"I am loved," crooned singer Tiamo, standing on the tiny stage at the front of the church, strumming his guitar over keyboard accompaniment. "I am strong. I am peace. I am healed. I am strength. I am blessed. I am whole." The song had a soothing character -- in this, it was like much of the church's lavender-themed decor. "A couple of weeks ago," said the presider at the start of service, "a visitor came to our church and said, 'You sure do have a lot of Kleenex. Do you do a lot of crying?' Well, yeah, sometimes. But sometimes they are tears of joy. Make no mistake about it: this is not the church for sorrowful mysteries. This is a center for joyful living!"
Tiamo took the mike for a lively, almost cheerful song called "The God in You," saying, "I think if we lived this way, the world would be very different."
"If you saw yourself the way I see you/ Mediocrity would discontinue/ And your struggles upstream would start reversing/ And trickle down instead of whitewater rafting through life."
"I love our musicians; they inspire me," said pastor Jane Westerkamp. "I have often thought about the struggles we go through but never as whitewater rafting." Laughter. "He was so right...if you could see yourself the way I see you, if you could see the God in you...all those things that seem impossible...
would become possible." She tolled the bell three times -- long, clear tones sounding through the intimate space. She read from Dr. Ernest Holmes a passage about a place of welcome and comfort and peace. "Life is not meant to be a struggle," commented Westerkamp. "Life is meant to be joy-filled, loving, and comfortable -- for all of us, not just those in this room." And she made a declaration: "There is not a spot on this planet where God is not.... The essence of God is right there waiting to be recognized. We may not understand, but...the only thing that matters is the recognition."
Group songs ("I release/ And I let go...") and a group affirmation, and then Westerkamp's sermon: "It Takes So Little":
"It takes so little to change our experience and make a difference in the world," she began. "There is a perfect law of attraction. No matter what we want to attract, what we actually attract is that which conforms to our beliefs, our deepest desires, our focus, our expectations. That's what comes our way.... Every change begins with a clear intention.... If we say to ourselves, 'Oh, I'm going to be late again,' there's our intention.... Our attitude always precedes us into the room and sets the stage for our experience.... We can easily send mixed messages to the universe." If we're plagued with self-doubt, we send "confusing messages to the universe, and we get confusing results. How can God support us in our prayer work when we don't know what the heck we're praying for?" (Mixed messages also arise, she said, when we pray for things that are contrary to the good of others.)
"If I would just state clearly what it is I want and let it go, the universe would rearrange itself gloriously to make it happen.... The power is in the intention, not the manipulation. If your intention is clear, the resources and synchronicities will begin to arrive.... Actually, they were there all along, just waiting for my recognition of them. When we set our intention and release it and expect it to manifest, the universe does rearrange itself to bring it right to us."
However, "it doesn't stop with intention or with opportunity showing up. You have to step up and take advantage of it. It's time today to take this from the head to the heart, to a place where we embody it, we embrace it, we understand it, we feel it, we absolutely know it."
She showed a video about teens from Religious Science International building schools in Malawi. Said the group's adult leader: "Every step of the way on this journey has fallen into place or revealed itself. It's been -- I don't want to say effortless, because there has definitely been effort put into it, but certainly has unfolded seamlessly."
"I showed you this video to reinforce the power of intention in your own life," concluded Westerkamp. "Everything is possible with God, and God is the source behind your intention. You can build a school, you can find a more fulfilling job, you can become a better parent. It is all spirit-expressing...and you have the power to direct that expression.... With a grateful and full heart, I simply say, 'Thank you,' releasing these words..."
Westerkamp and the congregation spoke the closing words in unison: "And so it is."
What happens when we die?
"I don't know," said Westerkamp.
Bonita Church of Religious Science
Denomination: Religious Science International
Address: 5120 Robinwood Road, Suite C, Bonita, 619-475-1012
Founded locally: 1988
Senior pastor: Jane Westerkamp
Staff size: 4
Sunday school enrollment: 1--8
Weekly giving: about $1750
Annual budget: $129,000
Singles program: no
Diversity: majority Caucasian, some African American, some Hispanic
Sunday worship: 10 a.m.
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour, 10 minutes