On September 16, 2018, Rev. Sharon Casey and Rev. Tameer Siddiqui were ordained at the Community Miracles Center’s Sunday Gathering in San Francisco, California. Below is a lightly edited transcription of the talks that they gave at the ordination service.
♦ ~ Rev. Tony Ponticello, Executive Minister, CMC Minister #20 ~ ♦
Hello, everybody! Welcome everybody who is now watching our video on YouTube. Thank you for watching our videos. Please watch all our YouTube videos. They are lovingly prepared for us by our own talented Assistant Minister Rev. Kelly Hallock.
I am Rev. Tony Ponticello. I am the twentieth minister that the Community Miracles Center ordained. I was ordained on October 17, 1997. The reason I was the twentieth minister ordained was that I was previously ordained by another church, the predecessor organization of the CMC. It was called the California Miracles Foundation. I was ordained by that church, but that church no longer existed in 1997. So I asked our Board of Directors to ordain me so that I could have an ordination with a church that was still in existence. (laughter) They acknowledged my teaching of the classes as having taken the classes. I had taught them for about ten years by then so I was ordained as the Community Miracles Center’s twentieth minister. I still have both my ordination certificates as I am very happy and proud of both of them.
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First, Tameer and Sharon, thanks for being in class for two years with me. Tameer, thanks so much for making the trip from Chicago out here. We are really honored by that. She never really hesitated. She got the guidance a long time ago. “I’m going to come out there.” I said, “Really?” “Yeah, I’m going to come out there.” I said, “Ok, great!”
Sharon, thanks for making the drive! (laughter) Sharon lives two plus hours away and she visits us every once in a while. It’s such a pleasure to have two new ministers especially, because I was so involved with your studies. Tameer also studied with Rev. Paul for the second half of ACIM-2.
So Rev. Paul, if you are watching the LiveStream, she is here! Thank you so much for taking her that final step of the way. I’m so grateful. All of your students always have such wonderful things to say about you. I know you are an amazing teacher Rev. Paul and we are really blessed to have you participating and teaching those classes for the Community Miracles Center.
The Community Miracles Center has been around a long time. We have been around thirty-one and a half years which is pretty long. We’ve never been a particularly large local ministry. For all logical reasons, many would say, if you were observing us, that we must be about ready to fold. (laughter) This local church doesn’t seem to be growing or doing much, but the CMC keeps chugging along. We have a way. We keep pushing through that appearance and keep doing what we are doing. We have successful A Course In Miracles Conferences and all kinds of stuff. We continue to do that, and we’re operating on solid ground. We are operating in the black. We are a small Sunday congregation. We are usually much smaller than this.
One thing that I always remember that goes back to a teacher who you may not know of, but maybe you’ve heard the name, Buckminster Fuller. Buckminster Fuller was a real motivational, new-age pioneer a long time ago, in the 1960s and 70s. He did a lot of things. I won’t talk that much about all of that. Bucky Fuller – they used to call him that. Bucky Fuller had one thing that has always stuck with me, and I think about it with the Community Miracles Center.
Buckminster Fuller said society is like this big ocean liner in the ocean. If you want to change the direction of that ocean liner, you have to turn the rudder. Now the rudder on a big ocean liner is a really big thing, and it’s really hard to move. There are the water flow currents, and it takes a whole lot of force to push the rudder against the water current. That is hard to do.
Now, a small group of people probably can’t mover the rudder. But the rudder is frequently controlled by a little lever, a kind of “mini-rudder.” The little level is called the trim tab. Now that little trim tab, that doesn’t take all that much energy to move. All we really have to do is not think we are moving the rudder. We are just moving the trim tab. A small committed group of people can do that. That is what I think of the Community Miracles Center. We are a small, committed group of people and we are not trying to move that rudder. We are just moving the trim tab, that little lever. What I want to say to Sharon and Tameer is, “Welcome to the group that’s moving that trim tab.” (laughter and applause)
As you can see and hear from the other CMC ministers who spoke, we have a rich history. We’ve been around a long time. We are going to continue to be around a long time. We have a very successful ACIM Conference coming up in Boston next year. We are sold out for it. That’s amazing. We are putting together a Conference for 2020 right now. It’s problematic, but we are doing it so we are chugging along. Welcome to the club of the trim tabbers.
I want the two of you to come up here and stand here close to me. I want to make sure we are all on the screen. We will all be cozy.<
This is what your certificates look like. (Rev. Tony holds up the certificates.)You are actually getting two certificates. One is on a parchment like paper that you might want to frame. But if you want to keep one out to make copies with sometimes – the one on the parchment paper is a little hard to copy – you get the other one on white paper.
Your certificates have your ordination numbers, and the signatures of Rev. Peter the Secretary of Community Miracles Center, and my signature so it’s official. (“They might be worth money some day.” – Rev. Peter, laughter) There is an inscription from A Course in Miracles which was read by Rev. Steve earlier. It is “I am among the ministers of God. – And I am grateful that I have the means – By which to recognize that I am free.” (OrEd.WkBk.154.14) So why that has always been significant for me is that it sums up, for me, something that I think people forget. Being a minister of God doesn’t mean that you are free. What it means is that you recognize that you have a technology, you have a means. You can always come back to the awareness of your freedom when those moments come when you forget. So the Course acknowledges that we are going to forget at times, and not experience being totally free all the time. However, what we will remember now is that we have a means. We have techniques that will bring us back to the awareness of our freedom.
Before I hand you these certificates, we are going to do the Rite of Ordination. This is the part where I say things and then your response is, “Yes, truly willing.” (laughter) “Yes, truly willing.” I am going to ask you questions. When I do that, your response will be? “Yes, truly willing.” (Sharon Casey and Tameer Siddiqui, “Got it!”)
Rev. Tony: Are you, Sharon Casey and Tameer Siddiqui, willing to answer the Call of the Holy Spirit to serve the Community Miracles Center community, and all others who request your guidance and assistance, as an A Course In Miracles Minister?
Sharon & Tameer: Yes, truly willing.
Rev. Tony: Are you willing to strive to see the Truth and the Love of God’s Kingdom, which lie beyond the fear and illusion of the world?
Sharon & Tameer: Yes, truly willing.
Rev. Tony: Are you willing to recognize that giving to your brothers and sisters is giving to yourselves, making sacrifice impossible?
Sharon & Tameer: Yes, truly willing.
Rev. Tony: Are you willing to remember to ask for Holy Spirit’s guidance in all situations, knowing that Holy Spirit will always direct you to the proper path?
Sharon & Tameer: Yes, truly willing.
Rev. Tony: Are you willing to choose peace and love instead of anger and hatred, knowing that attack thoughts are insane and never justified?
Sharon & Tameer: Yes, truly willing.
Rev. Tony: Are you willing to teach others that they are the perfect ones whom God created, knowing that what you teach you learn as well?
Sharon & Tameer: Yes, truly willing.
Rev. Tony: Love yourself, so you may remind us we are loving when we feel hatred. Forgive yourself, so you may remind us that we are forgiven when we feel guilty. In this way you will help bring God’s love, happiness, peace, and salvation to the world.
In the name of God the Creator who is our Source – and of the “Son” Who, as both male and female, we all are – and of Holy Spirit Who is the Voice for God Who speaks to us all, and on behalf of the Community Miracles Center, I Rev. Tony Ponticello declare you Sharon Casey and Tameer Siddiqui to be A Course In Miracles Ministers of the Community Miracles Center.
Here are your certificates. (lots of applause and cheering) So we now get to hear from our new ministers which is really exciting. So a nice round of applause for them as they come up!
♦ ~ Rev. Sharon Casey, CMC Minister #114 ~ ♦
Well thank you very much. “I am among the ministers of God. – And I am grateful that I have the means – By which to recognize that I am free.” (OrEd.WkBk.154.14) This is absolutely perfect because you know I have had so many people ask me in so many different ways “Why do you want to become an ordained minister through the Community Miracles Center knowing that the Community Miracles Center is an A Course in Miracles based church?”
I get a lot of questions about that. I never really told anyone the story and I’ll try to make it a quick story. A little over two-and-a-half years ago, I saw an invitation on Facebook to come to the Community Miracles Center and hear a talk from David Hoffmeister. A friend of mine came with me and it was great. It was my first time here. We had the Sunday service and after lunch in the afternoon, David gave a longer talk. It was entertaining and spiritually uplifting. It was great.
Right towards the end of his afternoon talk, he started sharing that the night before he had dinner with Judy Skutch Whitson and that she had given him something to share with all of us. There were quite a few people there. I would say maybe thirty or so. We were all sitting around in a large circle. If you don’t mind, I’m going to read what he shared with us that day.<
Another interesting part about all of this was that Judy Whitson felt strongly to give this to David for him to share with all of us who were in the room that day. It’s from the same source as A Course in Miracles but it never made it into the Course because the Course had been published when this was put out.
Judy Skutch and others working with her had a question. They were selling the Course directly out of their apartment. It wasn’t yet in bookstores. It appeared that many more people were interested in A Course in Miracles than they thought could possibly be. So what this is – this is the answer, the guidance they received, when they asked their question.
“The Course has very long-range plans which could not possibly be recognized now. None of you has found your true function yet. This is because the central factor in the plan has not yet emerged and the parts cannot fall into place at this time. It will begin to be clear this summer but will not be fully understood for some time. Nor is it necessary to be clearer than is needed to show you the ways you are to go to be of most help in your appointed roles.
“Each has been very carefully chosen and there have been no accidents nor accidental meetings. God watches over his word and over his messengers. Trust only that. It would be impossible to explain the details which depend on things that have not yet happened, people not yet met, and events not yet occurred. You will still be told what to do in any particular instance, any time you ask.
“As time goes on, some of the answers will seem quite surprising. Rejoice when that happens. It means the next phase has begun. Everything that you are doing now will disappear, and you will not remember in the light of what has happened afterward.
“Little children, be not afraid. Think of this. God is the real Foundation of the A Course in Miracles. It needs you only in His name. Would he not then tell you what to do and help you do it?”
After David shared this on that day, everyone felt this. We received this as a message to all of us. It was truly shared, because it was very moving. David was so funny by-the-way. My friend who went with me and I were like two hyenas laughing in the corner. Everyone else was all reserved. Her and I were practically falling on the floor laughing.
On the way home, she looks at me and she says, “You know that letter that David read to us?” I was like, “Yeah, that was really good.” She said “You are going to be an ordained minister.” And I was like “What???” Then she said, “Yeah, yeah. Sharon, you are going to be an ordained minister. I’m telling you, yep. You are going to be an ordained minister of A Course in Miracles through the Community Miracles Center.”
I thought “Huh?” I had never considered that. As a child growing up the one thing I wanted to do was to become a priest. (laughter) They told me I couldn’t. You know how that goes. Then the nuns were showing me their rules. They were telling me that you can never go bare foot. I was thinking, “I don’t know if that’s going to work. That seems awfully extreme. In summer and everything, I have to wear those boots?”
Anyway, a few days later, I get a message and it’s from David Hoffmeister. He sent it to a few other people, and myself. He messaged it to us. That was my confirmation. I knew what I needed to do. I emailed the Community Miracles Center. We made arrangements and talked about everything. There was no question in my mind. I mean, you only have to hit me on the head a few times and then I’m like “Ok. Alright.” It fell into place and I knew this was right.
So for all of those who would question or feel dismay – not from anyone in this room but maybe someone who is listening – this is something else I have tried to talk myself out of reading but it just kept coming up and it seems right. “[Child of God], forgive me now. I come to you to take you home with me. And as we go, the world goes with us on the way to God.” (OrEd.WkBk.342.2)
Thank you very much. (applause)
♦ ~ Rev. Tameer Siddiqui, CMC Minister #115 ~ ♦
Alright! So two things. First of all, as you know I am from Chicago. Secondly, I love jokes so I have to start off with a joke. Since I’m from Chicago, it has to involve hot dogs. Chicago hot dogs – it’s a real thing. I personally don’t like them but don’t tell any Chicagoan that, because they won’t let me go back. (laughter) So what did the ACIM student say to the hot dog vendor? (pause) “Make me one with everything.” (laughter and applause) It’s a “what is” joke, but I modified it with an ACIM twist. I’m glad you guys like that. (“I was going to say, ‘Hands off my buns.’” - Rev. Peter)
So first and foremost, I want to express my deep gratitude to several of you. Rev. Tony Ponticello. Where to begin? Rev. Tony was my instructor for ACIM-1 the whole year through and the majority of ACIM-2. He is also the co-founder of the CMC. Above and beyond all your teaching, I truly appreciate all that you do for this organization. A lot of people have a lot to say about Rev. Tony. I will add to that and say that you are undoubtedly one of the greatest people that I have ever had the privilege of learning from. So thank you so much for all that you do. I believe Rev. Tony is the touchstone and the heart of CMC.
Rev. Paul was my instructor for the latter part of ACIM-2. Even though our encounters were brief and limited, I truly felt like I had known Rev. Paul since day one, long before our class together. I felt like it was not our first time meeting. You may know, or for those of you who don’t, Rev. Paul is very relationship centered. Throughout all the teachings and all of my classes with him, the one thing that really struck me more than anything was his focus on people. One of the things I learned from him among many things was to not focus so much on the money, the grades, the prestige, the results, or the fame – but the people. He taught me that people are the most important thing that can happen to you. So thank you Rev. Paul.
Rev. Sharon! (applause) I love that I can say that now! (“Thank you, Rev. Tameer!” – Rev. Sharon Casey) Rev. Sharon has been my sister throughout this entire journey. I would like to believe she was my spiritual partner in crime, and we’ve been through a lot. Every day, every step of the way. ACIM, this ordination program, there is a lot of discipline to it. There is a lot of structure to it. Rev. Sharon was basically my sponsor every single day when we would do our calls. We would do spiritual sessions, and I truly could not have imagine doing this with anyone else. I really value Rev. Sharon so much so thank you.
Rev. Steve! I just want to say thank you for your friendship. Your kind words really are appreciated. Having met you, I can see how entertaining you are. You are unapologetically YOU, which I love about you so dearly. Just having met you similarly I don’t feel like it’s the first time. I feel like I’ve met you many, many times before so thank you for your friendship.
I also would like to thank all of the CMC Board Members. I might not have gotten the chance to get very close to all of you. However, there are a lot of ordination programs out there. Some are just the click of a button apparently, but I will say choosing this ordination program with the CMC was a no-brainer for me. It is obvious that you put your heart and soul into the CMC and all that you do. It’s obvious how reputable, how established this organization is. I know that could not have been easy. So thank you for all that you do.
All of you here today, whether on the Board or not, all of you watching online I see you. (laughter) Just thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to be ordained in your presence here today. I value that. (applause)
Standing before you on the level of form is a twenty-seven year old female of Pakistani heritage, born and raised in Ireland, migrated to the States after about a decade. I went to a Catholic school growing up, though I was raised Muslim at home. So I was this weird Christian-by-day, Muslim-by-night. Teachers were telling me one thing. Parents were telling me another. It was very confusing to say the least. At the time I didn’t mind it. I just believed what anyone told me. But when I was 13, an orphan child approached me and asked me what it means to have a family and to have a home. At the time, I responded “I do not know.”
Like many ACIM students, I come from a broken home. With drama, trauma, and everything in between, it wasn’t long before I was questioning what was going on and whether or not there really was a God. I wanted so badly to believe in a God. Yet with everything going on in my life, I was convinced that there wasn’t.
I then went through an existential crisis followed by a very, very dark nihilistic phase. A Course in Miracles came into my life the very same day I decided I no longer wanted one. I had given up. I felt this world had nothing left to offer me. But I was wrong. It was not through intellectual understanding that I received the Course. Rather it was through direct experience, the experience of God. Experiences that people in this world would describe as mystical, supernatural, paranormal. Indeed the Holy Spirit communicates to us, each of us, in the manner that He believes is best for us.
I highly doubt thirteen-year-old me, on the brink of life, would have been encouraged by the Course if I had to rely solely on it’s 1,333 pages. (laughter) I can say now however, that alone is more than enough. I did not venture onto other paths as soon as I had read the introduction to the Course. I knew then that this was it for me. I knew I had finally, finally found what I yearned for. Not just since day one, of this lifetime, but in many, many of the lifetimes that had come before.
If the orphan child asked me today what it meant to have a family, to have a home, I would say “God.” As soon as I opened that door and let the Holy Spirit enter, God became the family I had always wanted and never had. If home is where the heart is and my heart belongs to God, then God is my home. His home, the Kingdom of Heaven is within my heart.
For me, being an ordained minister means giving the love of God that was given to me. It means practicing forgiveness and forgiving myself when I don’t practice. It means not only being the light of the world, but also seeing that light in all my brothers and sisters and knowing that we are one. It means being human, feeling the fear but remembering that only the love is real. It means knowing that I do not need the title of an ordained minister to do any of this.
The only title that means anything is being the holy, loving, Child of God. With that said, I truly believe that being an ordained minister will further prepare me to fulfill my purpose of serving in this time of great awakening. It will allow me to unite people by officiating weddings and establishing what I hope to be holy relationships. It gives me the opportunity to combine my passion with my work, clinical psychology with spirituality, for those interested in pursuing pastoral counseling. It will give me the opportunity to demonstrate an even greater commitment to the Course as a Teacher of God and as a student for life.
Thank you CMC for this opportunity to be ordained and thank you all my brothers and sisters for having me. (applause) ♥
Rev. Tony Ponticello is CMC's 20th minister. He was ordained by the CMC on Oct. 17, 1997.
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the October 2018 (Vol. 32 No. 8) 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.