Blessing couples with semi-automatic weapons is not something you hear about every day, but then again, the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary is not your everyday kind of church.

The Pennsylvania-based religious institution, which is an offshoot of the renowned Unification Church, conducted a ceremony on Wednesday (February 28) which saw participants blessed by a pastor while proudly displaying AR-15 assault rifles.

The lengthily-titled ceremony "Cosmic True Parents of Heaven, Earth and Humanity Cheon Il Guk Book of Life Registration Blessing" went ahead despite concerns from locals from the neighbouring town of Newfoundland. The church grounds are located just half a mile from Wallenpaupack South Elementary School.

The ceremony, organisers say, had been planned months in advance of the Miami school shooting which claimed the lives of 17 students and staff.

Footage shows how the weapons were securely brought onto the premises and then zip-tied, preventing them from being fired. Ammunition was also not allowed onto the premises.

According to church doctrine, AR-15s represent the New Testament's "rod of heaven" and symbolises followers' willingness to protect their family in the face of danger.

The Sanctuary is led by 38-year-old pastor Hyung Jin Moon, son of Unification Church founder and self-professed messiah Sun Myung Moon.

Hyung Jin Moon is a stanch supporter of Americans' rights to bear arms and recently held a "President Trump Thank You Dinner" as a fundraiser for Gun Owners of America. Moon also claimed that arming Florida's teachers would have prevented the recent school shooting there.

The church, which some claim is a cult, was established in Seoul, South Korea in 1957, comprised of teachings from the Bible and Moon's own family beliefs. Followers, informally known as 'Moonies', believe following these commandments will help humanity to reach "Cheon Il Guk" - a state of eternal peace and happiness which is both physical and spiritual.