On March 3, 2019, Rev. Tony Ponticello, addressed those attending the Community Miracles Center’s Sunday Gathering in San Francisco, California. Below is a lightly edited transcription of his talk..
Welcome everybody. Thank you once more for joining us all and thank you to anybody who might be watching the YouTube video that Rev. Kelly will prepare from this talk. We are glad that you have decided to watch our videos. Please join our YouTube channel and watch all of our videos. We have hundreds of them now!
It is the Community Miracles Center’s birthday so “Happy Birthday, CMC!” Woohoo! I want to thank the Foundation for Inner Peace who sent these beautiful flowers and had them delivered here today. Thank you: Tam Morgan, Bob Rosenthal, Judy Skutch-Whitson, and whoever else at the Foundation for Inner Peace sent us these lovely flowers. Also look at these beautiful red roses that came from Marlene Brown. Thank you very much. I love flowers. I love receiving flowers. It’s always a good occasion to send me or the CMC flowers!
It’s our 32nd birthday, but as I was saying to some people earlier, the actual date and what we are celebrating isn’t really that distinct. It’s a little bit of a blur. I was asking for guidance for quite awhile on what to talk about today. I’m going to spend quite a bit of time talking about our antecedents – what came before the Community Miracles Center.
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But first, what are we celebrating today? Thirty-two years ago the first Sunday in March was the 1st of March in 1987. It was the first Sunday in March. We as the entity, Community Miracles Center – well actually as the California Miracles Center as we were known at that time – we had our first Sunday Gathering at our office space on 612 Clayton Street. That office was on the corner of Haight Street and Clayton Street in San Francisco. It was in the Haight-Ashbury district. I don’t remember how many people were there. Not very many. Rev. Larry and I were there and, maybe two or three other people. I don’t really remember. I know none of you were there. That much I know. (laughter)
(Speaking to Rev. Tedosio Samora) I don’t think you were there that first Sunday. You didn’t join that first Sunday. You came to 612 Clayton Street. You are, maybe, the only other one coming regularly now who ever came to 612 Clayton. That’s right. Rev. Tedosio did come to 612 Clayton.
The reason that I say it is a little fuzzy is because that March 1st, 1987 Sunday wasn’t our first Sunday Gathering. We had been actually gathering on Sunday in that same office space since July of the previous year. We had been gathering under the auspices of a different organization. We were then the California Miracles Foundation.
Even celebrating July 6, 1986 when we had the first Sunday Gathering in July is not really our birthday either, as we had already been in that space about a year and a half holding A Course in Miracles meetings at various other times. We just hadn’t had a Sunday morning meeting.
People were going to Sunday Services in other churches. The idea of doing a Sunday Gathering hadn’t occurred to us. However I spearheaded that because I got tired of going to a Religious Science church that I was going to and hearing a “nice” message, but it was a Religious Science message, not an A Course in Miracles message. I just got it one day. Though this Religious Science meeting was great, this wasn’t my spiritual path and I wanted to go somewhere I could hear A Course in Miracles on Sunday morning. If that was just by myself, or Larry and I, and just a couple other people, or even if it was just Larry and I, that would be fine, but at least we’d do that so that’s why we started doing the Sunday Gathering in 1986. Many times it was just Larry and I, and that was fine. That’s what we were doing, but we had already been meeting in that same office space at 612 Clayton Street since May of 1985.
I could celebrate May of 1985, but that’s not really when we started either, because we had moved there from another location on Masonic Street near Haight Street which had been with another organization that was called the San Francisco Miracles Foundation. I had been going to the San Francisco Miracles Foundation for about three years and I had for about two years been leading their Sunday evening group. Basically it was a Sunday evening A Course in Miracles discussion group. We got together, we read the Text, and we shared. I loved going to that group.
The San Francisco Miracles Foundation was started by a woman named Joanne Hahn. I want to today, on the occasion of our birthday, recognize Joanne Hahn. She has made her transition. She’s not with us in body any more. But she was my very first A Course in Miracles teacher. When I first started going to A Course in Miracles groups, she was the facilitator of those groups. She was a practicing psychologist who had turned her Haight/Ashbury apartment into a Miracles center. She had groups there; she put out a newsletter. We had social events. I started going there, I believe, in 1981. I believe the first meeting I went to was in 1981, and I went there for about two years before I had the opportunity to lead a group there.
So I’ve been doing all of this work now for 38 years or so. I’ve been leading groups in one form or other for 36 years. This is our 32nd birthday but as I said, it’s all a bit of a blur for me. We used to not celebrate this day at all, because we just didn’t really think of it as our birthday.
I remember when we hit our tenth anniversary in March 1997, and somehow the idea came that this was our birthday and we should celebrate it. So the first time we celebrated our birthday was our tenth. I remember that. Up until that time, we never celebrated a Community Miracles Center birthday.
After we had been meeting space at 612 Clayton Street as Community Miracles Center for about six months – and Rev. Ted came to the 612 Clayton – there was a problem with the building. There was a zoning issue. We had to move, and we then found our place at 2269 Market Street which would be our home for 29 plus years
When I think about the antecedents and the history, I want to talk a little bit about why this day is significant for me. It is because of all of our history. It’s significant because of all that we’ve accomplished at Community Miracles Center. We’ve accomplished great things. We’ve had large Conferences, we’ve sent out our publication Miracles Monthly for hundreds of issues. We have had Miracles Experiences. We’ve had Sunday Services. We’ve had classes. We’ve ordained 115 ministers. There are all these amazing things we do, but we didn’t start from nothing. We evolved out of something else. I just wanted to give a little honor to that something else that we evolved out of. That’s why I had Rev. Brad read that passage, especially for this line. It says, “Real birth is not a beginning; it is a continuing. Everything that can continue has been born .…” (OrEd.Tx.5.47)
We are celebrating something, but it is a continuing. I think about that. Even my start with A Course in Miracles wasn’t the beginning of my spiritual quest. I had been a spiritual student for ten years before that, and I studied all kinds of things. I got really into the Carlos Castaneda material. I was really into the Seth material for awhile. I did some classic Hindu studies for quite awhile too. I was very into the Tao Te Ching, which I’ve talked about here, for a long time too. It’s all just a continuing.
Actually when I look back I can see my life has always been this continuing. It has been, when you think even of the history of our species, this evolution that we have been undergoing, this evolution in consciousness, this evolution of civility, and this decline in violence that I have talked about a lot which is truly substantial. You can see we have continued to evolve. There is this continuing thing. I have often talked about this, even years ago. It’s this certain energetic, this continual healing energy that is going on, and it’s going on because of us, and with us, but it’s something independent of us as well.
My past – I have felt and maybe I could commission all of you with the same task – has just been to surf that evolutionary healing wave. It is like a wave of energy, and it’s just your job to get on top of it and then balance – and it will carry you. I feel like that is what Community Miracles Center has always been doing. We are just trying to surf this A Course in Miracles healing wave, and let it carry us to the work it would have for us do – and it has done that. With this conceptualization, I’m not so much steering life as keeping a balance, floating on top of it.
I learned a lot with the early organizations that I was involved with before Rev. Larry and I formed what became Community Miracles Center. It probably could not have happened any other way. Each of those earlier organizations dissolved in kind of a mess. There were angry Boards with people resigning and there was turmoil. With each of those experiences you learn something, so hopefully with the next organization you form, you will do it a little better.
I didn’t form the San Francisco Miracles Foundation but I was on the Board. Then in 1985, the Executive Director, my first miracles teacher Joanne Hahn, decided she wanted to change the focus of that Foundation. Of course many people in the organization wanted it to stay focused on A Course in Miracles, but she wanted to focus on the International Forgiveness Week which was this other thing. So we had a huff, and some of us left. That is why we formed the California Miracles Foundation.
I was looking through some old stuff today and I found an old newsletter. It was our magazine that we used to call Miracles for the San Francisco Miracles Foundation, and this one is dated January / February, 1985. I was looking at it today and really kind of loving it. Just thinking about all the things we said and did. I was reading a few of the articles and I found that I could still resonate with all these things. I could still support everything that was said here, everything that I said, and feel real happy for it. I feel we have continued to do, and I have continued to do, what I was guided to do even back then. There’s consistency.
I was looking at this magazine. I wrote up something in this little box and I was trying to be provocative, because I was hoping to spark a little conversation. I took this quote from A Course in Miracles, “It is certain that those who select certain ones as partners in any aspect of living and use them for any purpose which they would not share with others, are trying to live with guilt rather than die of it.” (OrEd.Tx.16.33) So then I said “What does this mean about marriage? Is monogamy an error? How do you apply this to your life? Send us your answers.”
I was trying to provoke a little of that conversation that I had had for thirty some years that A Course in Miracles says you can’t select certain ones as partners and use them for a reason you aren’t willing to use someone else for. What about sex? What does that mean? Is that not really challenging about the certain ways that we usually have relationships? I was talking about that in January of 1985. I am still talking about that and I don’t know if I have the answer to that but I think it is a really good conversation to have. I’d be happy to talk about that.
However that organization dissolved. Two of the active members of it and I formed the California Miracles Foundation. We rented the office space at Haight Street and Clayton Street. Rev. Larry was not on that Board of Directors. He was not directly involved in that organization, but we were partners at the time and he would come to a lot of meetings. He helped us a lot with the forming and the running of that organization. That organization existed for two years.
I have the bound versions of the magazines that we produced for that organization. I was just looking at this newsletter and thinking about it. In the very first page, which was a statement from the Board of Directors, it said, “What do we want to come of this?” I was really happy to see that I was still focused on the same things I am now. It says “Then there is the Course’s injunction on page 6 of the Text that we ‘must join the great crusade to correct error.’” So I was focused on that message to join the great crusade, and this was in 1985. This was fourteen years before I knew that the “Great Crusade” was a named movement that had a slogan of “listen, learn, and do,” because I didn’t have the earlier edits. But I had focused on that passage, and I was thinking of the Great Crusade. That had rung something true in my mind I wanted to focus on way back in May of 1985. It was one of the very first things that this new organization, the California Miracles Foundation would talk about.
Then I wrote a little article in here, the first one that has just my name on it and not the whole Board, it’s called “Healing with the Course.” That was one of my first messages. I wanted to talk about healing. I am still doing that with the Healing Team.
This is 1985. I wrote, “Five years ago a loving friend gave me a copy of a book of spiritual teachings that she said was the most profound and highest teachings she had come across. I had been a sincere spiritual student for many years and was eager to see this book that my friend spoke of so enthusiastically. That is how I was introduced to A Course in Miracles. I started reading the Text, Chapter 1, the Principles of Miracles. I was intrigued and excited. It was new and interesting. Then I came to miracle principle number 24, ‘Miracles enable you to heal the sick and raise the dead because you made sickness and death yourself and therefore can abolish both.’ I had heard this before especially in the Seth material which I had studied extensively, but never before was the message so real and clear to me.”
I still talk about that now. I was reading A Course in Miracles and the first day I was exposed to it I came across miracles principle number 24, “Miracles enable man to heal the sick and raise the dead because he made sickness and death himself and can abolish both.” (OrEd.Tx.1.27) I thought that was such an audacious claim this book was making. It was going to enable us to heal the sick and raise the dead.
I existed with that organization for two years. I was the President of the Board of Directors like I am the President of this Board of Directors. Then we had all this controversy. We had this controversy because of several reasons. I want to share some of them with you.
I got ordained through that organization and so did one of those other Board members. But he got ordained and he didn’t identify with it. He wanted the umbrella of being ordained so he could do counseling in case it ever came up. But I got ordained and I wanted to put the Reverend title right up on my name. I started signing everything Rev. Tony Ponticello and they didn’t like that. They thought that was not right. They thought we weren’t going to make a big issue about being a minister, but I was embracing it and claiming it.
Then I started Sunday Gatherings, Sunday Services. They weren’t sure how they felt about that. Not that many people were coming so they didn’t care. They never came. (laughter)
Reverend Larry and I were there and a few other people started coming. Then we got to the brand new year, which was 1987, and I decided that I wanted to start charging for classes rather than doing them as drop-ins. I wanted a more committed group of people. I got it. The way you get a more committed group is you charge for the class. If students pay for it, they will come. The Board members didn’t like that either. So now I had three strikes against me.
Then I wrote an article about sex, and that was the final straw. They forbid me from publishing the sex article in our newsletter. We had to have an emergency Board meeting. We fought about it, and the only thing we could do was dissolve the organization since we couldn’t come to an agreement.
We dissolved the organization. However, I had been President of that organization when we signed the lease with Skyline Realty. Since we were a new organization, Skyline Realty did not let me sign the lease in the name of the organization. I signed it under my own personal name, so what the two Board members didn’t realize was that by dissolving the organization, they basically had turned it over to me. I had the lease on our meeting space. The lease was in my name. So they basically had to leave. They had to leave and I had the miracles center. I just had to form a new corporation, and I did that with Rev. Larry and that’s what we are now – that new corporation is the current Community Miracles Center.
That’s why it’s all kind of fuzzy for me. For the people who kept coming, they didn’t really see a difference. Some of the teachers were changing but the Sunday Gathering continued on. The Sunday evening meeting continued on. The publication continued on. The name changed from California Miracles Foundation to California Miracles Center. No one thought that was significant and we just continued on, and on, and on.
That’s how it is, because life is that continuing. I wanted to share this story to simply get it out there – what the whole background is – and also so you look at your own lives a bit. Yeah, you all picked up A Course in Miracles at one time, but I’m sure there were other things that you studied, lessons learned, that were also very valuable and important so that you could pick up A Course in Miracles and be open to it.
That is what I was thinking about when I was thinking about this being our birthday. As soon as we were the Community Miracles Center, we started publishing our magazine and this is the first bound volume of that publication. In the fourth issue, I got to write my article about sex. (laughter) I had other things to write about first. It wasn’t that big of an issue for me, but I know the second article was actually better than the one they blocked. I had more time to think about it. The title is: To Bed or Not to Bed - Is That the Question? Or Sex and the Single Miracles Student.
So here we are in celebration of the CMC’s 32nd birthday. I think it is significant. There was something significant about the energy of me and Rev. Larry coming together to form this new organization that made it carry through. We’ve had tumult, and problems, and issues, and things with the Board. I can talk about all of those, but something was firm enough and solid enough. We had a solid enough surfboard to be able to surf that wave without wiping out or that board breaking on us. That’s what we are still doing.We are still surfing that wave.
Thank you so much for being here today. Thank you so much for surfing this wave with me for 32 years and here’s to an infinite amount of surfing in the future. Amen! (applause) ♥
Rev. Tony Ponticello is CMC's 20th minister. He currently (03.22.22) serves as the CMC's Executive Minister and is President of CMC's Board of Directors. He was ordained by the CMC on Oct. 17, 1997.
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the June 2019 (Vol. 33 No. 4) 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.