Sunday, April 11, 2010

Finding the right path

Finding the right path

Bucks County Courier Times
 
A 13-week course offered in New Britain promises to make you a spiritual leader of no particular religion.
Cindy Peto found herself in several religions before finally choosing to start one of her own.
She was raised in Bristol Township as a Protestant.

Peto then married and adopted the religion of her husband, who is Catholic.

After a divorce, Peto sought inner peace with the Buddhist monks of the Mongkoltepmunee Temple in Bensalem.

Now, after graduation from a 13-week course, Peto could essentially become the leader of her own unique ministry.

She is one of 14 area residents who graduated Saturday from the Circle of Miracles' school for non-denominational spiritual leadership.

The church and school are located at 10 Beulah Road in New Britain. Graduation ceremonies were held at Bucks County Community College in Newtown Township.

The Rev. Hannelore Goodwin emigrated from Germany and founded the school in 1996. She said it appeals to "people who don't want to be told, 'You have to take a certain path.' "

The number of free spirits in America appears to be growing, according to a 2008 poll from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.

Researchers from the university polled 54,461 Americans and found that the number with "no religious identity" had increased from 10 percent in 1990 to 20 percent in 2008.

Still, spiritual convictions nationwide appear constant. Only 2.3 percent of those polled said, "There is no such thing (as God)."

The greatest decline in religious identity appeared to be among Christians. The number of Americans who identified themselves as Christian dropped from 86 percent in 1990 to 76 percent in 2008, according to the researchers, who noted that the challenge "does not come from other religions but rather from a rejection of all forms of organized religion."

Goodwin wasn't surprised by those numbers.

"My idea is that every one of us already has the truth and wisdom within us," she said. "You can search and find something that goes click, and then you know that this is your own personal truth.

"Spirituality encourages you to grow your tentacles, your own receptors to God," Goodwin continued. She said students at her school do much more than soul searching, though.

The course list includes studies in Buddhism, Celtic tradition, Christianity, Judaism and the Kabbalah, Hinduism, Islam, metaphysics (the philosophical study of the universe as a whole), Native American rituals, nonprofit tax law, and pagan teachings such as Wicca.

"We study all the major religions, and the purpose or goal is to find the commonality and the founding principles," said Goodwin. "You'll find that they are very much alike. They're all originally based in love and peace and we can learn to communicate with other faiths without saying, 'I'm right and you're wrong.' "
The faculty also teaches "hatch, match and dispatch" - classes on birth rituals, weddings and funerals.

Classes are marathon sessions each weekend. Students spend three hours in class on Friday nights, 10 hours at school on Saturdays, and four hours in lectures on Sundays.

The entire semester costs $3,900, Goodwin said. The school has traditionally attracted more women than men. Only two of this year's 14 graduates are men.

Peto said she still isn't sure what to do following graduation. It's hard to think of herself as a minister.
"I will be Minister Cindy Peto. It does sound a little funny to say that. But my journey has just taken me here," she said.

"There's so many ways that I could pursue this. I could be a minister in a new church. I could be a minister in a hospital," she continued. "I'm going to help people where I can help people. I'll volunteer my time in hospitals or nursing homes or wherever I'm needed.

"Most people who know me don't even know that I did this," Peto confessed. "I didn't want to worry about what anybody thought, so I just kept it quiet. I wanted to go on this wonderful journey on my own."
The Circle of Miracles says it has trained ministers since 1999. The church also holds a weekly Sunday celebration.

The 10 a.m. service begins with this opening prayer of self-actualized, positive thinking: "I now ask the innermost center of my being to release all negativity from the week just passed, and throughout my life. I let go of angry feelings and disturbing emotions. I remove from my mind thoughts of doubt, fear and guilt."

Original Article

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