On March 15, 2020, Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed those attending the Community Miracles Center's Sunday Gathering in San Francisco, California. "Social Distancing" had been suggested for everyone in San Francisco due to the coronavirus situation. This was the last Sunday Gathering held in person prior to the stricter "Shelter-in-Place" order implemented 2 days later. Below is a lightly edited transcription of his talk.
Hello, everybody! Hello to everybody here in San Francisco! So nice to see you! I was wondering if anybody would show up here! It's good to see you all. Hello to everyone who might be joining us on the livestream and all those who are joining us on ACIM Gather.
I especially want to give a thank you to those who came in person today. I understand we always are risking our comfort zone coming to the Community Miracles Center, because it's comfortable to stay home and do other things. There is a thought though that we are actually risking our lives by being here today. That thought is circulating around in the world, and so I am grateful for you being here. I appreciate all of you hearing the guidance that you heard, and then deciding to come here today. I really appreciate that.
What to do? We are in this situation with the pandemic. What do we do about that? We are getting information from all over. We hear all types of things on the news and from friends. We are A Course in Miracles students so what do we do? That's a really good question. It's a question that I want to address a little bit here today.
A Course in Miracles tells us "I am in danger nowhere in the world." (OrEd.WkBk.244) That's a solid Workbook lesson. Workbook Lesson 244 is clear and important. That's a fairly easy thing to apply to your life when things are going well, but when there are challenges in the world like a coronavirus pandemic, it gets a lot harder to feel like that and to really think about what that means.
It's a challenge, so I want to acknowledge the challenge those here in San Francisco, and all of us as A Course in Miracles students, are facing right now. How do we take ideas like "I am in danger nowhere in the world." (OrEd.WkBk.244) and apply them to what we do in our behavior? What do we do? There's the question, "Do we even continue our in-person meetings?" In San Francisco, the Community Miracles Center has the Sunday Gathering and three other drop-in meetings. Do we continue them in the midst of this pandemic?
We are not directly affected by the orders of the mayor limiting gatherings right now, because the orders are for gatherings of fifty people or more. We've never been that size. This is one of the first times in my life I've actually been glad that we are small. (laughter) I'm glad we are small so we are not affected by that order. We can keep having our Sunday Gatherings, at least for now. So see, "All things work together for good." (OrEd.Tx.4.69) Sometimes we just don't know how – but isn't it great that we can come here because we are small? That's great!
This thought that I got from A Course in Miracles is the one I'm basing the title of my talk on, "Neither Careful nor Careless." If you look at this little illustration on the cover of the program, there is one little "careful" girl and one little "careless" girl. So we need be neither careful nor careless.
The quote from the Course is "You need be neither careful nor careless; you need merely cast your cares upon Him, because He careth for you. You are His care because He loves you." (OrEd.Tx.5.90) We don't need to be careful; we don't need to be careless. We just need to follow guidance. We have to put all our thoughts about those things onto the Holy Spirit and just trust. We need to trust that we will be guided what to do, what will be right for us. A Course in Miracles tells us, "In everything be led by Him and do not reconsider." (OrEd.Tx.13.81) In everything we are led by the Holy Spirit and we are not to reconsider. We are just to go for it.
If we are to stay home because that is what is going to suit us the best, if we are going to wash our hands every hour, or carry sanitizer with us everywhere, then that's what we are going to do, because that is what Holy Spirit guided us to do. We are not doing it out of fear. We are actually doing it out of love. We are doing it because we are acknowledging our oneness with our Creator when we do it, because that was the guidance that we got. If we get other guidance, then we get other guidance.
Remember the Course says, "In everything be led by Him and do not reconsider. Trust Him to answer quickly, surely, and with love for everyone who will be touched in any way by the decision. And everyone will be." (OrEd.Tx.13.81) Sometimes we do what we do, not because of our own ideas but because we don't want to bring fear to those who are close to us. You may live with people who are not A Course in Miracles students and they may be a little more hooked into this idea about being afraid and vulnerable. We don't want to throw them into panic, so there are a lot of considerations. Holy Spirit is aware of all these, so we don't have to be careful nor careless. We have to put your fears onto the Holy Spirit and just trust. We trust that we are going to be guided.
Now that being said, there is a lot of this current situation that really bothers me. This whole idea of "social distancing," I kind of hate it. I hate it because basically that means staying separate. So separation is going to save us, but when we consider that A Course in Miracles teaches joining and relationship, "social distancing" seems to fly in the face of everything I've been studying for 40 years.
I also just don't like the phrase. It's a euphemism. A euphemism is "a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing."(1) It's a euphemism. Basically it's saying, "Stay away; stay private," "quarantine," but that sounds too harsh, so "social distancing" sounds nicer.
I don't like euphemisms. There have been some great euphemisms down through history like "ethnic cleansing." That's a euphemism for racial genocide. I hear "social distancing," and it just rings in that tone for me.
"In everything be led by Him," (OrEd.Tx.13.81) and if I am guided to practice social distancing then I will do it. I will trust that is the right thing for me to do. If people are practicing social distancing and don't want to come to the Sunday Gathering because they aren't guided to, then I honor that. I don't make them wrong or bad for doing that. I think that's our challenge as A Course in Miracles students. We can have our predilections and our thoughts – and I don't like the term – but "In everything be led by Him" (OrEd.Tx.13.81) I am to be "neither careful, nor careless." (OrEd.Tx.5.90)
Now A Course in Miracles tells us that "The underlying basis for [defenses] effectiveness is that they offer what they defend." (OrEd.Tx.17.33) We have these "defenses" that we are being asked to do. There is a downside to all of them. They are all going to do exactly what they would defend at some level. If we practice enough social distancing plus the whole rest of the plan, and if the whole world is practicing this, it will totally collapse the global economy.
The global economy is based on people getting together and if we stop that, we are going to collapse the global economy big time. It will be a big recession that might make the depression of the thirties seem small. We can plunge much of the world into abject poverty. How many people are going to be greatly affected by that? How many people are going to die because of that? We have to be aware that this could happen, and again we are not to be careful nor careless. We are to put it all on the Holy Spirit. I can put all those thoughts onto the Holy Spirit. I just need to come from guidance. I need to stay aware of the dangers of being defensive.
A Course in Miracles says, "All things work together for good. There are no exceptions except in the ego's judgment." (OrEd.Tx.4.69) It's also important to acknowledge the good that could come from something like this pandemic and that is coming. For one, it's bringing the country together. It's bringing our people together. All of our differences that we think we have: of race, of gender, of sexual preference, of ethnicity, ... they all don't matter right now! Everyone is affected, right now, by the same situation, by the same crisis. It is an equalizing crisis for everybody, and people are not thinking about those differences right now. They are thinking about what to do in the midst of this crisis, and it's worldwide. I sense this in a way that I've not sensed this before.
Differences between countries have dissolved. We know China has to deal with this issue. Italy has to deal with this issue. The United Kingdom has to deal with this issue. The United States has to deal with this issue. We see other countries with their health care structures and their governments, and they are all doing the best they can. It's something that makes the whole world feel unified. Everyone is doing their best in a really difficult situation that is affecting everyone in the world. It's bringing this world together in a way that I don't think will ever totally dissolve even after the crisis is gone. The memory of being together in this, (and we are going to sing "All Together Now" in a little bit), will always be there – so I think that is good.
It's forcing us to have faith in our authority structures, our government structure, and structures for public health. There are the departments of health, the World Health Organization (WHO), then there's the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and whomever else. At a certain point, even faith in the United States government. We need to have faith right now that they are doing the best they can, to the best of their abilities. They are doing what they believe is the right thing.
To not have faith in them is worse. That is going to plunge us into chaos in the midst of a crisis like this. You want to have faith in them. I remember I said some years ago, trust in the "better angels of their nature." These agencies are going to be appealing to those angels. They are going to be trying to do the best they can. Holy Spirit is in all of those people too. We tend to demonize all of them, but I think this is the time that we should send as much love and as much light as possible. Trust that Holy Spirit is working in them. They are doing their job. Let them do their job with some trust, and at least send whatever love we can to them.
We have a big Conference in Los Angeles scheduled to go on soon. People have been challenging us about what we are going to do about the L.A. Conference. This is a big challenge. Reverend Kelly and I had a talk with the hotel just this past Friday. They don't know what to do either. This is a totally new situation for them, and our Conference, in their minds, is still two months away. They have more immediate things to deal with. They have this weekend to deal with. They are telling us, "Thank you for calling but please chill, because we don't really know."
However we were told, as it stands right now, if we were going to cancel right now, they would have to charge us a cancellation fee. I want you to know what the cancellation fee is. It is $187, 400. They would charge the CMC for all the revenue they believe they would lose. They would charge the CMC for even the hotel room revenue that they would lose. That's how it works. $187,400 if we were to call them and tell them we are cancelling right now. So obviously we can't cancel. However there is a clause in the contract about a "force majeure" event. That is an uncontrollable, major thing that would cause either party to be unable to fulfill the Conference contact.
If come May it is illegal to hold a gathering of that size, then the contract will be null and void so we would owe nothing to the hotel. There are all these conditions that we have to think about. A force majeure is "a clause or provision in a contract that excuses the party from not performing its contractual obligations that become impractical due to an event or effect that the parties could not have anticipated or controlled." Obviously, the government closing gatherings of our size would be something like that, but that hasn't happened yet. Until that happens, the Conference is on! (cheering) The Conference is on(2). Who knows what's going to happen. We are going forward.
I had a talk with Rev. Kelly and said, "You know all things work together for good and we are under a microscope here." Rev. Kelly, Community Miracles Center, and myself – the A Course in Miracles community is watching us. This could be our finest hour! How are we going to respond to this and how people see us respond to this could say a lot about us, our practice, and our ability to stay centered in A Course in Miracles principles.
This idea that this could be our finest hour comes from a speech from Winston Churchill. If you saw the movie about him a couple of years ago, Darkest Hour, that speech was there. The speech was made on June 18, 1940, and World War II was going on. The war was not going well at that point. France was communicating with the Germans and was trying to negotiate an armistice, a truce. At that moment, France was lost as an ally. France did eventually negotiate that truce with German and became an occupied country. Since the battle with France was going to be over, the Battle of Britain was just starting, the whole force of the German airforce and military was going to be available to focus on England – which is what it did! German forces bombed England relentlessly for months.
I think we can see how this works for us, for Community Miracles Center, for all of us as miracle workers and healers, and for A Course in Miracles students all over the world. Winston Churchill said this: "But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'"
I think we can tweak that speech a little bit and take it in for ourselves. I've made it apply to all of our people, the Community Miracles Center, and all miracles students everywhere. Let us Community Miracles Center and A Course in Miracles students ..., "Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the [Community Miracles Center and the A Course in Miracles community] last for a thousand years, men [and women] will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'" (3)
Let's shine forth. Let's be guided. We don't need to be careful. We don't need to be careless. Let's put all of our cares upon the Holy Spirit and trust. We can be miracle workers and miracle healers. We can demonstrate the blessing of that. I think this is going to be our finest hour. Thank you. (applause) ♥
Rev. Tony Ponticello is CMC's 20th minister. He currently serves as the CMC's Executive Minister (04.11.2021). He is also the President of the CMC Board of Directors. He was ordained by the CMC on Oct. 17, 1997.
2. Just a few days after this talk was given, the hotel called to notify Reverends Tony and Kelly that the hotel would be closed through the sdates of the Conference. The force majeure clause was invoked and the conference was officially cancelled.
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the May 2020 (Vol. 34 No. 3) 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.