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You are invited to join me on new journey into our personal relationship with God… But not the angry, capricious God of the old testament, and not the anthropomorphic “Father God” of the New Testament either.
A God that is not exclusive to one religious tradition, one nation, or one universe even.
We will be exploring a new spiritual paradigm where quantum physics co-exists with the mystical at the intersection of science and mysticism, spirituality and psychology, art and music, and everything else in between.
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Crucify Your Mind: Holy Week Metaphysics Through The Songs Of Tori Amos and Rodriguez. Episode 7: Easter Sunday.
The final part of a week long series of videos where we metaphysically unpack the story of the final week of Jesus’ life through the lens of the songs “Crucify” by Tori Amos, and “Crucify Your Mind” by Detroit’s Sixto Rodriguez. In this video we close out the series by exploring the most important moment in the entire week, the resurrection of Jesus and how it holds meaning for us in our day to day lives.
Crucify Your Mind: Holy Week Metaphysics Through The Songs Of Tori Amos and Rodriguez. Episodes 5 & 6,
The fifth part of a week long series of videos where we metaphysically unpack the story of the final week of Jesus’ life through the lens of the songs “Crucify” by Tori Amos, and “Crucify Your Mind” by Detroit’s Sixto Rodriguez.In this video we explore Jesus’ Trial and Crucifixion on what has become known as “Good Friday.”
The penultimate part of a week long series of videos where we metaphysically unpack the story of the final week of Jesus’ life through the lens of the songs “Crucify” by Tori Amos, and “Crucify Your Mind” by Detroit’s Sixto Rodriguez. In this video we explore the meaning of “Holy Saturday” as a sacred space “in between.” In this video I share a reflection by New Thought Author Emmett Fox on the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly, with emphasis on the space between, the cocoon experience as a metaphor for this day that hovers between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. I also read the poem “There is Magic in the Spaces in Between” by Catherine Simmons from Elephant Journal.
Crucify Your Mind: Holy Week Metaphysics Through The Songs Of Tori Amos and Rodriguez. Episodes 3 and 4
The third part of a week long series of videos where we metaphysically unpack the story of the final week of Jesus’ life through the lens of the songs “Crucify” by Tori Amos, and “Crucify Your Mind” by Detroit’s Sixto Rodriguez.In this video we explore “Fig Tuesday,” and the often confusing story of Jesus withering the fig tree.
The fourth part of a week long series of videos where we metaphysically unpack the story of the final week of Jesus’ life through the lens of the songs “Crucify” by Tori Amos, and “Crucify Your Mind” by Detroit’s Sixto Rodriguez.In this video we explore one of the pivotal moments of the bible as a whole. The Betrayal of Jesus by Judas.
Crucify Your Mind: Holy Week Metaphysics Through The Songs Of Tori Amos and Rodriguez. Episodes 1 and 2
Unfortunately between recovering from my illness and zapping and having to recover the video off my SD card for yesterday’s I’ve been behind the 8 ball on producing these videos and getting them up on the same day, or before 11:45 in the case of Sunday. But here are the first two videos in this metaphysical journey walking with Jesus through the final week of His life and guided by the songs “Crucify” by Tori Amos, and “Crucify Your Mind” by Detroit’s own Sixto Rodriguez.
Growing up my mom would often say, especially in reference to someone who may have been insensitive to the plight of another, “We all have our crosses to bear.” It was a message to be sympathetic to those around me, since everyone in one way or another is burdened by something or another. It was reminder to me that “there before the grace of God go I.” At any time it could be me, or someone I love.
A reminder of our humility and frailty.
When Tori Amos’ song came out in the 80’s I was instantly drawn to it, I think first because she was a striking redhead with an amazing voice (and redheads especially redheaded singers are my kryptonite) but also because of my mother’s admonition to try to always be sympathetic to the plight of another.
Later in the 90’s, while Tori’s arc continued to soar and she continued to adapt the song in various ways when performing live, from poppy ballad like the original video to something more plaintive and wailing as she matured, the song continued to haunt me, especially in my late 20 and early thirties as I was recovering from my own long period of suicidal depression.
The Idea that we were not just the crucified, up on the cross suffering but the crucifier as well really hit home for me. The idea that I was ultimately my greatest enemy, whether intentional or not was a powerful discovery for me. And in many ways has been a catalyst for my work in ministry, to help people gain the tools for exorcising their own demons. Tools to pull the nails out of their palms, throw the hammer away and burn the cross.
Which actually to me is the metaphysical lesson of Holy week anyway. All of Jesus’ lessons on transcending or “crossing out” those things that hold us down and pierce our soul compressed into one hard core 7 day period. As I say over and over on these videos, “If scripture is the guidebook of spiritual living” then Holy Week is the “Cliff Notes Version” or the “Executive Summary” if your school days are long past.
Every lesson in there is about us… for us.
“Crucify” is about Tori Amos’s struggle to overcome self-hatred. Although often accused of being sacrilegious, the song’s message and metaphor are actually to me powerfully sacred and transcendent in their own way. Tori’s father is a minister, so it’s not too surprising that Tori picked up some skill in delivering an alternative “sermon” much in the same way as I try to do. Merging the sacred and the secular in a way that gets people to realize that the separation, like all separation is a creation of our minds.
As a “fill in” minister I rarely get to put on a “High Holiday” worship service, so this series this week in some ways is my chance to “do Easter,” like I never got the chance to.
In fact the only Easter one I ever did was on paper back in seminary, 20 years ago, and guess what? Crucify was one of the songs I picked to use for it. To the surprise of my instructor.
So here are the first two videos, covering Palm Sunday & Easter Monday (yesterday.) Unfortunately I spent most of today rescuing the footage and getting yesterdays’ up and burned out on finishing the script for tonight.
You might notice in the first episode my energy is flat. I’ve been recovering from an illness and have really spent the last 8 weeks with low energy. It’s only been in the last few days with doctor’s care that I’m starting to feel better. I think you’ll notice a bit more energy in the second video.
We haven’t met Rodriguez yet on this trip but he will be joining us soon.
If you are liking these videos or my blog in general, please like and share them. I’m not doing these to sell a book, nor am I asking for money. I’m doing these to help you all find some peace and joy during these trying days, and to hopefully give you some ideas and tools, and share some approaches to spirituality and religion that you may not have been hip to, that may help on your spiritual own journey.
And above all, help make this sacred week more meaningful, more personal for you.
Until tomorrow, may you and yours feel the loving presence of the God of your understanding.
So just curious, if starting on Sunday and all through Holy Week would anyone be interested if I dropped a series of daily 10ish minute videos doing a New Thought/Unity Metaphysical interpretation of the final week of Jesus’ life through the lens of the lyrics of the songs “Crucify” by Tori Amos, AND “Crucify Your Mind” by Detroit’s own Sixto Rodriguez? With all of them Edited together for Easter Sunday with the final segment on it added on.
And also I’m thinking one night next week trying to do a zoom watch party of one of my favorite passion plays the rock and roll musical Manchester Passion with hopefully with my minister buddy Keith Anderson who lives in Manchester….
“Manchester Passion is a British television special which was broadcast by BBC Three on 14 April 2006. Created and scripted by Andy King-Dabbs and Stephen Powell it was a contemporary retelling of the Passion of Jesus Christ set to British popular music, broadcast live from various locations in Manchester, England, culminating with the procession of a large, lighted cross to the main stage at Albert Square.
The broadcast was presented and narrated by Keith Allen, and starred Darren Morfitt as Jesus. Denise Johnson played Mary, Tim Booth played Judas, and Nicholas Bailey played Peter. Music was provided by a 16-piece string orchestra and soloists on accordion, cello, and guitar. The BBC Executive Producer was Sue Judd and the music arrangements were by Philip Sheppard.
Presenter/Pontius Pilate – Keith Allen
Peter – Nicholas Bailey
Judas Iscariot – Tim Booth
Jesus – Darren Morfitt
Mary – Denise Johnson
Barabbas – Chris Bisson
Criminal in van – Bez
Himself – Anthony Wilson
Morrissey – “You’re Gonna Need Someone on Your Side” (from the album Your Arsenal)
Oasis – “Cast No Shadow”
Joy Division – “Love Will Tear Us Apart”
M People – “Search for the Hero”
The Smiths – “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” (performed by Judas Iscariot as he betrays Jesus)
James – “Sit Down”
New Order – “Blue Monday”
The Stone Roses – “I Am the Resurrection” (the majority of the song was sung by Peter after the arrest of Jesus, with the line “I Am the Resurrection” being sung by Jesus as a climax to the play)
Robbie Williams – “Angels”
Oasis – “Wonderwall”
Elkie Brooks – “Sunshine After the Rain”
Happy Mondays – “Hallelujah” (instrumental)
Buzzcocks – “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” (instrumental)
808 State – “Pacific State”
Black Grape – “In the Name of the Father” (instrumental)
And yes I’m intending alcohol being involved in said watch party.
Do these sound interesting?
I know this has once again gone quiet both here, and on the Facebook page. I haven’t spoken much publicly about it but I’ve been facing a health challenge for the last few weeks. Nothing on par with cancer or Covid in the scheme of things, but something that has been both physically and in terms of work on this project mentally distracting.
After hoping to ride this out longer than I should have on my own hoping it would go away, and having gotten my first Covid vaccine shot last week and feeling reasonably more confident being “out in the world,” I’ve just seen my doctor and started treatment and he’s reasonably sure that I’ll be feeling better soon.
Even after one day of following his plan I’m beginning to feel better physically and less foggy about things mentally. Knowledge of what’s going on with me is a big relief as well as, and, this what was holding me back more than my “issue” with seeking medical help, I was more afraid of getting Covid from being in a doctor’s office around “sick people” than with what I’m dealing with. And having seen the doc has lifted some of the mental burden I’ve been living under recently.
Which brings up an important point. Don’t be an idiot like me and ignore your “regular” health issues no matter how minor because of fear of getting Covid while at the doctor’s office.
Besides the fact that more and more people have become vaccinated (especially in the health care profession) they’ve had a year now to put in place protections for patients and staff. Virtual visits online (which I probably could have done in retrospect) can be had for most things, and even in much of the in person stuff is being handled with the pandemic in mind.
For example I did all my paperwork on my phone ahead of the appointment including paying the copay, then when I got there I was called in the parking lot and told to come up to the waiting room, all the chairs were gone and there was one other “patient” in the lobby and we were kept apart. And the nurse and doctor were masked, gloved and shielded as were the people who took my blood at the lab below.
If we can feel safe for the most part in a grocery store or restaurant (if you’re so inclined, I’m not yet,) going into a health care facility should be a breeze. Had I seen the doctor a month ago I may have been past this issue. So please don’t be a putz like me, and see a doc if you need it. And even if you don’t but are due for a regular check up.
So I will keep you posted. Hopefully in the next couple weeks I’ll feel up to finally start shooting the videos for this series. Until then I will continue to post memes, interesting articles and links to any interesting zoom talks that seem to relate to our journey into “Mature Spirituality.”
And I ask that you hold me, and all who are dealing with health challenges, big or small these days in your prayers.
I mentioned the other day in the post on metaphysical interpretation that scripture isn’t the only thing that can be approached this way, looking at the various parts, the names, places, etc. as representative of states of consciousness and our own spiritual journey.
Our “story,” our “heroes journey” is writ large over all manner of things- ancient myths, modern movies, TV, songs, can mirror what we are experiencing at any give time in life.
Throughout the years I’ve been a part if Unity Churches various “properties” have become the “flavor of the day” and given the metaphysical treatment. Star Wars and Harry Potter have both been popular. And at one of the churches I was involved with, we did a month long children and adult program based on the Metaphysics of the Wizard of Oz.
What is surprising to me that in over thirty years spanning 905 episodes I haven’t found any indication that anyone tackled this amazing show metaphysically. And as I say in the video I’m so surprised, since the entire series is rife with symbology representative of our inner and outer journey.
I explore the episodes in the very first week of broadcast from the week of Feb. 19th, 1968 from a purely New Thought/Unity Metaphysical perspective- similar to the biblical analysis work pioneered by the Co-founder of Unity, Charles Fillmore, where we look at all the names, places and things in the story as a symbolic representation of our inner landscape our inner spiritual landscape. I chose to examine the plot line of the first week of episodes because it tells the timely story of the cranky leader of a nation who is so fearful of change that he wants to build a wall to keep undesirables out.
This metaphysical interpretation was originally done as the second part of a two part sermon series at Unity of Flint, Michigan shortly after the release of the trailer for the Tom Hanks movie. The first part was more about Fred Roger’s covert “Television Ministry” and his crusade for quiet racial justice.
If you’re interested here is the audio of that first sermon.
This sermon was delivered on Sunday, July 28th, 2019 at Flint Unity Church, in Flint, Michigan. In it I discuss the theology of Rev. Fred, McFeely Rogers, better known and beloved by the name, Mister Rogers, who in his own quiet and subversive way taught us the unconditional love of God. I begin by telling the story of the historic and groundbreaking moment where a black man and a white man, Francios (officer) Clemmons, and Fred Rogers placed their feet in the same children’s wading pool, and the social ripples it created during a time of turbulence and racial strife. I share the life story of Mr. Rogers, and how childhood experiences of bullying shaped his outlook on humanity, his hidden ministry and his television show. I explore the idea of the cosmic neighborhood that Mr.Rogers envisioned creating by reaching people through the medium of Television, and how the concept of “Neighbor” had it’s roots in scripture and Jesus’s commandment to love thy Neighbor. I then revisit the story of the wading pool as a representation of the ritual of Maundy Thursday, where Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and commanded them to do the same. And finally I discuss the current political climate of isolationism, separatism, and wall building, and suggest that we take up the mantle (much as Jesus commanded) and become Mr. Rogers ourselves.
(I know I had originally mentioned I was going to post this the day after the metaphysics 101 videos. Since I was last active on here with any regularity WordPress has gone and changed everything on me, and it’s been challenging getting up to speed on this “new and improved” and supposedly easier version of things. I had a really nice post all ready to go, but evidently did something wrong and everything vanished into the internets never to be found again. So here we go again. Thanks for your patience.)
Anyone ever wonder how Revvy came to be a minister? A couple weeks ago I was looking through some files on my old laptop getting ready to transfer things to my new laptop and I found an unfinished write up I had done, I guess in ministerial school. It was an overview and left out some key details.
I decided to tell the whole sordid story in detail. Very few people have heard the complete story. Though I brought two journalists to tears with it- one of the writers for Unity Magazine, and and a journalist for a Newspaper when I had a church in Florida, though neither of them published it (The Florida reporter said she had it in the feature on my but her editor removed it.)
So if you ever wondered how a putz like me became a “man of the cloth” here it is. I swear to God on stack of many bibles all of this is true. I still think God was high that day, and I tried to run from it, but I kept getting dragged back to the reality that I was supposed to do this…
(And yes, it’s a LONG story… but 100% true.)
I believe that God reveals itself to us constantly, and the message comes to us in many ways, both grand and subtle. But God has also given us free will, which means we have a choice as to whether or not we are open to receiving Divine wisdom. Or ultimately whether or not we want to accept what the Universe has in store for us.
God also, evidently has infinite patience and will wait as long as it takes for us to “get the message”. And if we ask to be given “a swift kick on the behind”, the Divine is more than willing to oblige.
I know from experience. It’s how I ended up with the “Rev.” in front of my name, whether I wanted it or not.
It is late spring, 1995, and I am sitting in my therapist’s office about to conclude my final session with her. Neither of us is particularly ready to end our time together, not because I’m not yet able to soar on my own, but because we’ve come to regard our time together as sacred.
She has told me repeatedly that I am not like her other patients in this inner-city clinic, where the bulk of her clients come to work on severe substance abuse issues. I came to this clinic due to the vagaries of my HMO to do work on my suicidal depression, and as Joanne Roth, my angel disguised as a psychologist has told me repeatedly, to reawaken my numbed spirit. She has told me repeatedly that she would wait expectantly for my weekly updates as I rediscovered parts of me that I never knew existed.
I came to her two years before, as I was facing a downhill slide to my thirtieth birthday. And indeed, downhill it truly was, for I had realized, during a “dark night of the soul” that I was planning not to be alive for my birthday. My older brother, and mentor, had attempted suicide after tiredly battling cancer for two years and a month after his attempt I was ready to succeed where he had not, and yet I ended up finding Joanne instead.
There is a saying that goes, “when the student is ready, the master appears” and another that says, “God puts people in each other’s lives for a reason”. Joanne wasn’t just my therapist; she truly was my angel, my savior. She was both a guide and a “fellow traveler” on my journey. It was her who handed me a copy of the poet Robert Bly’s book Iron John and showed me my need to do “Mythopoetic” men’s work. She encouraged me to return to the Church of Today and re-embrace my spirituality. She even discovered a hidden artist/craftsman, buried since childhood, and sent me to an art supply store as a homework assignment.
She looked at the field of psychology as the Ancient Greeks defined it, where “psyche” meant “soul”. She treated both my mind and my spirit.
Now we were sitting across from each other, almost knee to knee. She had taken most of the session to go over specifics in my file. She presented a timeline of my emotional journey, from when I first walked in a broken man until now. She charted the milestones that I had made and shared her observations. As she brought my file up to date she stopped suddenly. I could see her eyes were wet. “Michael”, she said softly, “I need to tell you that in the last two years you really have blossomed. You are becoming an awesome man. I see some really big things happening in your life. I see you teaching workshops, I see becoming a published author, and I see you becoming a minister.”
The thought of me entering the ministry was not something I’d ever truly considered. I really wasn’t sure if I truly believed in all that “God stuff” anyway, so I sort of forgot that part of the story.
A couple months later, I was attending a Wednesday night talk at church given by Rev. Linda Dominick-Lynch. The topic was answering God’s call to service, and also being aware of that “still small voice” or those signs that lead us to just what we are supposed to be doing. Suddenly, during her meditation, my hands became intensely hot, as if I had suddenly grasped a large mug of extremely hot coffee. After my initial surprise I took this as a message that I needed to listen to, I also knew intuitively how to pursue it further.
No matter how hard I try to describe what happened next, the “conversation” with God that occurred in the next few minutes, words fail to describe it. And as many times as I try to put it on paper, it sounds unbelievable, as will the rest of my tale.
But I “swear to God” everything, every word, is indeed true, as out of this world as it seems.
Everything written here is true. No matter how far fetched it may seem.
What basically occurred was a dialogue where I asked questions about which “career” or profession I was meant to serve in. I also knew in the depth of my being that this was a defining moment in my life, and I was willing to consider pursuing whatever course of action I was led to.
The first question was “Am I meant to continue working in radio/television?” My hands cooled noticeably. “Am I meant to teach?” my hands cooled off, but still stayed somewhat warm. The next question I was somewhat frightened by. “Do you want me to become a doctor?” I worked for the media department of a major medical school, I replaced someone who after years working there decided to enter the program, so it would be the first time one of us jumped to the other side of the lecture hall window.
I absolutely did not want to be a doctor, but I felt I had to cover all bases, and God forbid, I would do it if I was meant to. Thank God, my hands became ice cold. I didn’t have to face that career choice.
“So, am I meant to be a counselor?” I’ve often felt that drawn to the field of psychology or social work. My hands warmed a bit, about the same temperature as when I asked about being a teacher. I was confused, teacher and counselor? What did this mean? Then I remembered Joanne’s parting words and I knew I had to ask. “So, you want me to be a minister?”
I know, it sounds unbelievable, but my hands became extremely hot, and a peaceful “glow” seemed to infuse my being accompanied by a sense of having a purpose. I sat there basking in this feeling during the meditation, and a little freaked out through the rest of the service.
I was an usher that night, and before the end of service, I shook off the feeling and slipped out of my seat to my position at one of the side doors at the back of the sanctuary.
At the end of service instead of heading to the usual reception line in the lobby, Rev. Lynch charged to my station, pulled me aside and quite pointedly asked me “what the hell happened to you during my meditation?” She told me that it appeared to her that I was surrounded by a glowing light, and ‘hovering 6 inches off my seat. She gave me a “knowing” look when I told her what had happened and offered to help me anyway that she could.
She immediately took me by the arm to see her husband Guy, the senior minister to have me tell him what occurred. He didn’t seem as enthused by this revelation as she was, of course he hadn’t seen what his wife did from the stage during service and had heard the “I want to be a minister” declaration hundreds of times before. He said he had a “test” to see if anyone really had a calling and wasn’t just enamored with the idea.
Of course, the irony of the situation was that I was NOT enamored with the idea at all, in fact my mind was screaming “hell no I won’t go” and “God wants ME to be a minister, is he high or what?” And had I not been caught literally red handed (and floating/glowing evidently) it probably would probably have been forgotten or stifled like the proclamation by Joanne that came before.
Guy’s “test” he said was for me to teach Sunday school for a year, and if after that I still felt that way, he’d recommend me. So off I marched to the children’s wing, a place I don’t think I had ever ventured into before and signed up to teach the little ones.
And teach I did, after going through the background check and training I was tossed into a room with another teacher and a gaggle of amazing 5th and 6th graders and proceeded to have both the time of my life with them each week in class and the most terrifying time outside of it trying to keep one step ahead of them in the lessons and trying to come up with creative ways to teach them, all the while maintaining my status with them as “cool.”
I pulled out all stops with them, bringing elements of the experiential work I was involved with in my mythopoetic men’s groups, my love of arts and crafts and even African drumming. It was a heady time, a weekly mix of exhilaration and terror.
And it was also the perfect distraction from actually thinking about the whole minister thing for a couple of years.
Something to think about, a lesson from scripture- Adam wasn’t sent forth from the Garden of Eden because he sat under a tree studying truth principles all day. He chose not to listen to God’s message. That’s the amazing thing about free will, it allows us to ultimately choose whether we’re up for the challenge or learning the lesson that God has willed.
That’s why we often keep walking down the same road day after day and stepping into the same pothole. Until we decide to take a different road. Marianne Williamson calls this all too human foible a “Yeah but, God.” The tendency that we have to tell God what our plans are.
In reality I let fear keep me from my path. I talked about going to ministerial school, yet I’d never actually do anything about applying. I was too old, I couldn’t afford tuition, and they wouldn’t want me anyway.
And God was high at the time.
Yeah but, God. I may have held onto the dream, in some dim corner of my mind, but like many others in my life, I probably would never actualize it.
I left the church for a year to assist one of the associate ministers in starting her own church I set up her media department and served on her sermon advisory, or as she called it. “Imagineering,” team.
I ran from the calling for another couple years and the avoidance of it plunged me into another dark period.
I returned to COT just in time to greet Marianne Williamson as she joined us as our spiritual leader. In January of 1999 Marianne announced her intention to start a Lay Ministry Leadership/Chaplaincy program. I became one of the first class of fifty to enter the intense program. Once again, the idea of ministerial school was on the back burner, probably forever. Maybe participating in this program at the church was good enough for God. “Lay minister” that’s good enough, right?
Several things happened in rapid succession about 6 months into the chaplaincy program, and the order of them is unclear, but everything came crashing upon me as a spiritual 2X4 in the head.
One Sunday instead of a normal church service Marianne Williamson opted to have a congregational Q&A. I was given a wireless mic and would go around to whoever wanted to ask a question. One of the people who raised their hand, and I went to mic was a tall, striking African American woman. She talked about having moved back to Michigan to care for her elderly mother and was wondering about how to discern what God had in store for her next.
Her voice was powerful and very familiar to us. I can’t recall her name 20 years later, but it turned out she was up until then one of the “voices” of CNN. Where James Earl Jones was known as the male voice, she was the female one you would often hear saying “This is CNN.”
She went on to explain that she had worked at CNN and moved back to Detroit to care for her mother. And now that whatever the situation had passed, she was floundering. She said that she no longer had a desire to go back into the media and wasn’t sure what she was meant to do next. And wasn’t sure how to even figure it out.
The very first thing that Marianne said in response was “Girl, with a voice like yours you should be a minister.”
The woman actually admitted that she had leanings towards that at one point but felt that she was too old, too imperfect, too…
All the thoughts that had passed through my head over the years and were still making a space in there came out of her mouth.
For many reasons something about her and her story touched me. I think part of it had to do with the fact that I too had a background in media, having worked all my life in radio, television and media production. So, I felt a kinship with her story.
As Marianne moved on to the next person, I ducked out of the sanctuary and went into the office rooting in the rolodex to find the number of Unity’s Urban Ministerial School here in Detroit. One of the few places outside of Unity Village to train would be ministers. I had actually visited it years before at the start of my “adventure.”
After writing down the number I also wrote a note to the woman explaining that I was one of the chaplains at the church and had some information for her and suggested we meet after service in the lobby.
We met up and I told her a little of my own story, and my background, and told her about the Urban School program. We walked out to her car and talked some more. She gave me a hug, thanking me profusely and saying she’d think about calling them.
As I made my way back across the parking lot feeling happy to have helped someone I was overtaken by an odd sensation, a “voice” inside my head that wasn’t my own. But it was a voice I was familiar with, a voice that had often protected me, guided me, and sometimes pushed me into places I sure as hell didn’t want to go, even if I was ultimately meant to.
“Michael, it was really great that you gave her the number to the Urban School, and talked to her about ministry, but aren’t you supposed to make that call yourself? Remember that night with the burning hands?”
“Sigh, yes God… one day.”
I walked back into the church guiltily trying to still that annoying “Still small voice.”
On Sundays after church a group of us chaplains from the first class would usually go out to lunch and to a movie or something. As we finished praying with people we would gather on the central stairway, until everyone was finished and then we’d decide on an activity.
When I reentered the church, my team was gathered waiting for me. As I walked up to greet them, I heard one of the group mentioning that “It” was happening on Thursday night.
“So, what are we doing Thursday night?” I innocently inquired. Not having any idea what was about to unfold for me, over the next week.
“The Urban School is having their open house, we thought we’d check it out.”
What the bloody hell? I just get finished telling that woman about the Urban School, THEN get “nudged” about my own calling, and now this?
“So, we’re all going to go, right?” I asked hesitantly.
“Yeah,” one of them said “we’ll all go, but we won’t sign any papers or anything, we’ll just check it out.”
Sigh, “Ok, if we’re all going, I’m in.” I say resignedly. And we head out for lunch.
More celestial 2×4’s, just what I needed.
So here I was confronted once again with the inevitable truth that I was supposed to succumb to this whether I wanted to or not. Every time I tried to avoid it, something big hit me in the face, and no matter how much I tried to sweep this aside as mere coincidence this was just too in my face to avoid.
At least my fellow chaplains were going. It would just be a visit, a field trip, like when we went to a museum together; we’d just look but wouldn’t touch.
And not commit to anything. Not sign any papers.
I knew myself well enough to understand that I could still talk myself out of it by Thursday, and I also knew that if I did so, the Universe would still keep kicking my ass until I did something about it. I knew that I needed someone outside of myself to hold me accountable to going on Thursday, no matter what.
Back then I was a smoker and would take a morning smoke break outside at the same time every day with two older women who were administrative assistants for a couple departments in the med school. I am not meaning to sound sexists in my referring to them as “tough broads,” actually that was how they often called themselves. They were wonderful women who didn’t take crap from anyone, including the often-arrogant physicians they dealt with on a daily basis.
I knew instinctively that if I asked them to hold me to going on Thursday, they would. And that I’d rue the day on Friday if I didn’t go.
After the usual pleasantries, we got around to the typical Monday “how was your weekend?” catchup. I told them the whole story, starting with the burning hands years before, the years of running from it, and all of what happened on Sunday. And all my doubts, and fears, everything. When I looked at them, both of these tough as nails women were misty eyed. Both of them looked at me and said they thought I’d make a wonderful minister.
I told them that in the next few days I would talk myself out of going to the open house, and that I wanted them to hold me to it.
They agreed, saying they’d nag me every day until then. And if I didn’t go Thursday night, not to bother showing up Friday because they’d kick my (then) skinny ass.
Throughout the next week, everyone from the chaplain group backed out going, and every day as my apprehensions continued to grow, my smoking buddies kept holding me to going, just as I requested.
Thursday rolled around and I walked out of work at 5pm to the realization that I would be going alone, and also although I knew where the Urban School was, I had no idea what time the open house was. Having been around Unity Churches for awhile I knew that typically weeknight events began and 7 or 7:30 and figured this would be no different, so I had a couple hours to kill.
The Urban School at that time was in an old mansion near the Boston Edison neighborhood in Detroit, not too far from the medical school. A five-minute drive at most.
I remembered from being there before that it wasn’t on one of the more gentrified streets in the area, there were still abandoned and burned-out places on the street, it wasn’t an area I necessarily wanted to hang out in my car waiting.
I knew one other thing, that if I went home, I would not leave the house again that evening, and I also knew that if I didn’t go, I would never hear the end of it.
So, I did the only logical thing to do in this situation.
I told God MY plans.
“Ok God,” I said as I walked to my car, “here’s the deal, if you really want me to do this, to become a minister, then whoever I am supposed to speak to is going to be at the Urban School when I get there. If no one is there, I’m turning around and heading home.”
I drove up Woodward Avenue telling myself over and over that if no one was there, God was kidding, and I was going to be off the hook for this whole minister thing, never to concern myself with it ever again. I turned on the side street and pulled up in front of the house next door. I think I registered that there were no other cars around, which just confirmed the fact that this wasn’t meant to be.
I strode with singular focus up the long walkway to the front door, fully telling myself at that point that if it was meant to be the door would be unlocked or someone would answer my knock and that would be it.
I turned the knob on the large door. It was locked. I knocked and waited, no answer.
I knocked again.
Still no answer.
I knew it. It wasn’t meant to be. (Yay!)
Just as I was about to turn around and walk back triumphantly to my car free of this silly notion that this was anything more than some unrelated series of coincidences that I had read way too much into, I heard a voice behind me.
“Excuse me, are you here for the Urban School open house?”
I turned around and on the street in front of the house there now was a Mary Kay pink car, which must have pulled up while I was knocking and I hadn’t heard, or it just magically appeared (at this point I wouldn’t be surprised.)
A woman was looking at me through the open passenger window.
I walked up to the car and leaned in to talk to her. And I proceeded to, at five hundred words a minute “verbally vomit” my entire life’s story- all the way from my depression to Joanne’s prediction, the hands burning experience, the years teaching Sunday school, the chaplaincy training, the previous Sunday, the women who were going to kick my ass if I didn’t show up, and my demand of God on the way here, that the right person was going to be here when I arrived.
Heck I probably told her the name of my first pet and favorite ice cream flavor.
She looked at me kind of startled at the sheer amount of verbiage I had just tossed at her, then introduced herself and said, “I’m the director of admissions for the Urban School, the open house isn’t until later, I’m scheduled to meet Rev. Ruth, the director here, who is on the way from her church. But I’m going to skip the meeting and have her speak to you instead.”
(Admissions director, shit, really?)
Rev. Ruth arrived, and I was led into a waiting area while the two women talked in an office. After about 10 or 15 nail biting minutes waiting, I heard the door open.
“Michael, would you come in here please?”
I walked tentatively into the office and got what would be the very first of several years’ worth of soul piercing stares from Rev. Ruth Mosely, founder of the Unity School.
I’ve described Rev. Ruth over the years as being an avatar, a mystic. She was a small woman with a big powerful soul. Her amazing story and the history of the School, the first Unity School outside of the main campus in Missouri has been documented elsewhere. She was a dynamo, a powerhouse and someone who could read you with just one look.
And read me she did. She looked at me with a smile on her face and a look that stripped me to my very soul. As I walked in, she was already standing there with a paper in her hand, she said, “Yes, you’re supposed to be here, sign this.”
I vaguely recall “butting” her and her interrupting me at every argument I tried to make as to why this was a mistake, and she kept saying, “The story I just heard proves you’re supposed to be here. And even without that I KNOW you’re supposed to be here. So, sign the paper.”
And so, I signed the paper and filled out all the other forms, and was already accepted before my possible future classmates arrived for the open house.
I recall vaguely during introductions standing up and saying something like “I’m still not sure I’m supposed to be here” and Rev. Ruth shushing me and saying once again that it was too late, I was already there.
I left the open house, and the first thing I did was call one of my dearest friends and mentors, Rev. John Laycock, an Episcopal priest who I had known since the beginning of my recovery from depression through men’s work. We were part of a group who led an annual men’s retreat. John had also been supportive of my original calling to ministry and knew of my years of doubts and fears.
We cried on the phone together.
That next evening, Friday, John, the two other facilitators and I was supposed to go into a mini retreat together. The next weekend was scheduled for our annual “Man Alive” retreat, and our tradition the weekend before was that we would lock ourselves into one of our homes and have a dress rehearsal of the pieces we were going to deliver to our participants, as well as critique the exercises and go over the logistics.
And this time celebrate my acceptance of my calling after all those years running from it.
I went to work the next day and was hugged profusely by my “tough broads.” Still not sure what the hell I was doing.
I ran home, grabbed my overnight bag and headed to Rev. John’s home a few blocks away for our “lock in.”
We celebrated the first night and went through some of the planning and logistics for our weekend together and for the next week and went to bed.
But that’s not the end of the story…
We were woken up the next morning by John’s phone ringing. It was a member of his congregation letting him know of the death of a family member and asking if John could come over.
We opted to cancel the rest of our weekend together figuring that we’d been doing this long enough that we could get by without doing the lock in, and I headed home about 10am Saturday Morning.
As I was unlocking the door of my flat, I heard what sounded like a voice on my answering machine. I pushed open the door and rushed to the phone with my coat still on and bag in hand, but it was too late, the caller had hung up.
I played back the recording. The call was from a Rev. Sandy Scott, the new associate minister of the Church of Today. We hadn’t even met yet.
She sounded kind of stressed and a little weirded out on the phone, she said something like, “I know this is going to sound weird but,” she said she was Divinely guided to call me and ask for my help with a memorial service for a family that had been touched by two murder suicides a year apart.
I called the number she had just left, and she was surprised that the return was so quick, she was a little startled still, and said again that she wasn’t sure why she was led to call me, she hadn’t even met me yet.
She had woken up stressed out that morning but with the “message” in her head to call “Michael Copado,” she didn’t even know who I was, she said she ran from her house on the grounds to the office and looked me up in the same rolodex I had found the Urban School info on. And saw I was a chaplain amongst other things.
And had just got back inside her place when I called.
She said again she was freaked out about this service. She told me she had run an AIDS ministry in San Francisco and had lost 90 percent of her congregation, but she felt that for some reason this was the most difficult service she was ever called on to perform, and she not knowing why, begged for my help.
I agreed to help and told her about my entering into ministerial school. She laughed loudly and said “Well maybe that was why I was led to call you,” that this was supposed to be my first ministerial assignment, helping her out.
I jumped into the shower, threw a suit on and went to the church for the memorial.
Sandy met me at the lobby of the church and explained that it was a group of women, and this was the one-year anniversary of the second murder/suicide, and the second year since the first one. She further explained that she told them that I was a student minister, and I would be there to support them, and they were glad I was going to be there.
We prayed for strength and guidance, and blessing on my ministerial school journey, then she said she needed to get her bible out of her office, and for me to go into the chapel.
I walked up to the door of the chapel and tried to make out through the stained-glass window what was going on. I could make out two rows of chairs with people sitting on each side, and what appeared to be someone standing at the front with their back to the door looking at the altar placed there.
I gently opened the door, and everyone seated looked towards me. The woman standing by the altar turned slowly around.
It was Joanne, the therapist who started me on the journey all those years ago.
She was the matriarch of this family who had been so touched by tragedy.
She looked at me, and through her tears smiled, she said, “I told you you’d become a minister, didn’t I?” She then laughed, “Life comes full circle doesn’t it? You came to me for support once, and now here you are supporting me.”
She spent the entire memorial with me holding her.
That’s the end.
I want to reiterate, as unbelievable as all this may seem, this is 100% true. I swear to God. There’s actually a few smaller “God Moments” that also happened during that time, but those aren’t as mind-blowing as these larger events. Every time I have doubts (and I have doubts all the time) and every curve ball that has been tossed my way where ministry is concerned, this is what has kept me going, the sheer craziness of what happened.
No matter what I tried to do to avoid it, I kept getting dragged back to the reality that I’m supposed to be doing this.