A few weeks ago my blog, “A Journey Back Home, Part 1,” introduced some of the formative factors that prepared me for ministry. This is part 2 on those reflections and insights. Part 1 told the story of my relationship with Mrs. Trimble and the little Methodist church in Gilroy, CA and talked a little about my family upbringing and my journey with music as ministry. If you missed the first part, check it out here. I hope part 2 offers you another glimpse into my history and brings you a sense that every experience you have is valuable to the person you are inevitably becoming.
Blessings, Rev. Richard
Fast forward a few more years. As a young man I found myself in a new Methodist church, not only accompanying the choir, but leading it! I inherited a rag tag group of senior citizens who had forgotten their passion for God and music and were instead more firmly planted in the arena of spiritual duty. It felt a little like being back at home. This was not the most joyous place to be, but one that was ripe with possibility. It was here, as I struggled to look beyond “what was,” and into the heart of “what can be,” that I first became a visionary. Eight lack-luster singers weren’t much to listen to, but they were a wonderful starting place for me to implement the principles of hard work, kindness, and ministry that I had previously learned. It wasn’t long before vision paid off and I had 40 singers, full of life, sharing every Sunday. It was here that I first experienced a sense of partnership with the Infinite. God responded to the images in my mind and creation happened. Everything and everyone fell into place in direct proportion to my ability to see, feel, and know it all as real possibility. Faith in the invisible power of creation became a powerful tool.
It was also here that I got a good glimpse of church leadership as fallible and scripture as a weapon. Up to this point I had seen spiritual leaders as a “cut above” and I had no problem polishing the pedestals they stood upon. Up till this point, I did not question the infallible word of God from the Holy book we read each Sunday. The leadership of the church came crashing down as the veil of human perfection was lifted. I began to see scripture as less healing and more manipulative. It was painful, but perhaps the best thing to prepare me for my own ministry. In these dramatic moments, I made a vow as a leader to be fully human, authentic, and to disclose my own areas of growth in order to avoid the fall from grace I had witnessed in others. I made a promise to find the God and truth of my understanding and not one written about 2000 years ago, interpreted through the lens of an intermediary. As a leader, I made a personal vow to lead from the trenches and not the back office. As a student and spiritual seeker, I made a promise to use my own experience to interpret holy words and to encourage others to do the same for themselves. Somewhere my father had to be smiling as “Jesus rode into the ‘town of my heart’ on his ass.” This type of leadership empowers individuals, creates co-creative community, and takes the limits off of our ability to experience God. It is not without its challenges, but it is the kind of ministry I choose to nurture. So far, so good.
These commitments drove me to find new interpretations of scripture and new ways of viewing God, life and Jesus. I found Ernest Holmes and the Science of Mind. It was alien to say the least, but it made so much sense. Science of Mind introduced me to Jesus the man, who was awakened to his Christ nature. It also introduced me to the Divine Essence of my own soul. Maybe this was in direct response to my commitment to do this for others. The new-found teaching was mind-blowing to say the least. I was a stranger in a foreign land, but I liked it! Thank God for my wife Suzie, who was a very adept guide into the realm of metaphysics. Under her gentle nudging and the not-so-gentle nudging of Ernest Holmes, I was introduced to personal responsibility. Maybe the Burdicks had something on the ball after all! It felt scary and empowering at the same time.
It also opened my heart to a whole new way of looking at the Bible. Scriptures now went much deeper than simple surface translation. Words like “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son….” came alive in me. I was the only begotten son of God, no less than Jesus. Mind blowing! The Bible was my story. The Bible was the story of humanity finding its way home. Words came alive, stories had more meaning, and sermons were far more useful. Sunday lessons became less moral teaching and more practical application of spiritual truth. This new found way of teaching was so profound for me that it is an intentional focus of every talk I give today. I picture my father, who wanted more practical application from the Methodist Church, smiling as I realize this practicality in my ministry. Unfortunately his ears appear to have been closed for too long to have the dialogue. I’ll keep working at it.
Science of Mind led me to Unity. I’ll call it Divine appointment and guidance. I can’t say it was planned; those were just the doors that opened. Those were the hearts that crossed my path and said, “Come on in, the water’s fine.” And it is. Unity gave Christ back through the lens of Jesus. Unity gave back to me, the master teacher, elder brother, and shining example of possibility. Unity ministers opened their hearts to me and created opportunities to shine. I am forever grateful to Michael and Faith Moran and Joel and Maryanne Blackford. Unity helped me realize that, way back when I was singing “All to thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all,” I was on a good path. It was a little different than the one on which I ended, but I can truly say I am grateful for the stepping stone. I can say honestly that the Christ of spiritual being and oneness has saved me from human darkness, ignorance, and despair as I have fully surrendered to its guidance.
“I am so blessed. I am so grateful.” I am so grateful for the teachers and examples mentioned here and those edited out for the sake of length. I carry every one of them in my heart every time I sing, speak, teach, and pay their gifts forward. Because of them, I value greatly, every trusty handshake, the feeling of a job well done, the power of compassion and forgiveness, and every opportunity to open my heart to those who come through my doors seeking. Because of these well-meaning and sometimes fallible Christ beings, I have the leadership ability to see, feel, and know anything as very real possibility. In honor of every relationship, experience and lesson, I give the world my best, and God the glory! And so it is.