with the underwear and then the socks. This part becomes very hands on and two, three or more people may be needed to accomplish some of the tasks. If the men have stepped out of the room for the washing and dressing of a woman they may be called back to help with the dressing, as needed.
One of the techniques for dressing is to slightly roll the body, with the arm down by the hip in order to get the Holy Robe parts or a shirt and jacket on.
If needed, the funeral home has special lifts that can help with this step, but it is best to do it manually if possible.
Placing the body in the casket
Once all the layers of clothing are on and arranged neatly, then comes the task of placing the body in the casket.
This task requires those present to line up on one side of the body, with the stronger people positioned to deal with the upper torso.
Once the lifting group is aligned, each person with both of their arms fully underneath the body, lift in unison and, in a side-stepping motion, move toward the open side of the casket or have someone move the table and move the casket in its place.
Once over the casket, together, gently lower the body in place.
Additional preparation and concluding the Ipjeon ceremony
Consult with the funeral director, who will let you know the correct alignment for positioning the pillow under the loved one’s head. There may be some support blocks placed in the casket to help position the body and arms correctly.
The funeral director and other family members can brush and style the hair, cut the nails and apply makeup to the loved one’s face and hands either before the ceremony’s concluding prayer or after, depending on the allotted time frame.
Once the holy body is placed correctly and the clothing adjusted and personal items are placed in the casket, then those family members from the waiting area may enter and a concluding prayer can be offered. This is the time for offering either a representative prayer and/or unison prayer, thanking the person for living their life for Heaven’s Will, offering loving gratitude and personal greetings, and removing any han (grudge or resentment) that may be between the family and friends.
Concerning the Blessing ring and items placed in the casket
According to the Tradition book, the Blessing Ring should be placed on the departed’s right hand and interred with the body. However, some brothers and sisters, (including some members of our local Seonghwa Committee) have decided instead to pass their rings on to loved ones as precious heirlooms.
Options for this choice would be:
- clearly directing that one’s Blessing ring be bequeathed to one’s family and/or descendants,
- having one’s body interred without a Blessing ring, and/or
- purchasing a second Blessing ring, so one ring can be interred and the other kept by family members as a sacred remembrance.
The following items should be placed with the ascended person’s body in the casket: The Holy handkerchief, A Divine Principle book or True Father’s words, special items or belongings for which the ascending person may have love or affection. This last inclusion is particularly appropriate in cases where the ascended person is a young child.
Items should be sanctified with Holy Salt prior to being placed inside the casket with the loved one’s body.
In the case of a Second Generation person who may not have possessed a Holy Gown, the options are:
- purchase a Holy Gown,
- be interred dressed in a dark suit for a man or a white (or light-coloured) dress for a woman.
All newly purchased garments should also be sanctified with Holy Salt.
Relocating the casket in preparation for the Gwihwan ceremony
Once the Ipjeon ceremony and other preparations are completed, the casket containing the loved one’s body can then be moved to the viewing or service room (or other location of the family’s choosing) for the Gwihwan Ceremony, which is the farewell offered by the immediate family and close friends prior to the Seonghwa service.
Flowers and banner are placed around the casket for the service. In some cultures there is a practice of attending the holy body by holding a vigil, staying by the casket, even all night, in rotation with family members.
As with all aspects of Heavenly tradition, the important attitude is to lovingly and joyfully celebrate the commencement of the ascended one’s new life as an exclusively spiritual being.
The Ghihwan ceremony is a memorial service, the time of parting sentiments and benevolent encouragements shared with the spirit of the ascended person. The Ghihwan Ceremony is held at a time during the interim period between the person’s physical passing and the Seonghwa Ceremony. The particular time and location for the ceremony should be determined by the departed’s family or those responsible for the departed’s Seonghwa.
During the Ghihwan Ceremony, the immediate family, Blessing trinity members, spiritual children, spiritual parents and friends take the opportunity to visit the location of the loved one’s body and, in its presence, offer their prayers and farewells, these being made with an attitude of sincerity and gentle respect. Songs, prayers and testimonies are among the appropriate means of expressing love, appreciation and gratitude for the departed at this time. This ceremony marks the formal beginning of remembrance and recognition of the ascended person’s efforts, accomplishments and dedication during life on earth.
This farewell takes place in the presence of the ascended person’s physical body. The ceremony can be held at the hospital, soon after physical death, or, the loved one’s body and casket may be brought to that person’s home or to the home of another hosting family or friend, or to the church centre or mortuary.
If the ascended person had already specified his or her desires in this matter of the Ghihwan, those desires should be carried out. Otherwise, the spouse of the departed (or parents, if the ascending person is their Blessed child) would decide where to hold# the Ghihwan ceremony. Whatever location is chosen, prepare the room where the Ghihwan ceremony will take place with Holy Salt.
If the departed’s body is already in a casket at the time of the Ghihwan, the casket may be opened or closed during the ceremony, according to the family’s wishes.
The Seonghwa is the service held with family, friends, and community. The ceremony traditionally takes place three, five or seven days after the person passes. It is the final farewell ceremony for the ascending loved one and may be considered a passport to the Unification Sphere of the Spirit World.
Location: From the outset of making Seonghwa arrangements, clarity, sensitivity and communication between the family and the Church community’s representatives concerning the public recognition due the ascended person are crucial.
In the Unification tradition, the level and location of the Seonghwa Ceremony corresponds to the sphere or level of the ascended person’s life, mission or responsibility at the time of their passing. Thus the Seonghwa service may be held in someone’s home, at a funeral home, at a Unification church centre or another place of worship, or at a regional or national headquarters.
The propriety of the location reflects the level of the Seonghwa. There are different levels of the Seonghwa ceremony, again according to the level and scope of the ascended person’ s life, mission or responsibility.
The levels of Seonghwa are: Universal, World, National, Regional, State, and Church. For example, a Universal Seonghwa Ceremony was held for True Father at his passing. A World Seonghwa Ceremony was held for the True Children: Heung Jin Nim, Young Jin Nim and Hyo Jin Nim. National Level Seonghwa ceremonies were held for Jin Joo Byrne, David S. C. Kim, founding President of UTS and for Eric Holt, HSA National Treasurer.
When the location for the Seonghwa is determined, family members and or members of the family’s support team should visit the selected place personally as much in advance of the ceremony as possible and connect with that venue’s responsible person, manager or funeral director in order to identify and reserve support services and resources available from the venue.
Basic questions to answer: How many seats are available in the service room? Is an overflow room available? Is there a good sound sound system and adequate, controllable lighting? Are easels for photographs and directing signs available? Can a banner be hung or a sign displayed? Is there a projection system or large-screen monitor available for a slide-show or video presentation? Is there sufficient parking?
Setting the Ceremony time: The starting time of the Seonghwa ceremony is arranged to accommodate the schedules of the immediate family, the funeral home, and the cemetery, where the Wonjeon or interment will take place.
A morning Seonghwa start time at 10 am with a Wonjeon ceremony in the noon hour and reception in the early afternoon has been a typical schedule.
One simple way to determine starting time is to count the time backward from the interment time scheduled at the cemetery. Include travel time from the Seonghwa location, the time for the Seonghwa ceremony program itself, plus the time for viewing (if desired) and the time to actually transport the casket from the funeral home into the Seonghwa room, set up the altar and arrange flowers.
These times should be added together to calculate the hour when the loved one’s body should arrive at the Seonghwa location and what the Seonghwa Ceremony starting time should be.
Pallbearers and Seonghwa personnel should be present at the Seonghwa ceremony location at least 30 minutes before the casket arrives.
For calculating the schedule, the estimated travel time from the Seonghwa location to the cemetery can be confirmed with the funeral home handling the arrangements.
Greeters: A small team of two or more greeters should be assigned to welcome guests as they enter the building, to guide them to the registration table, to encourage them to sign the guestbook and to invite them to leave a donation if they desire.
Guests should receive a Seonghwa program from the greeter and be directed to the room where the ceremony will be held.
Ushers: A team of at least four ushers should be assigned for the ceremony. Station a pair of ushers at each entrance to the Seonghwa room. Escorted by ushers, family members and relatives should be seated in the front row(s), which should be roped off and labelled as RESERVED.
Ushers should guide all guests to their seats. The ushers’ demeanour should be pleasant and attentive, nevertheless, they need to be gentle but firm in guiding and seating.
Seating: To maintain an orderly environment, it is important that ushers calmly but firmly escort and direct guests to fill the rows, rather than simply let people enter without direction to seat themselves in random locations throughout the room. Latecomers should be seated by ushers at appropriate breaks in the program and should be gently directed to wait for usher direction.
Music and musicians: Recorded music may be played during the prelude to the ceremony and during seating. Unification Holy Songs or selections provided by the ascended’s family are appropriate to set a peaceful, calm atmosphere. A musician should be engaged to play music for the hymns and to accompany, if needed, any persons making a musical offering during the ceremony.
Coordinator, Officiator and participants in the Program: The person(s) who will participate in the actual services, such as behind-the-scenes Coordinator for the Seonghwa, Service Officiator, the person chosen to give the Seonghwa Address, those offering prayers, reading the biography, making a musical offering, those invited to give testimonies, and those making practical announcements should be identified and confirmed prior to the service, ideally at the same time as ushers and greeters are identified and assigned. Use of a Seonghwa personnel roster (see page 29) is recommended for this purpose.
Dress code: For members of the immediate family and those who have an official role in the Seonghwa ceremony, (officiator, pallbearers, picture carrier, etc.) the following dress is appropriate: Women should wear white or light-coloured clothes and red flower corsages. Men should wear dark blue suits with a white shirt and white tie and a white flower boutonniere. Pallbearers should wear white gloves while carrying the coffin. Carnations or roses are recommended for boutonnieres and corsages.
Preparation of the room for the ceremony: Prayerfully Holy Salt the room where the Seonghwa ceremony will take place prior to the arrival of the casket. If the Ghihwan ceremony was held earlier in the same room, it is not necessary to Holy Salt the room again.
Altar: An altar table should be set up in front of the casket. Cover the altar table with a newly purchased white or light coloured cloth. Holy salt all items to be used.
The following items should be arranged on the altar: A framed picture of the ascended loved one in a wooden frame, 8×10 inches or larger with easel or display stand. The frame should wreathed with a pink or white ribbon. (See Appendix C, p. 71)
Fresh cut single flowers (long stemmed carnations are recommended) for a flower offering during the Seonghwa. The same single flowers may also be saved and used for the flower offering at the Wonjeon (interment) ceremony later.
Any flower arrangements or wreaths should be placed around the casket and altar.
Sticks of incense and receptacle (optional)
Matches or lighter (for lighting incense)
Flag: For Blessed Couples, Blessed children and single Unificationists, a Family Federation or Unification Church flag is to be draped over the casket.
Guest book and pens: The guest book should be available at a reception table outside the Seonghwa room. This can be the same guest book used for the Gwihwan ceremony. The loved one’s family keeps this as a remembrance.
A bowl of Holy Salt should be inside the door at the front entrance.
Seonghwa banner or sign: The banner or sign displayed at the front of the room to mark the occasion may simply read:
“Seonghwa Ceremony of [name of person] 1 March 2021”
The advantage to using a banner is that it is easy to roll up or fold after the ceremony and cherish as an historical keepsake.
The disadvantage is that it can be more costly to produce (professionally printed on canvas or vinyl) and challenging to hang at the Seonghwa location. It is important to have someone visit the actual room to be used ahead of time to determine how the banner can be hung and then to bring the right tools and materials to do the job on the day of the ceremony.
The advantage of using a sign is that it is often less expensive to produce and can be displayed on an easel rather than hung from the ceiling or wall. However, an easel or other kind of support will be needed to display it. When visiting the Seonghwa location, determine where to display the sign (i.e. behind the casket or next to it) and obtain the appropriate size and type of easel. Keep in mind the sign should be large enough to be legible from the back of the room.
The disadvantage of a sign is it can often be both fragile and bulky and therefore hard to store as a keepsake. Some copy centres can produce a sign on large, good-quality paper that can be mounted on a stiff background such as foam board. Then, depending on how the sign was mounted, it can be removed, rolled and easily stored. Both banners and signs can be produced by copy centres from emailed files or designed at the store to order.
Printed Programme: The printed programme usually lists the order of service and the names of those participating. A biography of the departed loved one is often read during the ceremony and the text of this biography can also be included in the printed programme if desired. It is recommended that the words to any songs sung during the ceremony also be included as an insert for the benefit of the guests in attendance.
Preparing the Printed Programme: It’s important to identify and recruit a person or persons to prepare the printed programme. Someone with computer and design experience is best even if not a close friend or family member.
Biographical text and photos can be scanned and emailed and a simple program created, proofed and approved by the responsible person and then emailed to a local printing outlet (such as Staples or kallkwik) for printing at least 24 hours prior to the Seonghwa services.
There is no standard or required printed program format, however a sample printed program is offered on pages 25-28 as a point of reference.
Many local church offices have a standard template available and may be able to do the job. It’s important to confirm such a task with the church staff.
The funeral home or mortuary may also offer their own standard program options as part of their services.
Podium: The funeral home will usually have a podium available for the officiator and other participants to use.
Please remember: Do not use True Parents’ picture: It is not appropriate at a Seonghwa to use a photograph or other image of True Parents in any part of the ceremony.
Visual recording and photography: Both the Seonghwa and Wonjeon ceremonies may be taped or digitally recorded, with the recording being presented as a gift to the immediate family. If no digital or other recording is planned for the ceremony, then a photographer should be engaged to record the events.
An audio-visual record and/or photographs of events serve as an important historical resource for the family. This can be prepared by someone with computer experience as a simple file to be played on a computer during the programme.
Sensitivity, care and discretion should be shown by the videographer/ photographer at all times in recording the ceremony so as not to distract or intrude on the proceedings.
NOTE: Any technical details or needs for visual recording, such as lighting or sound in addition to that already provided by the venue, should be clearly worked out with the Seonghwa coordinator (the person in charge of conducting the event) prior to the service. Natural lighting for photography, rather than the use of flash photography, is of course recommended for all camera work if possible.
Slide show/video biography: In recent years, a video slide show presentation of photographs, video and other images from the ascended person’s life has become an essential component. Such presentations are prepared by family and friends prior to the ceremony and shown either during the Seonghwa or as part of the reception. The visuals are usually accompanied by music dear to the ascended person or evocative of that person’s life and provide an enlightening and moving way of sharing the family’s love and regard with all in attendance.
Commonly available computer software makes both the production and presentation of the slide show much less complex than in years past. It is recommended to engage a person or persons to work on the project separately from the other Seonghwa preparations. The family can simply give access to
photos or other mementos and a family member can either plan with or work with those engaged to produce the slide show.
Service leader (Officiator): An elder Blessed member or anyone of the family’s choosing may lead the service. Traditionally, it is not appropriate for the spouse to lead the service.
Songs: Begin the ceremony with songs. These include the Cheon Il Guk Anthem and Holy Songs, or other songs appreciated by the ascending individual. Before the ceremony begins, music can be played softly in the background to set a peaceful tone.
Prayer, biography, and testimony: A representative prayer is offered by the officiator or someone chosen by the family. Then a biography of the ascended person and family and friends’ testimonies are shared or read.
Seonghwa Address: The speaker is introduced by the officiator and delivers a message suitable for the occasion. The ascended person’s family may want to select the person they feel most suitable to give this address. The loved one may have indicated or invited a particular speaker prior to passing. Traditionally, this speaker would be the ascended person’s pastor or a Unification movement leader of the person’s acquaintance. The choice, of course, must ultimately comport with the family’s wishes.
Flower offering: Either one by one or in small groups (depending on the number of people involved), those attending the Seonghwa are invited to offer their respects.
Offering an expression of respect: (Moving from right to left:) First, facing the altar/ casket, the individual or couple offers one full or half-bow (from the waist), lights a stick of incense (optional) and then lays a flower on the upper part of the ascended’s body, or (if closed) on the lid of the casket. Another full or half-bow is offered. The person or couple then returns to their seat.
Suggested order for those persons offering their respects:
- Members of the immediate family (they are first so they may receive condolences
from those following)
- Pastors and community leaders,
- Blessed couples (in order of Blessing group),
- Individual friends and others in attendance
NOTE: If there is so a large number in attendance that everyone’s offering respects presents a logistical and/or time problem, a smaller number of persons, representing those in attendance, may be chosen, announced by the Officiator, then invited to come forward and offer respects in a manner consistent with the order just described.
A closing hymn: A song or musical offering usually follows the flower offering.
Benediction: A closing prayer is offered to close the Seonghwa ceremony.
Procession from the Seonghwa Ceremony location to the Wonjeon Site:
(Generally, a representative of the funeral home explains the procedure for relocating to the cemetery.)
- The Officiator announces to those in attendance to stand as the procession to the Wonjeon site is to begin. Those in attendance should remain standing quietly in place as and until the procession, casket and family depart the room and make their way to the hearse and procession vehicles for transportation to the Wonjeon site.
- At this point in the service, the Officiator or funeral home representatives will prepare the casket for removal from the Seonghwa Ceremony site. Pall bearers and other persons involved in the procession should be called forward at this moment.
- As these preparations are being carried out, the Officiator announces the procession of the loved one and family from the room and invites those in attendance to follow the procession to the Wonjeon Ceremony site once it has left the building.
The appropriate order for the procession and the personnel are as follows:
First: One individual is responsible to Holy Salt the path of the casket from the Seonghwa ceremony to the hearse and from the hearse to the Wonjeon site and the burial site itself.
This person should precede the hearse and Holy Salt the entire route to the Wonjeon. Traditionally, the person chosen for this duty is most often the elder church leader of the area, however the person should be designated in accordance with the family’s wishes.
The person blessing the pathway with Holy Salt wears a dark suit, white tie and white gloves, the same attire as the pallbearers, and women wear white or light-coloured clothes and a red flower corsage.
Second: A portrait carrier: One person is chosen to carry the framed portrait of the individual from the Seonghwa ceremony to the Wonjeon site. This individual walks ahead of the casket carrying the picture from the Seonghwa to the hearse and from the hearse to the Wonjeon site.
The picture should precede the casket at all times. This means that during the journey to the Wonjeon site, the person carrying the picture may ride holding it in the front seat of the hearse. If this is not allowed, the picture itself is placed on the front seat of the hearse and removed by the same individual on arrival at the Wonjeon site and used to continue the procession in the same order there.
Third: Pallbearers with the casket: Six to eight pallbearers are chosen prior to the Seonghwa ceremony. Pallbearers wear dark suits, white ties and white gloves. Pallbearers carry the casket from the Seonghwa ceremony to the hearse and from the hearse to the Wonjeon site. If an urn holds the loved one’s remains, a single individual can be designated to carry it in the procession.
Fourth: The family: The immediate family and those being transported with them follow behind the loved one’s casket and close the procession order of departure.
Departure of all others in attendance: After the Seonghwa procession has departed the immediate site of the Seonghwa Ceremony, (the room) the Officiator can reiterate the invitation for all to attend the Wonjeon Ceremony. At this time those in attendance can then begin to make their way to the Wonjeon site as per the earlier announcements.
Any distribution of maps, driving directions for joining the vehicle procession, “Funeral” signs and a reiteration of the Wonjeon Ceremony starting time should be done at this point. Individuals directing traffic from the Seonghwa site should be identified to those in attendance before they depart the building if possible.
The Wonjeon Ceremony completes and concludes the ascension ceremonies of Seonghwa held for a person beginning their next phase of life in the spirit world. It is a continuation and culmination of the cherishing, encouraging and celebratory process begun with the Ipjeon, Ghihwan and Seonghwa ceremonies. An embracing spirit of gratitude, love and support for the ascending loved one
and family best serves to resonate with the Holy Spirit at this moment of farewell.
The interment of the ascending person’s precious body is attended with a recognition of that body’s completing it’s mission in physical life. It is a landmark moment, closing the earthly phase of that loved one’s journey in a definitive way. It is a solemn yet victorious occasion.
Pre-service preparations: Flowers for an offering by guests should be on hand in a basket or baskets for later distribution. A pail or bucket containing soil and a small shovel should be prepared for a soil offering. Volunteers for both the flower offering distribution and soil offering can be identified and ready at the service to assist those in attendance or the basket and pail can be available on the line for attendees to use in a self-service way.
Flower arrangement from the Seonghwa site should also be arranged on stands before the service commences. (If the day is windy, volunteers can be asked to position themselves next to each flower stand to steady it during the program.)
Preparatory activities such as seating the family and sound system set-up should be quickly completed so that no distracting activity is occurring during the service. With the setting details quietly arranged, the service can then be called to order and begun.
At the site: Upon arrival at the cemetery, the procession continues in the same order as it left the Seonghwa: The person blessing the path with Holy Salt leads the procession, followed by the person bearing the departed’s framed portrait. The pallbearers are last in order, carrying the casket from the hearse to the burial site. Family and friends attending the interment may either follow after the casket or gather before hand at the graveside.
At least two ushers from the Seonghwa should be in attendance at graveside to assist in seating the family and friends.
Once the pallbearers have positioned the casket, it can be covered with the Family Federation Flag for the duration of the service. According to Headquarters, the flag should be buried with the casket unless the family chooses to keep it as a remembrance.
The Wonjeon ceremony may be led by the same person who conducted the Seonghwa ceremony or another person can serve as Officiator for the service.
(If used) Candle and incense are lit at this time.
All in attendance are led in singing a Holy Song.
A representative prayer is offered.
A message for the occasion or Hoondokhae reading is offered.
Remarks by persons of significance to the ascending person and/or members of the immediate family are made.
Those in attendance can be led in a Holy Song during the following:
The flag covering the casket is removed and folded.
The family is invited to lay flowers on the casket lid.
The casket is lowered or otherwise interred.
Members of the family drop flowers and soil offerings into the grave on top of the casket. Other significant individuals may also be invited to do so immediately following the family. This act is in recognition of the body’s return to the earth. On April 22, 2016, True Mother bequeathed Holy Earth to our Blessed families and recommended that the sanctified soil be mixed with the local soil for the Wonjeon ceremony.
Members of the family and friends then return to their seats.
A closing prayer is offered.
Cheers of Eog-Mansei are led by the Officiator or other selected person: (1) For the beloved Heavenly Parent! (2) For the victorious True Parents of Heaven, Earth and Humankind! (3) For the establishment of Cheon Il Guk! (4) (Optional) For (the name of ascending individual) victorious transition to eternal spiritual life!
Flower and soil offering: After the cheer, all in attendance are then invited to offer both flowers and soil offerings in an orderly fashion as directed by the ushers.
(If used) Candle and incense are extinguished at this time.
Post Wonjeon ceremony activities
The immediate family should take home with them the ascended individual’s picture and candle used during the Seonghwa and Wonjeon ceremonies. There is no special ceremony necessary when re-entering the home after any of the activities of the day.
The immediate family and all individuals participating in organizing and carrying out the ceremonies may want to dine together following the Wonjeon ceremony, or a reception may be organised at a convenient location.
After the Seonghwa Ceremony is completed:
Home Altar: The incense, candles and picture used during the Seonghwa are set up on an altar at home. The immediate family can then offer prayer on behalf of the ascended person for at least the first 40 days.
Sam Oje: The immediate family (and any friends that wish to do so) visit the Wonjeon to pray on the third day after the Wonjeon ceremony. The day of the Wonjeon ceremony is counted as day one.
The ascended person’s spouse may lead the prayer ceremony or ask someone else to do so. A food offering may also be prepared in advance and placed on the gravesite. The Family should also return to pray at the Wonjeon site on the 40th day following the Wonjeon ceremony.
The annual return to the Wonjeon: According to Korean tradition, the spirit of the ascended person returns to the Wonjeon on the anniversary of his or her physical passing and, at times, on their birthday.
The immediate family (and friends if they wish to do so) may return to the Wonjeon on those days to offer prayer, song, food, and share testimonies.
If circumstances prevent visitations to the Wonjeon site, then perform similar ceremonies at a home altar.
Disposition of the donations received at the ceremonies.
All donated funds should be turned over to the family for use at their discretion. If desired, these funds may be used by the family toward expenses incurred from the various ceremonies.
An offering in reimbursement to the church or centre for any public expenses incurred in connection with the Seonghwa is also appropriate, if applicable.
The Seonghwa ceremonies having been completed, it is both encouraged and recommended that a post-ceremony gathering or meal be held to further celebrate the ascended loved one’s life and offer added comfort to family and friends who are sharing this time of transition.
Please be mindful, however, that, as was mentioned previously, a gathering after the ceremonies can be of any size or scope the family wishes. There is no requirement for a large public reception, nor should the family be made to feel in any way that such an event is required or expected.
It bears mentioning that the ascended person’s family should not inadvertantly be burdened with carrying out their own reception.
Volunteers to help with this aspect of the day’s events are advised to proactively connect with the person coordinating the ceremonies on the family’s behalf. Please be aware of the family’s wishes. The plans for a reception should conform to those desires, if they are known, or be reported to
the family’s appointed coordinator for feedback and approval. It’s best to ask. Needless to say, the reception is not the occasion for surprises.
Families or a support group of persons not otherwise engaged in Seonghwa activities are better suited to take responsibility for this particular task, which requires a fair amount of volunteer effort to accomplish.
The logistics of an sizable reception can be fairly involved: securing a venue or home site for the event, estimating attendance and preparing refreshments or a meal (catered or pot luck, for example) for the participants and guests, confirming an “officiator” for any planned program, setting up a tv, monitor or projection screen for a slide show, securing music, confirming a staff of volunteers to serve food or deal with guests’ coats or effects, even tasking someone to help with parking as well as clean up, if need be. It’s preferred that those responsible be able to give the project their full attention, whether it be large or intimate gathering.
It is usually the case that many persons in the community or congregation have had experience in setting up calm, comfortable family gatherings and can combine their efforts to prepare a warm and gentle, supportive conclusion to the many landmark events that have marked the community’s day.