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Meet Bonnie Rose of Ventura Center for Spiritual Living

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bonnie Rose.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I serve as the minister of a very eclectic, deeply kind, and fun-loving spiritual center. I had no intention of ever running a church! I stared out in Nursing, then got a degree in music. I lived in New York for a few years working as a nurse and professional singer. My husband and I left New York to do a year-long tour of a Broadway show.

Our Cat was in the show, plus we had a Cat Understudy. I had a tiny part and managed the Cats. After the tour, we decided that there was life beyond New York and we moved to the San Fernando Valley.

When we were living in the Valley, I started attending an open-minded church – North Hollywood Church of Religious Science. I liked them because they were open to all faiths and focused on love and personal integrity. I started studying the philosophy and ended up in ministerial school.

After I finished school, I worked at the North Hollywood church for a while. Then, one day my dog Stella and I were on the beach in Ventura. I had a conversation with someone about the Ventura Center. Again, I never wanted to be a church minister; but after that conversation I thought, “you know, Stella really loves the beach in Ventura. If that church ever opens up, I could probably work there.” Two weeks later, the minister resigned, I applied for the job and was hired as the minister. We moved out to Ventura County and I started serving. That was about sixteen years ago.

It wasn’t easy at first. My style was very different from the former minister, plus I was extremely inexperienced. I think prayer, patience, and persistence got me through. I had some great people supporting me – my husband, friends, and folks in the congregation. My animals gave me solace. Now after all these years, I’m very grateful to have found our Center, where I get to serve a joyful congregation that likes to explore the mystery of the divine in a joyful manner. We are “a fun place for serious spiritual growth.”

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I did not have a clue about what I was doing in the beginning. I made many mistakes and I was nervous. I’m sure that my anxiety caused people to question my ability to lead. I certainly questioned it.

I was not prepared for the high profile nature of this position and the amount of criticism I was to receive – some of it valid, and some of it quite bizarre.

Also, when I started at the Center, there were many people that just didn’t like me. I have sort of an unusual style – an odd sense of humor and a strange way of looking at the world. I didn’t “preach” a traditional message. I was much more into grace and mystery, vs. manifestation of desires, which is the focus of many churches in our denomination. People left the congregation, the income tanked, and I felt like giving up many times.

Please tell us about Ventura Center for Spiritual Living.
We offer Sunday services, midweek meditations, classes, counseling and more, all designed to help people live fulfilling lives. Our Center’s vision statement is “We are a Center of Love. We aspire to Be Love, Share Love, and Serve Love.” We focus on community and small acts of kindness as delivery systems for love.

Small acts of Kindness are a form of service. For example, we raised funds to bring 17 children from the slums of India to the U.S. to perform their show that promotes peace and healing. On a local level, when a Ventura synagogue’s sign was defaced with racially motivated graffiti, we showed up several days later and posed by the sign with paper cut-out hearts to show our support of our Jewish brothers and sisters.

We are known for our willingness to embrace all of the manifestations of the human condition – our perfections and our imperfections. We encourage self-kindness as well as kindness to others.

We appreciate all paths to Spirit/Love/or whatever you want to call the mystery of being. We have atheists in the congregation alongside believers, Jewish people, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and more. We have a lot of people in recovery.

We don’t have to have all of the answers. We recognize that the human brain can’t fathom the mystery of the divine; so we are willing to have a sense of humor about life and be surprised by grace in all of its disguises.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Our congregation is my mentor. We grow spiritually through relationship. My relationship with them can be both loving and difficult at times. But I wouldn’t trade it – they are wonderful, willing to grow, and really good people. They inspire me and make me laugh. (in a good way).

Another mentor is my friend Nipun Mehta of ServiceSpace. He is a co-founder of a global organization focused on kindness and generosity. Nipun started me/us on the path of small acts of kindness as a powerful source of global healing. The wonderful thing about kindness is that both giver and receiver are blessed by small acts.

My family – my husband and my animals – give me much support. My husband of 30 years treasures the path I am on and encourages me to do what brings me joy and inspiration. My animals give me pure, uncomplicated, unconditional love.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Gerard Burkhart, Jen Luce, Brock Travis, Wendell

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