Finding Common Ground
By Rev. Dr. Susan Chamberlain
Photos by Tawney Barber of Tawney Photography

 

 

These days much attention is paid to the idea of finding 'common ground' as a means of meeting increasingly complex concerns of our dynamic global community. As the Dalai Lama puts it, "Now more than ever we need to show our children that distinctions between 'my country' and 'your country,' 'my religion' and 'your religion' are secondary considerations."  Today we are facing survival issues around realities of Earth and its people that are unprecedented.

Many have heard the message, "These are the times, and we are the people." Jean Houston says people must be willing to become 'artists of the possible' to help usher in a vision and community inspiration that might seize the moral and spiritual imagination of the human species.

Anne Frank, renowned victim of the Holocaust, recognized the idea when she wrote these words in her diary, "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."

Rev. Glenda Knox and Rev. Judy DePrete, an unassuming team, are two such 'artists of the possible' who co-founded Common Ground in 2004. As powerful visionaries and inspirational leaders, they appear fully capable of functioning singly; yet, have chosen to function as a finely-tuned team, allowing them to express individual styles within the framework of the whole.

They seem to easily shift in-to awe, reverence and humility; and when in their presence there is a sense of wonder and playful delight with all of life. It is clear they are having fun and at the same time they demonstrate a depth of spiritual awareness that seems to come from an inner-directed core reflecting their wealth of experience and long-time spiritual journey together 'at the feet' of many recognized spiritual teachers.

Their leadership style is enhanced and supported by their extensive work with Spiral Dynamics and Ken Wilber's Integral Practices. They aim to reflect the essential qualities of politeness, openness, and authenticity.

Common Ground, which had its humble beginnings as a grassroots effort in a private home, has recently moved to new and larger accommodations on Newport Avenue in Tustin after overflow growth at their previous tiny sanctuary on First Street in Tustin. It is well into its fifth successful year having established what has become an innovative cutting-edge prototype for 'the new church.'

The spiritual community is bringing forth an inclusive model that reflects the values and underlying spiritual awareness of Oneness, humanity, and divinity. They intend to highlight the spirit and determination of humankind in the face of complex world conditions while sustaining a sense of optimism, hope and possibility for a bright future.  Growing numbers of people who describe themselves as "spiritual, but not religious" are finding their way through the open and welcoming doors of Common Ground. Once inside it is easy to feel the embracing human qualities of spiritual community, including expansiveness, inclusiveness, diversity, and acceptance.

Common Ground embraces wisdom teachings of different spiritual traditions and honors all spiritual paths having a foundation in love and kindness. They uniquely focus on being a teaching-learning center which fosters a rich environment where people come together to grow one another by sharing what they know. There is emphasis on "facilitating one another's becoming."

Key to the mission and vision of Common Ground is its commitment to 'Embrace Humanity and Express Divinity.' Important to realization of this idea is reaching out to the local and global community through financial giving; serving and empowering the disadvantaged; supporting efforts toward creating a sustainable planet; coming together in spiritual community to learn practices to support the human journey; and growing in spiritual awareness - body, mind and soul.

Common Ground is working toward reinventing a model of spiritual education for youngsters. They have a profound conviction that children are the voices of change in the world; that spiritual community is not a bystander but a stakeholder in raising children; and that spiritual community is not incidental but integral to the growth and development of children and the future of the planet. A growing Kids' Enrichment Program is emerging as more families are attracted.

First-time visitors frequently comment on the beauty of the surroundings and a feeling of warmth and sacredness throughout. The high energy of spiritual community is present everywhere. Each room is carefully appointed with a blend of furniture, art, accessories and treasures from homes of those who help to create Common Ground.

Sensitive to 'going green,' the community proposed to "reduce, reuse, recycle and re-purpose" when planning improvements at their new location. A majority of the floor surface is covered with eco-friendly sustainable cork flooring, Energy Star appliances are used, durable natural cotton hand towels are in restrooms, and 'eco-friendly' goods are used whenever practical; all of which reflects a commitment to environmental responsibility.

Common Ground provides a warm and welcoming ambiance similar to that of a private home. It is apparent that careful attention is paid to providing a high-quality environment in which special events and ceremonies as well as day-to-day activities of spiritual community take place.

After entering through an inviting lobby, which includes impressive mosaic doors, rich tones of deep purple and crimson set an intimate and sacred atmosphere in the Sanctuary. The welcoming Salon provides a casual and airy setting conducive to conversation and gathering, as well as enjoyment of the extensive lending library.

Rooms housing their Kids' Enrichment Program include technology and stimulating age-appropriate decor. Meeting rooms are equipped with technology and appointed with elements reflective of an eclectic blend of contemporary and traditional styles. Wireless internet throughout the center provides an instant communication for on-line work in the Salon and access to internet course material. An artistically-appointed Book Boutique offers unique and thoughtful merchandise for purchase. There is something delightful to discover in every room.

There is no membership at Common Ground. People attracted to the spiritual community are those who are ready to explore the idea of finding a 'common ground' of understanding. Being part of Common Ground means entering into relationship with spiritual community; being willing to work towards a new vision and inspiration as an individual, as a human species and as a planet.

Reverend Glenda and Reverend Judy acknowledge that not everyone is ready to make this leap in consciousness, yet, they open wide the doors of Common Ground to embrace those who are willing to explore the possibility.

Common Ground will host an Open House on Saturday, August 1, 2009, from 2 to 4 pm. Live music, hospitality and docent tours will be available. Everyone is invited to come by and experience what 'the new church' offers.

Common Ground is located at 14051 Newport Avenue, Tustin, CA 92780  (at Newport Avenue and the 5 Freeway), (714)573-2540, info@embracehumanity.com or visit: www.embracehumanity.com

Reverend Susan is a licensed and ordained minister at Common Ground, a master teacher, and head of its Earth Ministry.

 


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