My journey starts with a boy who is the youngest of three children born to a loving couple from a small, blue-collar town. This couple moved from their small town into the Philadelphia metropolitan area in the late 1940s. The move was mind-expanding in and of itself for my family, as none of my relations had ever moved from the upstate small town. To this day we are the only ones to have moved.
My brother and sister were born in the late ‘40s, and I came a decade later. My father was very moral and intellectually curious about different customs and beliefs, but largely agnostic and happy to stay that way. My mother was similar, but she was unsatisfied about not having answers to life’s questions. This need to have her questions answered led her into a progressive spiritual unfolding. She discovered yoga first; she then found The Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale. A gradual interest in other religious books followed, eventually including the works of Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science movement. Over this twenty-five year period, I was exposed to many conversations and books that helped to shape my spiritual outlook at a relatively early age. One of my mother’s favorite reminders for me was what she called the “Three Rules.” Now I’m sure everybody is aware of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you;” but do you know of the rules on either side of the Golden Rule? The rule before the Golden Rule is the “Silver Rule” that dictates: “Speak unto others as you would have them speak unto you.” And the rule after the Golden Rule is the hardest to keep, so it is called the Diamond Rule: “Think unto others as you would have them think unto you.”
At the age of ten or so, trying to keep all the rules was not an easy job, but it gave me a big start in spiritual growth. My mother’s Silver, Golden and Diamond rules made me aware of inward goodness, when most of my friends were all about outward goodness—that is, if they were trying their hands at any goodness at all. As I progressed through my teens, I had the usual angst that all teens experience, but it was much more bearable with a spiritual foundation. I found relief in putting my seemingly huge problems in God’s hands and having faith that He would guide me to where I should be. Through His love and guidance I found the love of my life, my wife, Nancy. We met when I was a senior in high school and have been together ever since (33 years). We have grown together both physically and spiritually, and God has blessed us with two wonderful children.
The one component that my mother never stressed (and Dad never cared about) was a church. I didn’t value this aspect of spiritual life much either, but Nancy always missed the community that a church provides. We have lived in the Bryn Athyn area all of our lives and have passed by the Cathedral millions of times. When friends would visit, we would show them this fabulous landmark without a thought as to what it stood for. One day I was browsing the Internet for more information about the Cathedral and became curious about the tenets of the New Church. To my surprise, the deeper I dug, the more I realized that they were the very same beliefs I held. I was excited to share my findings with my wife, and she agreed that we should see what the New Church was all about. Well, after a few months, including participation in the Journey program, we soon realized we had found a home. I never understood the strength that can be realized with a church community. Even though I thought I was strong in my beliefs and thought I needed only a belief in God to get along, I was wrong in thinking that the community of the church was not important. A drop of water is not a big force, but a gathering of water drops can be an ocean. I now see a church as a gathering spot for like-minded people to combine their energy to withstand the challenges that the material world presents. A church can be a place where we give each other strength and grow together to be closer and truer to God’s image.
So that’s where I am now in my journey. I have caught up with a caravan of travelers on the way. We share stories, help each other, and negotiate our way along life’s path together. The way ahead may be hard, but I think I’ll enjoy it all the better with a little help from my friends.