40 Years in Retrospect . . . The life of Miracle Distribution Center – Part II
by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff
In celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Center, throughout the next several issues we will be sharing its journey with you. Though the Center was founded by Beverly and Richard Hutchinson, it has developed a life of its own. These articles will share the Center’s birth, growth, life and purpose as it continues to evolve and support students of A Course in Miracles.
When you have learned how to decide with God, all decisions become as easy and as right as breathing. There is no effort, and you will be led as gently as if you were being carried down a quiet path in summer. (T-14.IV.6:1)
In retrospect, I don’t know whether we ever asked the question “What now?” In those early years, everything happened so quickly. Our own personal growth was such an exciting adventure. We were discovering new insights with every turn of a page of the Course. Our study group was also growing, and we were learning much about how to relate this revolutionary material to others (and, of course, ourselves).
I am often asked, “How can I start a miracle distribution center?” My answer is always, “I don’t know.” We made a commitment to be of service and the rest was like the above passage, “…you will be led gently as if you were being carried down a quiet path in summer.” I can say what we felt the purpose of the Center was: to meet the needs of students. And so, what to do was never a question, it was more how do we do it? Yet even that question seemed to be easily answered.
We fell into close associations with many of the core people involved in the Course: Judy Skutch Whitson, Bill Whitson, Bob Skutch, Bill Thetford, Ken Wapnick, Jerry Jampolsky, and Paul Steinberg. Their help and support of our work and our personal growth was immeasurable; and I am happy to say that our friendships have grown and deepened over the years.
We are honored to have been able to sponsor lectures through Miracle Distribution Center (MDC) with all of these wonderful people. It was fascinating to hear these people speak in those early days. Ken Wapnick was crucial to every student’s understanding of the Course’s thought system. And I for one owe him great thanks for his dedication and help.
Judy Skutch Whitson added to my understanding of the Course with her eloquent ability to make its history come to life. She was also a wonderful blend of intellect and experience. It was apparent that, in her, the Holy Spirit had found the perfect ambassador.
When she met her husband, Bill Whitson, she found an important personal partner, but also a necessary part of the Course’s future. Whit had retired from the Library of Congress as Chief of the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division. He brought an international background that made him a perfect fit to coordinate the translation project for the Course. Currently the Course is in twenty-five translations, allowing it to be read by more than ninety-three percent of the world’s population. Whit also speaks fluent Mandarin, which made it fun when we went out to a Chinese restaurant! And, of course, Bob Skutch (Judy’s former husband) kept (and continues to keep) everything running smoothly on the publishing end at the Foundation for Inner Peace.
Bill Thetford, co-scribe of the Course, offered the important perspective of being both teacher and student of the Course. Even though the Course was born into the relationship of Bill and Helen Schucman, scribe of the Course, and they were given the sacred responsibility of its transcription, Bill was more interested in being its student and allowing its truths to heal his life rather than being known as its authority. His gentle humility and his powerful and knowing spirit made him a mighty demonstration of God’s ability to transform lives.
Jerry Jampolsky showed us through his life and his unique abilities how the Course can work in our lives. Through his book, Love is Letting Go of Fear, he was the first to introduce the principles of the Course to the general public. Jerry and his wonderful wife Diane Cirincione have continued to transform lives through their international work with Attitudinal Healing, which was founded on the principles of the Course.
Paul Steinberg is one whom many may not know much about, but he had an important part to play in those early years by helping to get the word out about the Course and nurturing the growth of study groups.
Each of these selfless people brought new understanding and insights to the crowds that attended those early lectures. It seemed apparent that MDC was meeting the needs of students who were hungry for understanding the Course’s thought system and how they could apply it in their lives.
As I mentioned, Paul Steinberg played an important part in the Course’s history and also in the history of Miracle Distribution Center. Paul started one of the first newsletters on the Course, Miracle News. He also coordinated the first national study group lists on the Course, and he traveled out of the country, as well, making contact with groups and helping them to start and to understand the Course’s thought system. Paul became very involved with his travels and felt he could not do justice to the group coordination. Since he knew we were already coordinating group listings, he felt as if we were meant to be the caretakers of this information, so he turned over his information to us for safe and careful nurturing.
Besides the demands of his traveling schedule, I think Paul may have felt it was time for him to be freer to learn and grow. In 1986 Paul Steinberg “gently laid his body down.” He was 56 years old and Bette Martin Cundiff (author of The Children’s Material for the Course and co-lecturer with Paul) told us his workbook lesson from A Course in Miracles on the day he died was Lesson 294 (I suggest you read this powerful lesson).
No mention of the Course’s history or that of MDC would be complete without Marianne Williamson. Her landmark book, A Return to Love, and her appearances on Oprah Winfrey brought the Course into the mass public conversation. Her generosity and grace toward MDC through her many appearances at our conferences and personal kindness have truly allowed us to share the Course with a wider audience.
Again, there seemed to be “no effort” and no questioning as to what we were to do, for when you “decide with God, all decisions become as easy and as right as breathing.” That is not to say it wasn’t work! Richard and I spent long hours burning the midnight oil to do the work that Holy Spirit seemed to put into our hands, and we loved every minute of it! So MDC progressed along, helping in people’s understanding of the Course, providing study group information, being a contact point for Course books and recordings, sponsoring lectures, and keeping people posted about happenings surrounding A Course in Miracles.
I see the Center’s growth much like the growth of our country. The United States didn’t “pop up” in full bloom with 50 states and a sophisticated government. It grew through a slow process of dedication, prayer, and hard work by a handful of committed people, who wisely placed God first and freely allowed for the country and government to grow. We knew MDC had a life of its own and that we were not here to make it into what we wanted it to be, but we were to be its caretaker while it became what God wanted it to be. It has been a process of stepping back and letting Him lead the way.
Read the previous installment: Part I: “Chance or God’s Plan?”
Next issue’s installment: Part III: “Partners on the Path”