The Unification Church of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon announced yesterday the mass engagement in New York of 843 couples from 127 countries -- many of them strangers until they exchanged engagement vows.
A church spokesman said the couples would marry in New York in a group ceremony of 10,000 couples at an undetermined date.
Moon did not attend the news conference where the engagements were announced. But a spokesman said that Moon had presided over the engagements, which took place Wednesday and Thursday at all-day sessions in the ballroom of the church's international headquarters here.
The ceremonies were the latest in a series of international engagements that will culminate in the mass marriage. Thursday's session took place on God's Day, one of the two holiest days in the year for Unification Church members.
Mose Durst, president of the Unification Church of America, said the couples had entered their engagements "with a serious dedication to build God-centered families . . . . As drugs, violence and promiscuity threaten to destroy our culture, these men and women seek to embrace the classical values of morality, civic virtue and social justice."
The engagement ceremony involved individuals who either asked to become engaged to a specific person or asked Moon to pick someone suited for them, a spokesman said.
Joseph Taylor and Debby Thompson said they had asked Moon to find them mates. Taylor, 32, of Trenton, N.J., and Thompson 28, of Purcell, Okla, had never set eyes on each other until Moon suggested their engagement. At the ceremony, each held a wine glass for the other to sip from while they pledged their lives to each other.
At a news conference on Friday, they answered reporters' questions, she glancing shyly at her husband-to-be, he confidently putting his arm on her shoulder. They both said they completely trusted Moon's judgment, although they conceded that he did not know either of them personally.
"We probably would not have chosen each other," Taylor said. "There are things we definitely have to work out." Thompson nodded and called the arrangement "a complementary relationship."
"Joseph is very confident and outgoing," she said softly. "And I'm much more quiet. But I feel very confident about this marriage. In the past two days, we're more sure we're right for each other."
Both said they had joined the church nearly four years ago.