On Sunday, November 23, 2014, the Community Miracles Center ordained three new CMC Ministers in a large public ceremony. After the ordination a wonderful pot-luck celebration was held and champagne was served. During the ordination the new CMC ministers all had opportunities to speak and address the assembled friends and family. What follows is a lightly edited transcription of these talks.
CMC Minister #79: Rev. Sal Dossani
Last week I was not too sure if there was a particular format I had to follow for today's talk, so I asked Tony about it. He said "No." I could say whatever I wanted, so long as I stayed within a certain time limit, otherwise he'd start signaling from the back that my time was up. He also mentioned that it would be a good idea if I thanked as many people as I could, including himself!
I do really want to thank Tony, because sometimes we all think that he should be kinder, or more polite, or something like that. (laughter) But he has to maintain this Center as a leader with integrity and he is always working for the success for this whole place, for Community Miracles Center. He does his best. Sometimes things fall by the way side, but we also have a responsibility, and we also need to do the best we can. Thank you Tony.
For the rest of you, the visitors who are here and the regular members, and those who are not members who are here to support us, "Thank you." Especially, I want to thank Dusa Althea. When I first started out, she helped me a lot in feeling at home here, and I really appreciate it. And "Thank you" to Heather, and Vincent, and Peter. Their insight, and wisdom, and kindness, and warmth – and just being totally friendly with everyone, including myself when we come here – was a great source of inspiration to me. I think many of you have come here and felt that warmth and kindness that I felt in the same way, I'm sure.
I could go on thanking everyone else, but there wouldn't be much time left if I did that. Because Tony said be sure you don't go over a certain time limit. (laughter)
I want to say a few words about my journey which led to A Course In Miracles, and to a search for a deeper meaning. I began studying the Course in 2002. A year later I came to this Community Miracles Center. Larry Bedini, who some of you know, was my first teacher here. He passed away a few years ago. He was the morning ACIM-1 teacher. Then, years later, I started studying ACIM-2 with Tony in the evening. So the tradition continued on in that way.
Larry was a unique person, I think he had a dry sense of humor, but towards the end of his life, he changed quite a bit. I had a very clear sense that he had come to almost the end of his journey – the end of the journey that we all face. His words, as kind as he spoke them then, still stay with me. It's a feeling. Sometimes we don't have much words to say, but we can feel other people's essence by the way they carry themselves, the way they smile, or just move or talk to you. I felt that way with Larry. I wanted to say this because I think maybe half of you here, or perhaps more, remember Larry. He was a great inspiration for all of us. (Rev. Larry Bedini was a cofounder of the Community Miracles Center in 1987 along with Rev. Tony Ponticello. Rev. Larry made his transition in 2010.)
One of my favorite sayings in the Course is in the beginning. There's a short prayer in the Introduction page and all it says is, "Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God" (OrEd.Tx.In.4.5) What that means to me is that the real parts of ourselves, the essence, can never be hurt. If we empathize with that real part, we don't have to worry. We live life as if it was simple and easy. All of you here are my brothers and the same as me with the same feelings that go both ways, Keep that idea in one's mind and one's heart. I think this helps us, not only with the spiritual journey, but with the outward journey that we live in this life.
For me the Course was a practical way of living through the negative emotions we have: anger, non-forgiveness, sometimes there's hatred, or sometimes there's resentment. Sometimes there is a feeling that we're entitled, and other people are not doing their obligation to meet our sense of entitlement. Things like these would come up when I read the Course. Sometimes I'll spend hours on just one paragraph, because I have to make sense of it. And not only that, what I would do is I would try and sense if I was aligned with what the Course was saying. Many times if we only read the Course quickly, we just gloss over it. We get to the end of a line, and then the next line, and the next paragraph, and the next chapter, and so on, and we give ourselves a pat on the back for having finished the Course. We haven't finished the Course unless we have really gotten at least one paragraph or one sentence completely, entirely. We must look at the one paragraph and say, "Okay, I'm in alignment with it." When we are in alignment with what the Course says, then I think we have really begun our journey.
I think Tony mentioned that we will never be at the end of our journey while here. Once we feel we have come to a sense of peace, there's still work to do. There's an alchemy that has to happen. So if you think that some part of your journey has completed, you are not at the end yet. Peter was saying earlier today that you are in a better place than you were before. I feel that way. I feel I am at a place of greater peace of mind than before.
I don't believe that spirituality is the same as religion. What religion does is mostly focus on rituals, and also unfortunately focuses on making itself right and other religions wrong. If you do that, just think about it logically. Would God allow other religions to come in and be wrong? It doesn't make sense to me. Each religion is right for the community and the group that it comes to, and helps people grow according to the faith and the beliefs of that religion. Religion's focus is slightly more on the outer than the inner. For me spirituality is more on the inner than on the outer. First you work on yourself. That's what the Course means to me. That's what spirituality, in general, means to me. I don't think that the Course is the last word. It's one of them, one of the passages of life. I've also studied other faiths and other significant teachings.
I also studied Dr. David Hawkins and Sufism, and the Course. I started out with Sufism, which had a great impact on me. Then I started to study the Course which also has a very strong impact, and I finally started studying Dr. Hawkins work. He is one of our greatest teachers – in my mind. He just died a couple of years ago. And the simplicity of his teaching, people don't get drawn to it. It's a very simple thing, like let love be your guide. People don't find excitement in it, so they don't align with it. Even spirituality, we have to be careful how we approach it, the essence of it, not just the outer excitement of it. One of the things that I found Dr. Hawkins said to be really profound was, "Live life like a prayer." To me that means to be present in life with everyone as if they were your friends and loved ones. To be kind, gentle, and humble – to constantly feel as if we were in the presence of God. That is living life like a prayer. That is why I continue to study and explore spiritual teachers and processes other than ACIM, because each one has a special and deep value, and each one has a message to come away with – for me and for everyone. For me these three: Sufism, A Course in Miracles and the teachings of Dr. David Hawkins are my greatest. I'm grateful to each one.
Thank you. (applause)
CMC Minister #80: Rev. Heather Holmes
Hi. It's a pleasure to be here. Thank you. I'm so grateful for this day and for you Sal and Karen. Thank you.
Karen was in my ACIM-1 class, and we were very close. She was such an inspiration. Her father passed away when we were in class and, it was a big event. And Sal, you were my very first partner in ACIM-2 and for the last year he's here at Sunday Service at least once a month. I was just really honored to have you both here going through this ordination together with me today. Thank you so much.
I've been here almost a year now. (Rev. Heather works as the Assistant Minister of the CMC. She started in early December of 2013.) It will be a year in a couple of weeks, and my "family" has extended to no end. It's just so great to have all of you – and all your love and support. It has affected my life immeasurably.
I've always had this great love for God. Back in my twenties I started writing a book, entitled My Love Affair with the Man Upstairs, (laughter) because God is so good. I don't really think it matters what religion or faith you have. It's just this Self realization – realizing that we're God – that we're love in form. That's what God is.
It's been an incredible journey for me. I've come along this perfect path, learning, and with tremendous support from my family. When I was young, my dad would always tell me, "You're spiritual. I think you should do something spiritual." That was really supportive. Then in later years, my mom would say cool things like, "You know, I had a dream and you were preaching to people or something." It was really sweet, and she was just so supportive. (Rev. Heather's Mom and Dad were in the audience.) Whatever I would do, she was always behind me all the way. Since I've been here, I have my cousin, Steve. He has helped me so much. He's the reason that I'm able to be here, doing what I'm doing.
I always wanted to know what love was, and in the past that had always made my relationships heavy. When they weren't working out there was this feeling of not truly understanding why – just wanting to get it right. I came to realize, through practicing the Course, that Love is an openness and an honesty that isn't possessive. It's very real, although it took me a long time to get past the idea that love was a thing you had, or that you needed to get – that sort of thing. It took me a long time to get it, just feeling love, and loving each person how they are – truly wanting everyone to be how they are. How beautiful that is. It just opens me up in numerous ways.
I think Jesus is here and his message is, "Look, I'm just the same as you guys." He was able to show us the way. He was full fledged, forward into God. He wasn't riding the fence. He was, "Okay God, let's take it all the way and see how far We can go. And I'll even prove the unreality of death!" However, I think that his message was about seeing ourselves projected on our brothers. Our entire external world reflects our inner world. It took me a long time to see this, and I'm still trying. It's a life-long journey to be able to see that. Seeing our brother as ourself – because that's all we can see. That's the beauty of relationships, because we get to see ourselves in everyone else that's around us, having trouble with people, issues, and all those difficult life things, to finally understand that the source is here. (Rev. Heather gestures within.)
In order to let people be who they are, and to just let love flow, we have to really let go. Let people be, and not perceive people as having problems. I think the greatest support that we can always be for each other is to see one another without issues, because as long as we think, "Oh this person has this problem," whatever it is – then we're in a box. We all want to be free of those things. I think that's what Jesus did. He healed people because he didn't see their problems. He didn't see tax collector, leper, etc. He saw gift, glory, purity – His Father's Love in form. That's what we are. I think we can truly grow together and recognize ourselves in each other. Take responsibility for how we feel and what we do. That's why I'm here at the Community Miracles Center and I love my job. I love being here. I love this community, and Reverend Tony, thank you for everything.
Thank you. (applause)
CMC Minister #81: Rev. Karen Worth
I just want to thank everybody for coming today and supporting us. This church has changed my life. It's changed everybody's life here. I'm sure of that
I'm just so grateful to have all of you as witnesses today. The three of us come here today to say out loud to everybody, to our witnesses, that we're ready to put away our toys. We're ready to follow our hearts and do what Jesus, Spirit, God has asked us to come here to do – to be led by him and to help lead others. It's just so exciting, isn't it? We've decided that we're going to say it out loud. Yeah! I think so.
I have at least a page of "thank you's" but Joanna said (Joanna is a close friend of Karen's who came with her from North Carolina) she could condense it to eight seconds so if I just brought her up she could do that (laughter). I do want to thank everybody, Rev. Tony, all my teachers, Rev. Peter. Yea! He was my first ACIM-1 teacher. Yea! Rev. Paul, my second ACIM-1 teacher who couldn't be here but sent me beautiful flowers. It's so touching. And Rev. Marci back there, thank you so much my. She was my ACIM-2 teacher.
Last night was interesting. We all went out to dinner and we were walking to Pier 14 to look at the Bay Bridge, lights. Joanna who came with me was with us. Thank you. I'm grateful for her coming with me from North Carolina. Jon was also with us. Jon was in my ACIM-1 class. He came with us. He's from Southern California and came here to be part of this ordination. It's so great to have this support and so many friends here. Anyway – as we were going to Pier 14 to look at the Bay Bridge, Joanna asked Tony how he ended up here. He told a story about when he was a young man, and he decided he was going to come to this city because he was tired of being in the cold of upstate New York. He came with two suitcases and a backpack and with faith. He thought he was rich but he only had pocket change. (laughter)
He came here with faith. I want to again thank Tony for everything he's done for this church, and for creating the program that brought me here. I want to go back and thank him at that age, and thank him for having that faith in himself to come do this. I was going to thank Rudy and I heard a story while sitting up in his hotel. Thank you for putting us all up in your hotel. I heard a story about Rudy last night. About how he was a young man, actually a boy, and how he lived above a bakery and he heard Spirit come to him and excite him about music. (Rev. Rudy is an excellent front man in a popular Bay Area band.) He didn't decide to just push away Spirit and not listen. He chose with faith to listen to that and pursue it, which brought him here. That's what brought me here, and all of us here today. It's just so cool that if we let ourselves listen to Spirit, It guides us. It protect us.
I wanted to give you a success story about the Community Miracles Center. I came here in 2011. Ya'all had a conference, a CMC, A Course In Miracles conference in San Fran and I got to come for that. It was there that I learned about your program. So it took a few years, and a card reader, to tell me that I've been thinking about taking this class – why not just go ahead and do it! I hope I didn't just ruin my reputation by saying that. (laughter)
The confernce encouraged me to take this program and I am so glad. The conferences work. They really do. It's really a success story. They have brought so many people, I'm sure, to the ministerial program. I'm just so grateful for that. If there's somebody out there who wants to do it – it led me here and this is perfect!
And my ordination number is eighty-one. Eight is the first number in eighty-one and that's infinity. I didn't know that I was eighty-one until last night at dinner and eighty-one is infinity, eternity. There is no beginning; there is no end.
I talked about the story of a young man about to pack up two bags and come to San Francisco and I know that his story started well before that. To thank that young man I would have to go back and thank everybody he was relating to, and it turns into I'm thanking all of eternity. I'm thanking all of infinity for all of the gifts that we've been given here today, right now. Then the one of 81 is, of course, we're all one – which explains how eternity and time all is one. We're all one.
Yeah, so I'm just looking at myself out there. (laughter) enjoying what I look like. We are awesome! (applause) We're awesome!
I started to question myself in the first year that we were in class together. Why did I want to be a minister? That's kind of weird, isn't it? When we read that lesson, which somebody read today, which is we are all ministers of God. (Rev. Karen is referring to Workbook Lesson 154, "I am among the ministers of God.") I was asking the wrong question, the "Why?" question. It's not a "Why?" question. We all are Ministers of God. We end up being that – so that "Why?" question is answered the same for all of us. Then I decided to ask the "Why now?" question. "Why now?" The answer is that I wanted to live authentically. I wanted to say it out loud in front of you guys, and just start to live it in my life, becasue it is my life now. It's all of our lives, right? That's why we're all here today.
I like what Sal said and I want to say everything he said but I don't think I have time. (laughter) The same for dear Heather.
I wanted to read a prayer. I have several prayers written, but I have to stop with just one. (laughter) So this is a prayer that I wrote at the end of ACIM-1. When we finish our class Rev. Paul lets us lead a prayer so that it would be a parting gift for the class. My dear friend Jon brought it for me today, and so if we could all pray. Thank you.
"Father, I thank you for your gift of Holy Spirit, our Comforter and Guide. Thank you Holy Spirit for your patience, your gentleness, and love. It is with your guidance and loving companionship that I give my complete willingness to remember who I am in truth: that I am complete and there is nothing to fear, and that my Father holds me in the safety of His Mind. I thank you for the Holy Instants when you reveal to me the truth which only can come from a healed mind. I thank you for the miracles that are changing the way I think and teaching me that love is all there is. I thank you for the teachers you have sent to bring the lessons that I'm struggling to find willingness to remember. I thank you for all my mighty companions who light my way. Amen
Yea God! (laughter and applause) ♥
2269 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
This article appeared in the November 2014 (Vol. 28 No. 9) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.