Yesterday I went to a meeting of the Peace Ministry of the Agape Spiritual Center in Culver City. This center for "New Thought/Ancient Wisdom" has grown enormously in the past few years, thanks in large part to the spiritual/organizational genius of Michael Beckwith, who recently appeared on "Larry King Live." This remarkably dynamic spiritual community has over 9,000 members and up to a million followers world-wide.
Agape offers a variety of programs--prayer, homeless feeding, Sufi dancing--and trains its own ministers. It also empowers its members to become "practitioners."
When I arrived, there were only a few women in the room but I could feel their energy. As we introduced ourselves, I asked who was in charge.
"Spirit is in charge," responded one of the women whose name was, I believe, either Dee or Justine Lindforth.
"That's the right answer!" I said and we all laughed.
I knew I had come to the right place.
I had come to this meeting in order to share information about the Los Angeles Area Nuclear Disarmament Committee (LAANDC) and the Parliament of World's Religions. Michael Beckwith will be speaking in Melbourne, so the work of the Parliament is already quite well known to Agape practitioners. A large number of them plan to go to Melbourne. I'm hoping to get them involved in our local chapter so they can share their experiences with the interfaith community here in LA.
There was an excellent turnout for this meeting--around 20 people--with many in the middle age range, quite a bit younger than in most mainline churches. The youngest was 14 years old!
The "visioning" process felt very Quakerly. There was time for meditation and reflection. The main difference is that the ministers in Agape are far more eloquent than most Quakers in affirming the Spirit verbally. Many Friends feel uncomfortable with "God talk." As a result, we often move from silence to intellectualizion. We miss the opportunity to connect with Spirit through the rich and powerful language of poetry and prayer.
The main focus of this meeting was on the upcoming Sept 21 "Day of Peace" sponsored by the United Nations. Our visioning session centered on how we might respond to this opportunity to promote a more peaceful world as well as inner peace.
After a time of silent reflection, people were asked to share images and ideas. Here again Quakers could learn from Agape's practice of encouraging people to use their right brain and to share images that come from the Unconscious/Divine. Some of these images led to fruitful ideas for action.
Overall, I was very impressed by Agape and hope to return for their next meeting.
In the afternoon, I biked down to Venice beach with my boogie board and caught some waves. I was grateful my back had recovered sufficiently to allow me to do so; I felt almost like a kid as I biked past the jammed traffic full of grumpy looking adults.
The beach was beautiful, with over a hundred sailboats gliding across the horizon, and the waves were ideal for boogie boarding.
The beach was overrun with people, however, and I was afraid I might crash into one of them, so after a while I biked over to the Venice canals and enjoyed the tranquility and beauty of this unique scene.
I was so grateful that I couldn't get out of my head a tune that Kathleen used to sing often in Kids' Club:
When I get up, I'm thankful for a brand new day.
When I go out, I'm thankful I can run and play.
When I sit down to eat, I'm thankful for my food.
But most of all I'm thankful for God who is so good.
That about sums up my brand new day. Thank you, beloved Friend. My cup overflows with gratitude.
This morning I shared this song with my Quaker meeting, so I am including the video showing my dear wife Kathleen of blessed memory singing it with hand gestures. Enjoy!