This past Friday was an interesting experience. I had long looked forward to a progressive Christian Meetup Group, which had regular thought-provoking movies. But it seemed that every month there was a cancellation, or no one was attending but myself. Not so this Friday.
The movie took place at the enigmatic Center of Light. Equipped with the address, I took the bus to the destination on Oswego Place. And I wandered up and down the street, many times, looking for the address. It was a small street, but there was no Center of Light. Actually, it was a rather dark small street under a freeway overpass. I began to think of how my mom met my dad, wandering around a block looking for the party she'd been invited to by the cutest guy on campus, that she could hear, but never find. (She ended up giving up and ran into my dad in a bar.)
The street in front of me ended in a large building that looked vaguely like an insane asylum. I finally stopped at a neighbor's house, who told me Oswego Place continues on, on the other side of the school. (Not an asylum, it turns out.)
From there it was easy to find the location, and I arrived at the Center of Light. I realized what had happened in the past- I was the only one signing up on Meetup, but there were other attendees- they were just a regular part of the church, which evidently Center of Light is. From descriptions, I'd thought it more of a ministry, devoted to Christian mysticism. But it was a complete church, with collared and black-frocked priests- all women. One of the members described the church as the most open and alternative he'd ever been, and therefore a perfect fit for him. I described my own church, North Seattle Friends, as a good fit for me for the same reasons. (This individual had been to two of the non-Christian Friends Meetings in town, and hadn't even realized that there was a Christian Friends church. He was surprised to hear that we were the original meeting and have been here for over a century.)
Yes, the collared priests, all women, was a little different. Also different was when one came and introduced herself, as Reverend Margaret. I didn't quite hear her, so she repeated herself, "Reverend Margaret". As if Reverend was the first name. I made light of it, saying my name was Jedidiah, and I'm not a reverend. She said, "I know."
Then others walked in. They were Brother Paul, and Sister Patty. Deacon Janet and Reverend Linda were already on the couch. Everyone had a title. And so it was all the more conspicuous when Lisa arrived late- greeted without the preformative. Mike also came. Just Mike.
The movie, Peaceful Warrior, was good if you know where you should be coming from. In the genre of Karate Kid, but without the fighting, a wise old sage (Nick Nolte) instructs a young gymnast how to expand his mind. Some of it was a bit off theologically, like that we should empty our minds and stop thinking. It had more of a Buddhist slant to it than the Christian meditative approach of focusing on God. But there were also numerous good lessons in there, that really hit home.
Afterward we had a discussion. Notably lacking in the discussion at this church was any mention of Jesus, or for that matter, God. And throughout the evening, I was getting that prickly feeling that not all was right here- you know, the one you get when you step into the realm of another spirit? When asked my thoughts, I simply shared that I enjoyed the movie, and was appreciating what others had to share. But the discussion was lead in the style of evangelism, like what I've experienced in visiting some cults, like my favorite, the Church of Christ, Boston. (What? You don't have a favorite cult? Everyone should!)
Afterwards I was invited to join them in their Mysticism classes, beginning this Wednesday, but was able to postpone the response, using classic evasive tactics I'd learned from Moroccan culture. They shared their primary books and studies for the classes- devoted to a man and woman I'd never heard of, with no mention of some of the classics like St. Francis, St. John of the Cross, or St. Theresa.
When I got home I wikied the group, with no results. Googling gave me some links, and I finally found them under their primary name, The Order of Christ Sophia. Despite their claim to orthodoxy, they also believe in reincarnation, prayer as magical force, gnostic interpretations of the Bible, and that Jesus was God in the sense that we can all reach the divine. Oh- Mary was God too. Turns out the two people they studied in their classes are their founders, and people progress from visitor to Brother to Deacon to Priest to Master Teacher. And most of the leaders are women, which explains why all the robed people at the meeting were women. They just opened their thirteenth center in various cities in the U.S.
So I won't be visiting again. But what I want to contemplate is the presence of the Light in the midst of such darkness. Nothing I've seen indicates this group is a cult; just a very different religion, in it's nascent form. And yet, I was immensely touched by the film they hosted- a film in itself advocating aberrant religious practices. Two thoughts rose within me as I watched, and continue with me to this day. One was the admonition to live in the moment, to be present in the moment. It brought to mind Paul's command to redeem the moment. I need to do more of that, focusing on the now.
The second thing the guru in the movie said was to realize that we can control nothing. This also resonated deep within me. God is in control of all things, and much of my angst in life is in the thought that this or that event should be controllable, or should bend to my will. In truth, it is not controllable, and often won't go with my will- and much peace is gained in remembering that. This will be my goal to practice in the coming future.