Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Celebrating the 50 Year History of the Center

Founded in a Sleepy Little Beach Town

In 1968, Rev. Gretchen Bremmerman founded the First Church of Religious Science of San Clemente, which would later become the Center for Spiritual Living Capistrano Valley. The journey from San Clemente to San Juan Capistrano, and back to San Clemente is storied and rich.

Rev. Gretchen was a fixture in Los Angeles’ art and classical music scene. She performed during the 1930s through the 1960s, and was a member and officer of the California Art Club. 

Answering a higher calling, Gretchen became a minister of Religious Science, moved to what was still a sleepy Southern California coastal town and began what you see today – The Center for Spiritual Living Capistrano Valley.

Rev. Gretchen would serve five years as senior minister before retiring. Though small, the congregation of 15 was mighty. In five short years, it had managed to create a Building Fund of $10,000, and was able to pay its next minister $300 a month.

New Ministers and Great Growth

At the time Rev. Leslie Harrold was selected as the church’s new minister in 1973, services were held in a small one-room building. But within six months, the church had grown, and Sunday services moved to the Masonic Temple in downtown San Clemente. Rev. Leslie, along with his wife, Rev. Jackie Harrold expanded the church’s reach, offering classes and spiritual counseling in the Harrold’s home.

Revs. Leslie and Jackie came to their ministry from the corporate world. Rev. Leslie had worked in human resources at the corporate level. Rev. Jackie was an educator and had a background in business administration. Both supplemented their income by working outside of the church, but they also brought with them a depth of experience.

The church began to grow and prosper even more. People from around the area joined the church, people with a passion to grow their spiritual lives, and also with a passion to nurture their community, to volunteer.

By the time 1976 rolled around, the church had grown to 75 members committed to creating and maintaining a self-sustained spiritual center. Rev. Jackie had launched the youth program, and Rev. Leslie had just been ordained as a minister of Religious Science. The church was now so prosperous that it could easily pay Rev. Leslie a full minister’s salary, with Rev. Jackie as the Assistant Minister. Revs. Leslie and Jackie could devote all of their time and energy to the church.

Here’s a little-known story. During its early years, the church had as a guest speaker, a famous actor, in town performing in a local stage production. Mickey Rooney.

Having outgrown its space in the Masonic Temple, and with its $10,000 Building Fund, in 1977, the church purchased its first home. The building, with 1,800 square feet, provided the church with enough space to provide Sunday services, youth church and classes all under one roof—for the first time in its history.

Church members pitched in to remodel the building to suit its needs. When the remodel was complete, the building had space for a minister’s office, bookstore, kitchen, bathrooms, a large room for classes, meetings and even social events. Owning this building was one of the most brilliant moves the church would make, for it doubled in value in just a few years.

The Move to San Juan Capistrano

In 1980, San Clemente was still a rather small city. The church decided to move Sunday services to Marco Forster Middle School in San Juan Capistrano. This central location gave the church greater access to more populated areas, and allowed it to continue to grow. Here, the church attracted even more people. More members were taking classes and participating in annual retreats at the UC Conference Center at Lake Arrowhead.

The church eventually decided to sell its San Clemente building in 1982 and began leasing a 2,000 square foot space San Juan Capistrano’s Plaza del Rio Shopping Center. The space was remodeled to include a kitchen, bathrooms, bookshelves, a minister’s desk area and a large area for church services and classes. At last, one location for everything the church could want.

This new location opened up many opportunities to grow and expand. It was now easily accessible to Lake Forest, Mission Viejo and Laguna Hills. These communities would eventually have their own Religious Science churches, but that’s another beautiful story for another time.

They quickly added another room to its lease, used for Youth Church. The next year, another room was added, for a minister’s office and more Youth Church space.

Another interesting story, next door to the church, sharing a wall, was a Mexican restaurant. The restaurant often had a mariachi band playing during Sunday brunch. Coincidentally, brunch fell in the middle of Sunday service. So, halfway through many services and weekend evening seminars, church goers would be serenaded with mariachi music. One can laugh about it…now.

However, with this expanded space, the church was now able to present and sponsor more special events, classes, fundraisers and social events than ever before.

For the remainder of the 1980s, the church focused on organizing itself in a way that would strengthen its foundation and create a backbone that would sustain it for decades. A Volunteer Program launched, with a Volunteer Coordinator at its head. Various volunteer positions were created, birthing a fully functioning organization.

In 1988, membership had grown to 150. Rev. Leslie was now Doctor Leslie Harrold, having been granted his doctorate by Religious Science International. Dr. Leslie and Rev. Jackie, now Jackie Belzano, separated, but remained close friends. Dr. Leslie took the pulpit at a church in Alberta Canada. Rev. Jackie became the church’s senior minister.

Adventure in Faith Accelerates Growth

In the Spring of 1989, Rev. Jackie invited a church growth consultant to lead a series of workshops for the congregation. The workshops aimed to help members create a vision and purpose for the church. From these workshops, a yearly October pledge program developed – a program that would serve not only to create regular financial commitments to the church, but to foster greater community, personal bonds and a deeper sense of ownership among the church’s members. Adventure in Faith would continue to be the church’s mainstay pledge program for another 25 years.

And at the same time, the Mexican restaurant next door, moved away. The church leased the pad and consolidated its footprint into a contiguous 4,500 square feet of sanctuary, office and Youth Church space. Well, it was 4,500 square feet which was remodeled into a well-functioning sanctuary, office and Youth Church space. Five years later, another 1,000 square foot space was added, for a second Youth room.

Six years after the first Adventure in Faith, that program expanded to include small groups, Discovery groups. Many would continue to meet throughout the year, and helped create and solidify personal spiritual growth and friendships.

Dr. Heather and the Return to San Clemente

The church continued to grow and flourish during the 1990s. By June, 1999, Rev. Jackie, now Dr. Jackie, was ready to retire. The church had more than 300 members, 30 licensed and intern Practitioners, a large Youth Church and In-Flight Teen programs, paid and volunteer office staff and a strong choir and music program.

The church welcomed Rev. Heather Clark as its new senior minister in 1999. During her years as the Church’s spiritual leader, Rev. Heather received her doctorate, guided the church through its parent organization, Religious Science International’s integration with its sister, Religious Science United. Through the organization’s renaming to Centers for Spiritual Living. Dr. Heather guided the church…Center…during one of the country’s greatest financial downturns, while maintaining and growing its financial prosperity.

In one of its greatest demonstrations, the Center, in 2012, purchases its own home. Returning to San Clemente, the Center’s new home is a two-story building with nearly
20,000 square feet of space; half for the Center, and half for office rental income.

Dr. Heather begins her 20th year as the Center for Spiritual Living Capistrano Valley’s senior minister and spiritual leader in 2019. Drs. Leslie Harrold and Jackie Belzano remained close friends. Both Dr. Leslie and Rev. Jackie have transitioned but we know that they will be with us this year, celebrating in spirit.
First service back in San Clemente

Friday, January 26, 2018


Sometimes there are so many thoughts fighting for my attention that it is hard to FOCUS on one.

A few months ago I had LASIK surgery in both eyes. During the surgery, I was instructed to keep looking straight up into the green light. I was holding my vision as steady as I could and the two assistants were helping me. One was coaching me. She kept saying, “Focus, Heather. Focus!” Whenever she said that it encouraged me to focus, I would wonder if I had stopped focusing. Maybe she could see something I couldn’t see.  See how easy it is to doubt the self! 

I wanted to shout that I WAS FOCUSED!

My surgery was a success. Now, I do not need glasses for distance or for reading.

I started to wonder if I have a tendency to do something similar regarding keeping in mind the good that I want to experience.

As we know, it is done unto us as we believe. What we believe, or know for sure, becomes our experience.

Then I could ask myself, are there areas in my life in which I would like to experience more good?

Of course, the answer to that question is a resounding “yes.” I would like to make a bigger difference in people’s lives. I would like to have more time and money freedom. I would like to have an abundance of energy to do whatever I want to do whenever I want to do it. I want to be healthy and free of any ailments whatsoever. I would love to live in bliss and peace. I want to daily prove the principle and be a living, breathing demonstration of the power of our teaching.

Last week I celebrated a birthday and I was wined and dined, gifted, celebrated and acknowledged by hundreds of friends and colleagues. One of my friends asked me what I really wanted for my birthday--- if I could receive anything what would it be? I joked at first that a lotto win would be great! But then I thought about it and told the truth, “The best present anyone could give me is for our sanctuary to be filled with people who are moved, touched and inspired by the message, the music and the experience of community!

I am focusing on my good right now!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Cleaning Out the Closets of Our Minds

In her book, You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay states that the most common false belief is that we are not good enough. She asks the readers to relax and think about the negative  messages we got from our parents. Make a list to identify them. She goes on to broaden the list to include negative messages that were given to us by our teachers, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, school, and church.

Sometimes it was not a direct message of "you are not good enough" or capable or talented. I can't remember either Mom or Dad, in my formative years saying anything like that to me. They did not belittle us. If anything their message was silently "Don't let us down." "Don't do something that would embarrass us or bring us shame.

What I do vividly remember was what my mom would say about herself. She did this on many occasions. As she was getting ready to go out and putting a dash of lipstick on her lips or powder on her nose, she would look into the mirror and say with disgust and resignation, "Well, you can't make a sow's ear into a silk purse." At first I didn't understand the statement. I just knew that it meant something really negative about herself.

When I was a very small child, the neighbors would call me "Little Lela" -- my mother's name. So inadvertently, without any malicious intent, she was teaching me to dislike what I looked like; to feel that I was not good enough.

One of the points Louise makes in her book, is that we cannot blame our parents for our present thoughts and beliefs. The original thought may have come from the authority figures in our lives, but a belief is only a thought and a thought can be changed. But it can only be changed by the thinker -- me or you.

We are to notice when we are blaming our current thoughts on a person long gone.

The point of power is in the present moment. Go to a mirror and look deep unto your own eyes. See the beauty of the innocent child you were and the truth of the adult you are now today. Now tell yourself that you approve of yourself.

Say it two ways: Your name, I approve of you. Then say, I approve of myself. Say it 200 times every day. For example. "Heather, I approve of you." Then, "I approve of myself."

It is a way to un-clutter your mind from false beliefs. You do not have to struggle. You do not have to procrastinate.  Think of it as cleaning out the trash or the fridge. Do it now. You will be so happy you did. You can turn those negative false beliefs into something beautiful, new and creative. You CAN MAKE A SOW'S EAR INTO A SILK PURSE. That is if you want to make it into a silk purse. Or you might just awaken to realize your unique beauty even if it is a sow's ear.
December 31, 2015
Sister  Kathy, my niece Heather , Mom and me
The Clark Silk Purses

Friday, January 12, 2018

Living the Life You Love

What inspires you?
What motivates you to make changes in your life?
Do you know what you would love in your life? This is the key!
I believe that most of us want to lead happy, healthy, wealthy lives, but we may be living lives of "quiet desperation." If that is you, you can change the trajectory of your life here and now.
A place to start is by asking yourself what you would really love in terms of each of the major areas of life?
Relationships:What would you love your relationships with your friends to be?  Are you connecting with them as often as you would like? Are they relationships that are based on common interests and values? Do you communicate well? Do you fight well? (Meaning are you free to disagree with each other and still retain the friendship?) Do you feel seen, heard and valued in your relationships? Do you laugh and play together often? Do your friends inspire you? Are your friends trust-worthy of your confidences? Do you feel loved and valued in their presence?

Career:What would you love in terms of your work?  Are you using your talents and abilities in your work? Are you contributing to the world around you? Are you making  a difference? Is your workplace respectful and connecting? Is it safe for you to bring your best ideas to it? Do you feel relaxed and confident at work or do you feel stressed and in a hurry?

Health: What would you love in terms of your health? What would you love your weight to be? What would you love your shape to be? What would you love in terms of energy? What physical activities would bring you the most joy? what activities have you never tried but have wanted to learn? Would you love to swim with the dolphins or go helicopter skiing? 

Time and money Freedom: What would you love to be able to do that you haven't had the time or money to do? Are there destinations that appeal to you to visit? Would you love to take the whole family on vacation somewhere? Would you love to learn something new? If time and money were not considerations, what would you choose to bring into your life?

Are you living the best possible life? 

Are the life-changing experiences in your life, ones of pain or ones of pleasure? 
Are you a person who is pulled by a vision or are you a person who is pushed by pain?
For most of us, it is a little of both. We are pulled by a vision, to the degree that it is vivid and compelling and we are also pushed by pain, especially if it feels devastating or heartbreaking.

What a great time of year to contemplate what you would really LOVE! That is the first step in the creative process and creating a compelling vision uniquely yours. The second step is to write an affirmation for one or two things that you would really love.  An affirmation is a positive statement of what you do want, spoken or written, in the present tense. An example would be: "I see and connect with my close friends every week." or "I give and receive beautiful and extravagant gifts of love and friendship." The next step is to commit to reading this list every morning and every evening.

If you commit to do so, you will begin to notice that you are living the life you love and loving the life you live!
A Beautiful Gift of Friendship

Friday, January 5, 2018

What Good Emerges From Awakened Awareness

Calm at Sunset

I have  a new app on my phone called Calm. It has a short sweet meditation for the morning and  a bedtime story for the evening. I was doubtful about listening to a story to help go to sleep but it seems to work for me. ( I admit I was skeptical. My usual experience of watching or listening to a story would be one of being more fully engaged -- definitely not getting ready to drift off to dreamland.) However, it worked for me. The stories have been mostly descriptions and the readers' voices have been calming. This morning I discovered another part to the app called a Masterclass. It is taught by Judson Brewer, a psychiatrist from the University of Massachusetts and Director of the Center for Mindfulness. (I think he created this app.) Listening to the Masterclass on Breaking Habits was an  informative start to my day.  Although Dr. Brewer was not talking about anything brand new to me, he used intriguing language and examples that caused me to pay close attention.

The principles he was teaching were basic meditation techniques, but because I was hearing it from a different angle, I heard different possibilities. 

Some of the ideas that inspired me include : being curious, observing what you are thinking and feeling, stepping out of fear-based behaviors, noticing body sensations, and becoming disenchanted with the unhealthy behaviors.

In the past few days I have been preparing to teach a class based on Louise Hay's book You Can Heal Your Life.  Louise uses similar techniques to help people heal their bodies, relationships, prosperity and careers. She instructs her readers to be kind to themselves and to ask questions about where their unhealthy beliefs have come from. She also instructs the readers to examine their beliefs and let go of those that are no longer useful

Do you have something that you have been praying for that has not yet appeared?  Most people have. And most of us have many strategies, usually unconscious to us, to keep us from changing our minds. It could be an unhealthy habit. Sometimes we think that change is difficult  and uncomfortable, so we don't really try.

My guess is that we would discover goldmines of possibilities if we would be loving  and kind toward ourselves and curious about our thoughts, habits and feelings.

Dr. Brewer is an addiction specialist. He says that using mindfulness techniques to quit smoking is statistically more effective than any other method. The other benefit is that by becoming more aware, clients have actually lost weight in process of quitting.

I am very curious about that. As many of my readers know, my encounter with God, 35 years ago, caused me to release any need for nicotine. 

Of course, God is always present, whether or not we acknowledge the Presence. The Law of God is always at work. It is done unto us as we believe.

But it made me wonder if we used curiosity and being present to everything that is, in our study of the Science of Mind, would we have more rapid,deeper, more meaningful demonstrations? I intend to find out.  Anyone who enrolls in You Can Heal Your life will be encouraged to do their work gently, consistently and with great curiosity. 

Awareness is the first step to meaningful meditation. Affirmation and prayer emerging from our awakened awareness is potent. Our good is at hand now. 

If you would like to enroll in the class, please call the Center for Spiritual Living Capistrano Valley. or sign up on the kiosk. The class is being offered on a love offering basis. We have not made arrangements for the class to be taken online.