On Sunday, March 30, 2008, Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed the congregation at Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. He had just returned from a week long trip to Atlanta, GA. While there he visited the Martin Luther King National Monument and Museum. What follows is a lightly edited transcription of that lecture.
On March 1st of this year the Community Miracles Center sailed past its 21st birthday. Twenty one years ago, when Rev. Larry and I opened the doors of the CMC, we didn’t know what was going to happen. It was an experiment. How would it evolve? Could we make enough money to keep the doors open? We opened in a small office space in the Haight/Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. We hadn’t moved to this address yet.
The Community Miracles Center experiment has always been interesting. I will say that the experiment is a success. However, it doesn’t look like what we thought it would. We’ve had to evolve. We continue to evolve.
Over the past couple of years I’ve done a study. I’m interested in religion and the evolution of religion, especially the evolution of Christianity. What I’ve realized is religions have to continually evolve. They have to continually change to meet the times. If a spiritual movement, or a religion, doesn’t evolve – if they do not change their modalities – they don’t survive.
The prominent modality, now in this new age of spirituality, is the internet. The internet has become a huge thing. It’s a huge modality for the way spiritual ideas are being transmitted and in how people find things to resonate with. It’s a very different environment than the environment on March 1st, 1987 when Rev. Larry and I first started the Community Miracles Center.
A couple of months ago we launched a new web platform with a different technology and it enables us to do different things. We have new articles on the web site. One of the things that we have access to, through our administration function, is we can know how often these articles have been read. It’s very interesting to me. We’ve published printed articles for many years. We put articles in Miracles Monthly. They go out there – and then they are not “out there” anymore. They have their impact and then that impact lessens and the article fades away. However, now with the internet these articles are still there and people can keep going back to look at them. It’s different. It’s a different era.
I’m happy to announce that the article that Rev. Larry and I wrote together about his cancer healing experience which is named, “The Healing Power Of The Miracles Community” has now been read 1011 times. To me, that’s amazing. That’s half of the old mailing list for Miracles Monthly when we were sending it out to everybody – 1011 times. The next most read article is also Rev. Larry’s, “The Green Light.” That article has now been read 728 times. I come up third (laughter) with my article, “Nature Isn’t Natural” – 701 times as of this morning. Those numbers seem very high to me. It’s interesting for me to think that those articles are still there. They look great. They all have photographs and pictures associated with them. New people are discovering them, reading them. Since we went to this new web technology we’re getting more than twice as many visits to our web site than we had before with the old web site.
Things continue to evolve and change to meet the growing and changing world. If you read your email from us last week you know that we are also growing and changing what we’re doing here in San Francisco for Sunday Service. We announced a new Sunday Service format in an email on Wednesday. It’s not a drastic difference from the old format. The difference is we’re going to be much more active and aggressive in getting our other ministers to speak. Before, Rev. Larry and I were open to our ministers speaking. We always told them, “If you are ever interested in speaking on Sunday, come and see us and we’ll work that out.” There has been a slight – trickle (laughter) of an occasional minister speaking. Reverends, Peter, Vincent, and Dusa Althea will speak occasionally. It hasn’t been a flood of people.
This week Rev. Larry and I put our heads together. Possibly it was turning 21 – time for a change. We realized that we need to be a little more proactive in getting our ministers to speak. Maybe we needed to call them up and make them commit. That would be an experiment too. We didn’t know how that was going to go. We’re happy to announce that the response has been terrific. Our reverends: Steve, Joan, Marci, David, Peter, Mo, Linda, Tedosio, Vincent, and Dusa Althea have all signed up to speak over the next few months. We’re totally booked up through August now. It’s very exciting for us.
I think it is time for our community to rise up. It’s time for us to realize the fruits of our labors. It’s time to harvest these fruits. We’ve been here 21 years. We are all adults now. There’s a new generation of ministers that can claim their spiritual adulthood. It will be an integration. We’re not kicking out the old generation. (laughter) We’re integrating the new generation and the old generation. I do believe that this is a courageous move. Is the minister community strong enough and ready to take this more active role? Certainly, Rev. Larry and I believe that it is. The response of our ministers has shown us that indeed they are. I think it’s a great start.
A Course In Miracles says, “... conviction really comes through accomplishment.” (Tx.Or.Ed.1.32) As we accomplish this increased participation of our community I think we will have greater conviction in what we have accomplished here at Community Miracles Center over these 21 years. What a great platform it is for all of us in this community to use.
This past week Rev. Dusa Althea and I visited Atlanta, Georgia. We had never been to Atlanta before. That was why we went, because we had never been there. I like to go to places I have never been. Atlanta is a great place to visit and there are many things to see there. I’m not going to talk about all that we did. You can ask me about it later. However, one of the things that is in Atlanta is the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Monument and Museum. It was very, very inspiring. The church that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a co-pastor at, Ebenezer Baptist Church, with his father, Martin Luther King Sr., is in Atlanta and the national monument and museum is right across the street from the old church where the Reverends King used to preach. There a beautiful new church that is actually right next to the National Monument and Museum that the congregation has now moved to. It almost looks like an extension of the Museum when you look at it.
It was very moving to go to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Monument and Museum. I found myself in tears several times and unexpectedly so. I expected the visit to be wonderful and educational but I didn’t expect it to be as moving of an experience as it was for me.
Of course there are many quotations around by Martin Luther King, Jr. There is a constant reminder of things that he said and stood for. The title of my talk for today is based on a quotation from Martin Luther King, Jr. Here’s the longer quote.
“Courage faces fear and thereby masters it. Cowardice represses fear and is thereby mastered by it. Courageous men never lose the zest for living even though their life situation is zestless; cowardly men overwhelmed by the uncertainties of life, lose the will to live. We must constantly build dykes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. said that. This quote is very moving for me. Here’s the idea that we must constantly work at building barricades, walls, dykes – something to hold back the fear that is seemingly out there in the world but, we A Course In Miracles students know, is actually in our own minds. We project it out there in the world. We need to continually work on not succumbing to the fear. That was the message for me. It’s constant. It’s constant work to keep building these dykes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.
What I also realized when I read that quotation was that this is, indeed, what the Community Miracles Center is. The CMC is that constantly being built, and constantly being reinforced, dyke that helps us all hold back the flood of fear that the world appears to be continually pouring upon us. It’s actually the fear that is within our own minds.
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s whole fight in the 50s and the 60s, that was going on in the African American community, reminded me a lot of what we need to accomplish now, being A Course In Miracles students in this new millennium.
Here’s a little history. You all know that we had slavery in this country. The slave trade started in the 1500s right when the colonies were being settled. It went on into the early and even middle 1800s. Millions of African Americans came here as slaves. It is estimated between 9.4 and 12 millions African American men and women came here as slaves.
President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamations in 1862 and in 1863 and that started the freeing of the slaves. These were Presidential executive orders. They weren’t laws. There were four million slaves, at that time, in the South. These proclamations essentially freed the slaves in the southern states. Of course, the Civil War happened and it was eventually the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that was ratified in 1865 that totally freed all the slaves in all the states.
That was 1865 and Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t start his civil rights work until the 1950s. Almost 100 years had passed. You would think that the situation would have evolved in 100 years. It had evolved – poorly. (laughter). The situation in the South was not good. What the museum in Atlanta showed was that the situation in the North wasn’t great either, but the situation in the South had more obvious problems. Blacks had to ride in the back of busses. One of the things I learned about from the museum was that it wasn’t just that if you were an African American you had to ride in the back of the bus. You had to come into the front of the bus, buy your ticket, then exit the bus and then go around to the back entrance. You weren’t even allowed to walk down the aisle past the white folk. That was just shocking to me.
African Americans, blacks, had to sit in the back of the few theaters that they were allowed to go in. They had to enter through separate side or back doors and could not come in through the front doors with the whites. There were many theaters they were not allowed to go in at all, but in theaters they were allowed in they had to sit in the back in the seats that were the furthest away, the worst seats, regardless of what they could pay. They couldn’t enter many public buildings and many public facilities. They couldn’t sit at the same lunch counters that white people could sit at. Mostly, they couldn’t eat at the same restaurants that white people could eat at. They couldn’t use the same bathrooms that white people could use. They couldn’t even drink form the same water fountains that white people used. There was a “Colored Fountain” and a “White Fountain.” These were the conditions that Martin Luther King, Jr. was brought up in during the early 1900s, the early 20th century.
The late 1950s, the early and mid 1960s, were when he worked so hard to rectify these problems. His movement did some amazing things. They started the modern civil rights movement. This modern civil rights movement was based on a broad, cultural, and community revolution. Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others, worked hard within their own communities to rally these communities, through churches and other civic groups, to demand, in a non-violent way, equal treatment and equal rights.
How does this all relate to A Course In Miracles? It’s actually very interesting to me. It’s interesting because I knew the word “slave” and “slavery” appeared in ACIM, but I wasn’t aware how often. The word “slave”, “enslave” or “slavery” appears in ACIM 46 times. ACIM frequently talks about slavery and our enslavement. We are enslaved to this world. We are enslaved to our thinking. We are enslaved to what we believe to be the natural order of things. We are enslaved to nature. Nature actually is the oppressor – the “Massa” – enslaving us to it’s cruel servitude.
There are so many quotations about slavery that I could have used, but I just picked a few. Here’s one. “I follow in the way appointed me. – I have a special place to fill – a role for me alone. Salvation waits until I take this part as what I choose to do. Until I make this choice, I am the slave of time and human destiny.” (Wk.Or.Ed.317)
Until we really fulfill our function, the function that the Holy Spirit gives to us, we are literally enslaved to the oppressive, deadly, so called “laws” of this world: to time, to destiny, to physical reality, to the so called laws of nature. This is what I wrote about in the article “Nature Isn’t Natural.” There’s really nothing natural about nature. It’s something we have set up. It actually not a good deal for us. (laughter) It is not a good deal. We need to rise up, in a broad based, cultural, community revolution. We need to cast off these shackles of slavery.
In another place the Course tells us, “I told you that you are now restored to your former role in the plan of Atonement, but you must still choose freely to devote yourselves to the greater restoration. As long as a single slave remains to walk the earth, your release is not complete. Complete restoration of the Sonship is the only true goal of the miracle-minded.” (Tx.Or.Ed.1.106)
Not only are we to be concerned about our own enslavement, our own slavery – we have to be concerned about the enslavement of all our brothers and sisters. We’re not free while anyone else is still enslaved. This was a big part of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message too. Just because some blacks, some African Americans, had a greater level of success and freedom, for all those who weren’t, everybody had to rally – including all the Caucasians. The white people weren’t totally free as long as this black segment of society was still still suffering under all of these oppressive ideas.
Here’s another “slave” quotation from A Course In Miracles, “Now hear God speak to you through Him Who is His Voice and yours as well, reminding you that it is not your will to hate and be a prisoner to fear, a slave to death, a little creature with a little life.” (Tx.Or.Ed.30.35) That is what ACIM is trying to teach us. It is trying to inspire us. It is rallying us to not be a slave to this human destiny.
This is why I am very proud of our work here at Community Miracles Center because we confront death enslavement, all the time. We have, all of us, to help each other confront this slavery to physical reality – and to confront the fear that inevitably comes up, both the fear we feel within and the fear we project without. This fear seems to push us back into our slavery ideas and our slavery mode. We are oppressed when we buy into this physical reality and it is time for us to overturn that oppression. Here is another great quotation from Martin Luther King, Jr. that I found very inspiring.
“Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what is happening to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained.”
We could easily substitute “A Course In Miracles students” in that quotation for “the American Negro.” We have been oppressed, but we are not going to remain oppressed forever because the yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself. Something is happening to A Course In Miracles students. Something is happening to metaphysical, spiritual people. Something within us is reminding us that we have freedom as a birthright, our divine birthright. We do not need to be oppressed by this physical reality. Now something without, the powerful Course community, is reminding us that we actually can make strides. We actually can gain this freedom. I see that with our community all the time. It’s very helpful for me and it fills me with a lot of pride. I know it does for Rev. Larry as well. All of us should feel very proud of these things we accomplish as a community.
Part of Rev. Dusa Althea’s and my visit to Atlanta, GA, was about connecting to our extended community because three of our Supporting Members live in the Atlanta area. We managed to connect with these three Community Miracles Center Supporting Members. We met and had dinner with Paul Beaven, who is officially the member, and his wife Janis. On another night we also had dinner with Neil Raffen, James Wordeman and James’ wife Catherine. Of the Wordeman’s, James is officially the member. However, Catherine Wordeman told me she reads all the emails from the On-Line Discussion group. She identified herself as a “lurker.” She will probably never participate but she reads them all. (laughter) And she had some comments about those posts. Rev. Dusa Althea and I had a great experience with these people. For one, they really did seem like family. We fit right it; they fit right in. I’m sure if they were here at a Sunday service everybody would connect with them and like them. They had our energy, whatever the hell that is. They had it. They were open loving people, very real.
They also felt very connected to us. This is something that they communicated to us. Some of these people have been members for many, many years. Neil is a little newer, but both Paul and James have both been members for many years. They read every issue of Miracles Monthly and they know everything that we’re doing and feel a part of this community. It was great, and it should feel great for all of you to realize the strength of this community and to tap into that strength. That strength of people holding this new perception of freedom that we all hold is indeed a barrier, a dyke, that we can use. It’s a dyke of courage that will hold back that flood of fear. That flood of fear is there. As we demand our freedom against this oppression of physical reality the fear manifests.
I believe that as we sail past this 21st birthday and really embrace a new level of community adulthood about who we are and what we are doing, we need to remember this. We need to remember how strong this community is. I think having our ministers come up here and speak will give us a much stronger feeling of that and I feel good about this growth.
The civil rights movement that was led by Martin Luther King, Jr. embraced Ghandi’s notion of non-violence. It was inspired by non-violence. However, that doesn’t mean that it was a non-violent movement, because they were frequently met with very severe and quite violent resistance. The fear from seemingly without met them violently. We can count on every vestige of internalized fear that we have within us encountering us, rather violently, as we look out at the world and demand our own freedom. We can’t expect that this is going to be an easy thing. Demanding rights and demanding freedom is never an easy thing.
A great quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. is, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” We can’t expect the world to suddenly come along and say, “Okay, you’re cool. You’re an eternal being and now you will see that manifested. Isn’t it great that you know that now?” (laughter) It’s not going to happen that way. We’re going to have to stand up for what we now know within to be the truth. We’re going to have to brace ourselves for the flood of fear that is going to come at us, but this community that we have, is the dyke that we can use to brace ourselves against that flood of fear.
I am demanding my freedom from the oppressor of physical reality and nature. I am also, because of the role that Rev. Larry and I are in, going to assume the Moses position. Remember what Moses said to the Pharaoh of Egypt about the enslaved people of Israel, “Let my people go!”
“Physical reality, nature – let my people go! Let the people who are embracing this new idea, let them go. Free them from the shackles of this imprisonment, this slavery.” It’s time for us to be free. I am not going to fear the flood of fear because I have the dyke of courage that is this wonderful community that I feel very blessed to be a member of.
That’s it for today. Thank you very much. (applause)
**Quotations from Martin Luther King, Jr. from the book *The Words Of Martin Luther King, Jr.* selected and introduced by Coretta Scott King. ♥
c/o Community Miracles Center
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San Francisco, CA 94114
This article appeared in the April 2008 (Vol. 22 No.2) 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.