On August 23, 2020 the Community Miracles Center celebrated the ordination of five new CMC ministers. What follows is a lightly edited transcription of the ceremony.
♦ ~ Rev. Tony Ponticello, Executive Minister, CMC Minister #20 ~ ♦
What I want to share today is something I've seen lately and it's something the Holy Spirit is guiding me to share. A lot of times A Course in Miracles students get caught in this idea that it's all energetic. They are now doing this practice. They have learned what they have learned. They know they are holy children of God, that healing energy is just going to flow, and they don't have to say anything.
I just want to put a thought out there. You don't have to say anything, but you do have to say whatever Holy Spirit guides you to say. And Holy Spirit may indeed guide you to use words. And to just not be afraid of using words in your own teaching, in your own healing. A Course in Miracles says in the Teachers Manual, "Is the teacher of God then to avoid the use of words in his teaching? No, indeed. There are many who must be reached through words, being as yet unable to hear in silence." (OrEd.Mn:21.4)
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There are many who must be reached through words. You're all going to be ministers now, and I believe that means that there are going to be those times that you are going to be called upon to say words to people, and to share teaching that's going to be reflected in words. Just be confident that the words that the Holy Spirit gives you are the right words. Don't evaluate them; don't second guess them. You don't have to rehearse anything. In those moments you connect with the Holy Spirit, and you offer the words that you are guided to offer. You offer them in confidence, knowing that they are the right words.
If you do that, thousands are going to be healed. You'll all receive your certificates soon. On the certificates there is a little inscription which Rev. Paul read and it says, "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)
What I've always loved about this is it acknowledges that there are going to be times when you're not going to feel free. Being a minister doesn't mean you always dwell in this perfect awareness of freedom. What it means, according to A Course in Miracles, is that when you don't feel free and when you feel held down or in pain, you now have a means, you have a methodology, you have a repertoire of things that you can do to get back to the awareness of freedom. That's what it means for me to be a Community Miracles Center (CMC) minister. And that's why that wonderful inscription from Workbook Lesson Number 154 is on your ordination certificate.
So when you get your ordination certificates, which you all will really soon, look at the inscription and just think about it. It's from that Workbook lesson, I'm among the ministers of God, and you are now all among the ministers of God. And you have a means to recognize that you are free to get back to freedom when that slips away from your consciousness. That's what it means for me.
It's now time to do the Rite of Ordination. I sent you all the Rite and also David is going to put the Rite in the chat so you can read along. I read a certain part of it, and then you respond.
Rev. Tony Ponticello: Are you, Anthony Bopp, David Brunn, Deborah Canja, Margarita Marinkovich, and Garrick Wilhelm 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 A Course in Miracles minister?
New Ministers: Yes. Truly willing.
Rev. Tony Ponticello: 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?
New Ministers: Yes. Truly willing.
Rev. Tony Ponticello: Are you willing to recognize that giving to your brothers and sisters is giving to yourselves, making sacrifice impossible?
New Ministers: Yes. Truly willing.
Rev. Tony Ponticello: 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?
New Ministers: Yes. Truly willing.
Rev. Tony Ponticello: Are you willing to choose peace and love instead of anger and hatred, knowing that attack thoughts are insane and never justified?
New Ministers: Yes. Truly willing.
Rev. Tony Ponticello: Are you willing to teach others that they are the perfect ones whom God created knowing that what you teach you learn as well?
New Ministers: Yes. Truly willing.
Rev. Tony Ponticello: Love yourself so you may remind us that we are loving when we feel hatred. Forgive yourselves 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 the Holy Spirit who is the voice for God who speaks to us all, and on behalf of the Community Miracles Center, I, Reverend Tony Ponticello, declare you all, Anthony Bopp, David Brunn, Deborah Canja, Margarita Marinkovich, and Garrick Wilhelm to be A Course in Miracles ministers of the Community Miracles Center.
New Ministers: Amen. Thank you.
Rev. Tony Ponticello: So. now, we're going to call the new ministers up here to speak, in alphabetical order by last name, which is our tradition. The first one is our new Rev. Anthony Bopp, CMC minister #120.
♦ ~ Rev. Anthony Bopp, CMC Minister #120 ~ ♦
Yay! Okay, well first I want to thank everyone who's in attendance today, especially all my brothers and sisters from the A Course in Miracles community. Also I think, if I'm not mistaken, that I might have the largest group of friends and relatives in viewership here. I just want to touch on something God has placed clearly on my mind. A lot of you already know what it is. My talk this afternoon is about the near death experience (NDE).
I'm going to read the title of Lesson 163. "There is no death.The Son of God is free." (OrEd.WkBk.163). We've been so mishandled, so, the illusion is such that there are so many people in stark fear of this happening. And then the time that we're in right now, in this pandemic, we've had a lot of people transition out. But think for a moment, I know A Course of Miracles students do, where are they? They're in the Mind. They're with God. They're one with God. And they are whole. They're healed. They're in perfect oneness again.
Now, God has also given me the task, he's told me, "Write a book." But also he gave me the outline already. I'm going to share part of it. In the near death experience there are twelve elements that Rev. Peter Panagore used to qualify the experience and uses a scale of needing at least seven out of twelve to qualify as a true NDE. For those out here who do not understand what an NDE is, it's a near death experience. In my bookcase to the left of me I have over 30 books. I didn't know why for so long, why I was so consumed with reading this amount of books, the amount of movies, testimonial movies that are out there.
YouTube is chock full of them. I've spent a good long period of time reading those. So, Rev. Panagore stands out. Seven out of twelve of these to qualify as a true NDE. So I don't know if anybody's out there that had one, but here goes. One is an out of body experience, the OBE. Two is heightened senses. Three is intense, generally positive emotions or feelings. Four, is passing into or through a tunnel. Five is encountering a mystical or brilliant light. Six is encountering deceased relatives, friends or mystic beings. Seven is a sense of alteration in time and space. Eight is a life review, a lot of our people have heard about that. Nine is encountering otherworldly heavenly realms. Ten is encountering or learning special knowledge. Eleven is encountering a boundary or a barrier. And twelve is a voluntary or involuntary return to the body.
We have some people in the A Course of Miracles community, Jon Mundy is one of them, a very pronounced reverend in our society, Jon is a near death experiencer. He's experienced it. I don't know if I personally had an experience when I was in the hospital when I was 12 years old with a skull fracture. But I do know one thing, and I can guarantee you. If you go to YouTube and you start to look up NDEs, there's much information on them.
It's beautiful. And A Course of Miracles is the written word of what is in the visual, or what people experience. And one last thing, there are 660 million people on the planet, 3 to 5% of the total population, who have had an NDE, 3 to 5%. Many in this group here, have had a spiritual awakening. The Near Death Experience Research Foundation states that 774 NDEs happen per day in this country. That's 5,418 per week, 21,672 per month, and 282,510 per year.
The last conference CMC had live in Boston Massachusetts, I talked to Robert Perry. Most of us know him because he's the coauthor of A Workbook Companion. I asked Robert, I said I had just a real simple question. "What do you think? I think that what God is using the near death experience for is a communication tool to all of us." He said, "I completely agree."
So I know a handful of people. One of my favorite people, his name is JD Messinger, you might know him. A couple years back there was an oil spill in the Gulf of Texas. JD was the boat captain in charge of the cleanup. JD's written a book about his experience. It's very profound. The outline that I drew up for my book, that's right here, is over a year old. The interesting thing is in A Course of Miracles it states there are thousands of ways to God. This just might help you get there, ACIM will just help you get there a little sooner. I truly believe that each religion, each philosophy, each faith based organization, or whatever they are – whatever they want to call themselves – are all part of that oneness.
I recently had the opportunity to share with – I still attend a non-denominational church – ten scripture verses from the New Testament that point to the NDE. One gentleman I shared with still has not gotten back to me after three months, so I knew I hit a nerve. My going forward is to not just write a book but to contact and engage with people, especially in this day and age of the pandemic we're just going through. I'm not a big fan of it. I believe it's all for higher purposes that things are going on.
I think that the people who are afraid to die are the ones most affected. I think it's compromised their thoughts. I'm going to put together a series that I'm going to present to groups called "What is Life, Death, Dying and Eternal Living?" What we are is eternal beings, we live forever and ever and ever. We don't have to be afraid to shed this "meat suit," so to speak. We all get the opportunity to meet God someday.
Thank you very much everybody. Peace. Thank you.
Rev. Tony Ponticello: Okay, thank you, Rev. Anthony. The next person up has already unmuted himself, is my wonderful new office assistant and person who is here every Sunday helping me out with the text chat. Let's welcome the new Rev. David Brunn, CMC minister #121. Woohoo!
♦ ~ Rev. David Brunn, CMC Minister #121 ~ ♦
Thank you everybody for being here, I appreciate everyone coming for this great celebration, so I'm excited to be here. I'll just give quickly my background. I found A Course of Miracles in 1997 and at the time I was living in New York, in Westchester County. One of the reasons that I was excited to come back to the San Francisco Bay Area was I knew the Community Miracles Center was going to be here.
So the Community Miracles Center has been a big part of my life. I became really active in the Community Miracles Center about two years ago. I was attending the Sunday services and I heard that Garrick was taking ACIM-1 and then that inspired me to do the ordination program. So I really thank Garrick for inspiring me to do the program. It's been a wonderful experience for me and the program is two years. The first year we have ACIM-1 where we go through the Text of the Course, then we have ACIM-2 where we do the Workbook. I had a really amazing experience for two years, and I'm going to talk just briefly about the classes.
I did ACIM-1 with Rev. Paul who already spoke today. That was a great experience, so I really want to acknowledge Rev. Paul for being a great teacher of the ACIM-1 and ACIM-2 classes. What I like about Rev. Paul as a teacher is that he has a really good sense of humor, and he doesn't really take himself that seriously. So he has a great attitude and a great temperament. Also Rev. Paul is very humble and doesn't act superior and doesn't think he's better than anyone else. And also Rev. Paul's good at keeping the class on track so that all the material is covered.
So doing the class for one year with Rev. Paul, he always had everybody laughing, and we're all having a good time. I really want to acknowledge Rev. Paul for the ACIM-1 class. And it feels like a big achievement for the ACIM-1 class because the A Course of Miracles Text is 31 chapters, almost 700 pages, so we went through the entire Text. Then for the ACIM-2 class I started with Rev. Paul but it was a Saturday morning class, really early in the morning, so the time wasn't convenient. So I switched to Rev. Tony's class on Monday night and had a great experience with Rev. Tony.
I want to acknowledge Rev. Tony for being a great teacher of the ACIM-1 and ACIM-2 classes. Rev. Tony is really good at keeping the class on track so that all the material is covered. And also I like the way that Rev. Tony incorporates the meditations during the class which is great. And Rev. Tony is very organized and makes sure that everything is done properly. Sometimes people liked to challenge Rev. Tony with political questions during the class, and he always handles it well, which is good.
Also part of the ACIM-2 class is doing the Workbook lessons with different people, so I really enjoyed doing the Workbook lessons with different people. That was really fun and exciting getting to connect with people everyday. We have the Workbook commentary book which is really good content and good information. It feels like a big accomplishment to go through the whole Workbook of the Course. Because before I did these classes I could never finish the Workbook. So it feels like a big accomplishment to go through the whole Workbook.
The ordination program is really amazing because A Course in Miracles is a spiritual discipline, and in order to get the benefits you have to do the work. I feel like the ordination program has given me the foundation to become a Teacher of God, a miracle worker and a healer. There is a small cost for these classes, but it's a small price to pay for all the benefits. A Course in Miracles says that when we study the Course "mighty companions" will go with us on the way. So the ordination program is a great way to get support from "mighty companions".
So again I want to thank Rev. Tony and Rev. Paul and the Community Miracles Center. Thank you very much.
Rev. Tony Ponticello: Thank you Rev. David. The next person who is going to speak, and she has already unmuted herself, is our new Rev. Deborah, or maybe Rev. Deb Canja. CMC minister #122. Take it away, Rev. Deb.
♦ ~ Rev. Deb Canja, CMC Minister #122 ~ ♦
Thanks Tony. I've been a Course student for about 26 years. I have to say that even with all of that background, the concentrated study, the discipline of reviewing the lessons each week, and reading the Text and discussing the Text each week really deepened my practice. So I want to say it's a joy to be here with all of you today and share our collective understanding of what our purpose is and why we're here. I was thinking about that a few weeks ago. I was really excited because my little grandson was coming to visit. They live in Texas over there by Rev. Kim. They live in Texas and so with all this Covid quarantining I hadn't seen them in almost a year.
They were going to drive and be really careful and stay in Airbnbs and take all their own food. I went into high gear. The big thing I wanted to do is I wanted to get the little guy, he's like 20 months old, I wanted to get him a toddler car bed. For those of you who know about little kids this is a bed, it's a little pint sized looking bed, that looks like a race car. So I really wanted to find this car bed. I went on Craigslist and I found a car bed, it was like an hour and a half away.
I thought no problem. I hopped in the car, turned on my Garmin, took off. And it didn't take me through the highway, it just took me through the countryside and it was really beautiful. It was a glorious drive, but I didn't see any people. Finally, I pass this one guy mowing his lawn. The funny thing that stuck out to me from that experience was I immediately started wondering who is that guy?
Does he matter? I'm never going to know who that guy is, I'm not going to know anything about him. Then I started thinking about all the people. Well first he's never going to know anything about me. I'm going to think about all the people in my neighborhood, just on a street next to me, I'll never know anything about them. Then of course I always think about the people in the high rises like in New York City. All those nameless, faceless people filling up the high rise, and we don't know anything about them.
Then what about the people that you do know something about. You hear about celebrities, you hear about politicians, you might hear about business people. And the interesting thing is the one thing I do know is that no one's more important than anyone else. So obviously whatever those people are doing that brings it to our attention, that's no more important than the guy mowing the lawn.
So the question is then what's the purpose? What are we doing here? If none of that is important, if none of what any of them are doing is important, or more important than anyone else, what's the point of the world if nothing that you do really matters? And the only purpose, and of course it's no secret for those who study the Course, is the only purpose is solely individual. It's only to learn that we want to leave, and all of the things that happen to us and all of the things that we encounter, and all of the circumstances of our lives have no purpose other than to confront us with decisions so that we can ultimately decide to leave. And that's it.
I thought about that too when I was visiting one of my neighbors. This neighbor's going through her second round of radiation treatment for her recurring lung cancer. She's a person who is at risk in the Covid world, and she's being really careful. She's quarantining. She's doing all these really careful things. And yet she was railing, she was going on and on and on about how ridiculous it is that the country is shut down, and how we have to open up the country and all of the death numbers are inaccurate.
Really she went on and on, and she was quite upset about it. And as I listened to her at that moment I realized some people just like to be upset. Some people just like to find something to be upset about, and if it weren't that it would be something else. I realized that that's what this world is for. The point of this world. The point of this world, a world of contrast, a world of doing, is all about to confront us with scenarios so that we can choose again. And that's why it's the fastest path, because the basic constructs of this world, judgment, doing, they mean that this is a world that constantly confronts us with something to judge and something to do. And yet the lesson here is that you need do nothing.
So disengage, you need do nothing, and the thing to do with the desert is to leave. That's what I've gotten from my deepening practice and I appreciate being here with all of you. Thank you.
Rev. Tony Ponticello: Thank you Rev. Deb Canja. Okay, so the next person that we will bring up here is Rev. Margarita Marinkovich, the new CMC minister #123. I think you're unmuted, go ahead.
♦ ~ Rev. Margarita Marinkovich, CMC Minister #123 ~ ♦
Thank you. I want to thank all of you for your love, kindness, and patience. Over the last two years we have shared our lives together and cried together, laughed together and healed together, and grown together. I came from Moldova, and English my second language. When I did my class I actually read from two different books, an English version and Russian version. Many times in the class when I had a difficult time understanding the subject material the class would have me read the section in Russian.
After awhile it didn't matter what language was speaking, because we all just understood the experience. In the beginning I struggled with the language, and it's become a distraction. I discovered the language was a block keeping me from having the experience God wanted me to have. But I kept trying, and after awhile the distraction become less and less. The more I shared the more I grew with my brothers and sisters in the class.
I have learned A Course of Miracles isn't English or Russian words written in a page. It's the experience to be shared with each other. My minister project was sharing the Course with my Russian community. Rev. Tony sent me a whole box of Russian Course books. And he said he had them and didn't know why he had them or what he was going to do with them. Well, now Rev. Tony, we both know what they were for.
We started the project as classes, but it's evolved into more counseling sessions. My husband and I have had the pleasure of helping with so many minister projects. This has evolved into our lives' purpose. It seems like our brother and sister came from all over, even places that we never even could have imagined. Suddenly the most miraculous experiences were happening all over us. God's plan unfolding is most miraculous sight to witness.
Once you have experiences no other experiences will ever satisfy you. And in that realization we can start our real journey. Every time we give, we receive. It's a beautiful cycle. I think one of the greatest things I have learned is patience. My class was patient with my language. And I felt their love and acceptance. Now I extend that love and acceptance to others. I found that if I am patient it's allowed God's plan to unfold. I am practicing patience everyday with friends, family and even with my husband Rev. Paul.
When I trust in God's plan patience is easy. When I understand that I don't have to control anyone, and I don't have to understand everything it's allowed me to see more clearly and witness the miracle of God's plan unfolding. Another great lesson I have learned is forgiveness. I have found that when I judge someone the one I'm really judging is myself. By forgiving them I forgive myself. The Course says a prisoner and prison guard share the same space. In another word, judgment. It's always imprisoning and forgiveness is always freeing.
Every opportunity I have to forgive gives me another experience of pure freedom. It's practice I have to focus on everyday and every moment. And now today I'm so happy and proud to be sharing this with you, with all of you. What we're getting here today isn't meant to be locked away inside. It's meant to be given away. Being a reverend doesn't mean anything unless we give to others. Today it seems like we live in a world of pain and suffering, judgment and attack. And we feel a great separation from each other.
As Minister of God let's look together for opportunities to extend what we have learned and shower the world with our love, forgiveness, and patience. Let's walk boldly into the world and shine God's light into the darkness. The Course says the only problem we have is separation. We solved that problem through being honest. Let's take this experience of love and acceptance that we have shared for the last two years and share it with the world around us.
They have been waiting patiently for us and now we're ready. Thank you and I love you all. Special thanks to my wonderful incredible Rev. Paul, my husband, my absolutely personal beloved angel.
Rev. Tony Ponticello: Thank you Rev. Margarita. So nice to see you here today. Our next minister, the last new minister to get ordained here and speaking today, is our new Rev. Garrick Wilhelm, CMC minister #124.
♦ ~ Rev. Garrick Wilhelm, CMC Minister #124 ~ ♦
Thank you Rev. Tony. When I moved to San Francisco almost three years ago this week I had a lot of anxiety about adjusting to new community and trying to find out where I fit in. One of the things I sought was a spiritual fellowship, and I found that in the Community Miracles Center. As I prepared to speak today I reflected on what growth I may have experienced in the last two years since I started the program.
In that reflection I recognized this is one of many recent accomplishments that I did not undertake in some effort to find happiness or self improvement. In fact the accomplishment of this ordination was never even a goal. David talked about me inspiring him to start ACIM-1, but I was at a Sunday gathering and the words just came out of my mouth to Rev. Tony.
I really can't explain to you why I chose to enroll. It was just the result of living in the present moment and following the guidance of the Holy Spirit which has led me here today. Growing up I believed what society tells you, that you could be anything you want to be if you only work hard enough. The subtext to this assertion is that you aren't good enough, and that your happiness lies in some future goal you set out to achieve. This is inherently rooted in the false perception of lack within oneself.
If you believe that happiness is out there in the future, which doesn't exist, then you can't have it now. Since the future doesn't exist and will always be out there it is living in a fantasy and not reality. Believing that – I had not yet realized my worth as a human – had robbed me of the peace of God. To live life towards some future goal separated me from God, pitted me in competition to my brothers, sisters, and others. This led me to judgment of them, the feeling of the need to attack in order to win. And therefore the need to find reasons to condemn others to prove that I had worth.
After all if I didn't have happiness, peace, or worth, then the only way to get it was from other people. I found this is the source of all fear, anger, hatred, sadness, and depression. Losing everything and becoming homeless taught me to give up some future state of happiness and live in the current moment. In that moment I found my worth – and the worth of everyone sharing this experience with me – that I was a holy child of God. That he made me perfect, and I didn't need to do anything to receive his grace.
As I began to seize the day, in the current moment I began to recognize not only that these moments quickly began to stack up to proud accomplishments, but they increased my happiness as I discovered the inherent truth of my holiness and invulnerability. I wasn't weak. I was strong because there was nothing I needed to do to be happy, and there was nothing lacking in me. From the Text in A Course of Miracles, Chapter 13,
"Guilt makes you blind, for while you see one spot of guilt within you, you will not see the light. And by projecting it, the world .... You throw a dark veil over it and cannot see it because you cannot look within. You are afraid of what you would see there, but it is not there .... If you would look within, you would see only the Atonement ... upon the altar to your Father.
"Do not be afraid to look within. The ego tells you all is black with guilt within you and bids you not to look. Instead, it bids you look upon your brothers and see the guilt in them. Yet this you cannot do without remaining blind. For those who see their brothers ... guilty in the dark in which they shroud them, are too afraid to look upon the light within ....
"Within you is the holy sign of perfect faith your Father has in you .... Can you see guilt where God knows there is perfect innocence? .... Look, then, upon the light He placed within you and learn that what you feared was there has been replaced with love." (OrEd.Tx.13.17-19)
A Course in Miracles has taught me that I am perfect as a child of God and his holiness is my inheritance. I've learned that the peace of God lies in relationship to one another. I now know that abundance is the truth and lack is always a false perception. That everything is either love or a cry for love. Most of all the closest to God that I can ever be is in the present moment.
In that holy instant I can dismiss the loud voice of the ego in order to listen to the Holy Spirit, and that the greatest pursuit is being guided to where I can be truly helpful in this world. That guidance has led me to a wonderful fellowship and a spiritual family that I am now blessed to serve. Thank you.
Rev. Tony Ponticello: Woohoo! ♥
Rev. Tony Ponticello is CMC's 20th minister. He currently serves as the CMC's Executive Minister (11.22.2021). He is also the President of the CMC Board of Directors. He was ordained by the CMC on Oct. 17, 1997.
Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the November 2020 (Vol. 34 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.