This week’s blog is an excerpt from my autobiography The Miss-Adventures of an Irreverent Reverend: a spirit-ed guide for rebels and renegades. It is the story of my call to start my multi-racial ministry in S. Africa.
“My second ministerial graduation was in June, 1998. By this time, I had completed a further two years of study at the Holmes Institute (the new name for the United Church of Religious Science Ministerial School, based at Agape) and in August, 1998, I was officially granted status as a Fellow of the United Church of Religious Science.
I had no plans.
Look, I had never forgotten my original vision to start a multi-racial ministry in South Africa but I was still enjoying life in California and certainly did not have any immediate desires to go home. Being a part of the Agape community was a very compelling reason to stay in the U.S.A. I loved all my teaching and counselling work and being surrounded by so many friends and powerful teachers who were consciously on the spiritual path, such as Marianne Williamson, Neale Donald Walsch, Dr. Louise Hay and Deepak Chopra. Last but not least, by this time I was living right by the beach in a luxury apartment in Marina del Rey, California.
No, there was no way that I was going to prize myself out of my sunny comfort zone, especially not before establishing my Green Card status that would have allowed me to return to the U.S.A. at will.
Well, you know by now what happens when I have a cunning plan for my greatest comfort…. It rarely coincides with God’s Universal Purpose for my life. In fact, it backfires. Spectacularly.
In December of 1998, I heard the news that the next Parliament of the World’s Religions would be held in Cape Town, South Africa, in December 1999. The Parliament is a gathering of religious leaders, which is held every five years for the purposes of dialogue and global inter-faith peace work. The 1999 Parliament was going to be the first year in which the New Thought movement would be recognized as an official world religion and Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith had been invited to be our global New Thought representative, as well as to present the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, with the Ghandi-King Peace Prize.
Oh, how I longed to go to the Parliament, to be in Cape Town again and to witness Rev. Michael on stage with Nelson Mandela! It would be a magnificent reconciliation of both my worlds in South Africa and America, the perfect cornerstone in my vision, the culmination of all my hopes and dreams.
But I discounted the idea.
I was too attached to America and would not risk being refused re-entry after a reckless trip to Cape Town.
Regardless of my little human preferences to stay put in America, Something Huge had already been set in motion but it was outside the range of my awareness. In other words, God was scheming again behind my back.
One of the projects at Agape that drew me was the 1999 Season for Nonviolence, created to honour two of the world’s great peace activists who were both assassinated: Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. The Season begins on 30th January on the anniversary of Ghandi’s death in 1948, and it ends on 4th April, the anniversary of King’s death in 1968. Eisha Mason, RScP (Religious Science Practitioner) initiated and organised the annual three-month Season on behalf of Agape to examine and heal the violence within ourselves, within our city and upon our planet.
Eisha Mason, my teacher in my final year of Practitioner studies at Agape, 1993
In January 1999, shortly before the official beginning of the Season, we were invited to a weekend workshop at Rev. James Lawson’s church, Holman United Methodist Church, in South Central Los Angeles. What a privilege it was to meet and be taught by Rev. James Lawson. He had actually marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s and was part of King’s intimate circle of confidantes and strategists.
With Rev. James Lawson at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Toronto, Canada, November 2018
Our homework on Saturday night was to read The Letter from the Birmingham Jail written by King when he was jailed for his Civil Rights activism.
True to form, I got home late and only started my homework at about 11:30 p.m. almost falling asleep over the page. As I began reading, intending to simply skim over the material so that I would be familiar with the basic content for the next day, something happened that I have never experienced before or since: my consciousness was split down the middle.
To the right of me and slightly above my head, I heard the voice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reading the letter to me in his southern American drawl. I had never heard any recordings of him speaking but I knew immediately and intuitively that it was him.
To the left of me was my human consciousness reading the letter for homework.
I could move between both dimensions at will. I was startled when I heard the Voice, and fascinated that I could switch it on and off voluntarily, depending on where I chose to focus my attention. The Voice was compelling and yet I flipped back and forth between belief and unbelief. Was this really happening? How did it come about?
The Voice moved me. It got under my skin. I began to shake and cry. I could not continue reading. There was a cement mixer in my gut and in the midst of the churning I heard what seemed like a different Voice inside me say:
“It’s time to go home now.”
Martin Luther King had been speaking to me from the field outside my body. This Voice, which was telling me to go home, came from my centre, my gut.
I knew what it meant:
“Go back to South Africa, start the ministry, Green Card or no Green Card, like it or not.”
I was in awe, in fear, in trembling. Without feeling any sadness, my body got taken over by loud unrelenting sobbing.
This thing that was happening to me was too big to keep to myself. I had to tell someone. But who? Who do you call at midnight on Saturday, who will be happy to talk to you, who will understand the enormity of the experience and who will not judge you as an attention-seeking religious drama queen?
Rev. Carole Traylor (deceased 2007) was my woman. Rev. Carole was an African priestess living in flimsy disguise as the Youth and Family Minister at Agape, a teacher at the Holmes Institute and also my personal spiritual counsellor. I knew there was a God when she picked up the phone. I do not remember what I said or what she said. The important thing was that she was there as a witness. She believed me. She made the experience real. I slept peacefully, knowing I would follow the Voice, come what may.
(To be continued in the next blog post)
COPYRIGHT Rev. Stephanie Clarke, 2016
The book is available on Amazon or Kindle. Click on the link 🙂 https://www.amazon.com/Miss-Adventures-Irreverent-Reverend-Spirit-ed-Renegades-ebook-dp-B01MRZJ3E1/dp/B01MRZJ3E1/ref=mt_kindle?_encoding=UTF8&me=&qid=
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Author of “The Sex Goddess: debunking the mythology of God & Sex”
“The Miracles of Earth are the Laws of Heaven” – Johann Richter