A Brief History of ACIM in St. Louis (June 2015)

There have been students of A Course in Miracles (ACIM) in the St. Louis area since the mid-seventies. Sally Hori was the first in the St. Louis area to host a discussion group that included discussion of a new book “A Course in Miracles.” This group was formed in 1975 at Sally’s home on Tuesday evenings and it used a clothbound, three-volume copy of ACIM and articles from the precursor to the New Realities magazine. Gerald Jampolsky and Judy Skutch spoke at the “The Harold Sherman E.S.P. Conference” at the Chase Hotel in June of 1976. Paul Steinberg and Bette Martin also visited St. Louis in the late seventies to talk about the Course. In 1984 John Hutkin and Ruth Hanna started attending Sally’s ACIM group. When Sally moved out of Webster Groves Ruth Hanna started her own ACIM study group in her home in south St Louis.  
 
Ruth Hanna reached out to other students to begin a sense of community. Ruth and her husband, Robert Ferre (a labyrinth designer/builder), began to have local events at their home and other locations around town. Some earlier students that are still in the area are Rev. Sally Hori, John Hutkin, Thomas Dunn and Ruthann Herring (Springfield, MO). All are still active in the ACIM community. Each of these loving souls reached out to others and started their own study groups where like-minded students can still congregate and discuss the Course. Thomas Dunn was an original board member of the Circle of Atonement along with Robert Perry, Susan Perry and Donald Giacobbe. Thomas also started the original Friday evening ACIM group in the early nineties that subsequently was hosted by Ruth and Robert and then John Hutkin. John Hutkin hosted many gatherings in his home(s) and provided marketing and financial support to Ruth and the St. Louis ACIM community.
 
Ruth began to teach an introduction to ACIM at Maryville College in the late 1980s. The course was titled “A Course in Inner Peace” because of possible confusion between ACIM and Catholic doctrine. During the eighties there were a number of people in the St. Louis area that had found the Course through a variety of sources but with no sense of community they seemed to pick up the Course and lay it down and then pick it up again and lay it down. Ruth’s courses at Maryville called many back to the Course to stay. Ruth taught this course for a number of years and there was a rejuvenation of interest in the Course. As a result of these classes at Maryville the number of ACIM students in the St. Louis area grew from a few to many and a number of new ACIM study groups were formed. In the 1990s Ruth began an organization (with a website and newsletters), One Heart. One Heart provided information on ACIM activities locally and nationally as well as a listing of all the ACIM study groups in the area. Ruth became nationally known as the Mid-West coordinator for ACIM activities.
 
After Ruth became the central point of contact for ACIM matters in the St. Louis area she and John Hutkin had a number of speakers come to St. Louis. Some of these speakers from 1988-2005 included: 
Pat Rodegast and Judith Stanton (Emmanuel) (two events),
Ram Dass, 
Robert Perry (multiple visits including two weekend events at Maryville), 
Brent Haskell (two weekend events in Illinois), 
Judith Skutch, 
Dr. Jerry Jampolsky & Diane Cirincione,
Hugh Prather, 
Marianne Williamson (book signing), 
Jon Mundy (multiple events), 
Donna Marie Carey (multiple events), 
Gary Renard and 
David Hoffmeister (multiple events).  
David Hoffmeister had gatherings at all of John Hutkin’s residences; at Rosebury, at Brentmoor, and at Skinker and, interestingly, they were exactly seven years apart.
 
Ruth and John kept the local ACIM community connected, informed and active over the years. In October 2004, a local ACIM student, Rene Hernandez, was inspired to organize a weekend event in St. Louis for October 2005 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Helen Schucman's scribing of A Course in Miracles (ACIM). Rene had been visiting most, if not all, of the ACIM study groups in the area and he contacted study group facilitators and others and a committee was formed in May 2005. This committee held many meetings to plan for the October event. The committee consisted of Rene, Mary Purviance, Rev. Robert Brown, Barbara Eckert, and Jan Worley. Richard Donnelly and Ruth Hanna acted as advisors on the project when it was a budding idea being discussed between Rene and Mary. Gary Liming constructed a web page and provided computer consulting. This committee was the genesis of the current ACIM St. Louis Council. Rene’s guidance was to strengthen a continuing sense of community in the St. Louis area that Ruth Hanna had originally established.
 
The committee’s planning culminated in a three-day commemoration to occur on the weekend of Friday through Sunday, October 21-23, 2005. On Friday evening of that weekend, there was a gathering at the Unity Christ Church on Skinker Blvd. in St. Louis, with a focus on an introduction to A Course in Miracles for those new to the Course. The movie “The Story of A Course in Miracles” was shown. Mary Purviance (host) and Rene Hernandez acted as facilitators for the evening.
 
On Saturday, an all day series of discussions/presentations were provided by local ACIM students which were held at the First Divine Science Church on Wyoming St. in St. Louis. The speakers/presenters for the day included Jan Worley (host), Mary Duggan, Dr. Carl Van Alstine, Melissa Bennett, John Hutkin, Rev. Robert Brown, Corinne Esneault, Jeanne Wilke, Rev. Sally Hori, Richard Donnelly, and Russell Wilhelm. The cutting of an anniversary cake and socializing ended that day's activities.
 
On the following day, Sunday, at the Soul-Esteem Center on Progress Parkway, Maryland Heights, an afternoon series of presentations was given, and then a panel discussion was held. The presenters and panel members were Rev. Robert Brown (host), Julie Morreale, and Dr. Carl Van Alstine. Rene Hernandez closed Sunday's event and the entire weekend event. Refreshments and socializing followed.
 
Following the commemoration weekend, a number of ACIM community members discussed the idea of creating a permanent committee to coordinate and sponsor ACIM events in the future. After an ACIM event at John Hutkin's home in November 2005, interested ACIM students, including Ruth Hanna, met to discuss the idea. All enthusiastically endorsed the idea and Ruth felt it was an excellent way to continue the ACIM community in St. Louis. At that meeting, volunteers were sought to form such a committee. Those that volunteered were Jan Worley, Barb Land, Rev. Robert Brown, Corinne Esneault and Gary Liming. The St. Louis ACIM Leadership Council was formed and the first meeting of this council took place in November 2005. Ruth Hanna was dealing with cancer at that time and she transitioned in 2007.
  
Initially the Council focused on local gatherings to build community and there were a number of Local Speaker Gatherings. These gatherings were held once a quarter and were predominately held in ACIM student’s homes and/or in a church. Local students would volunteer to give a one and one half hour presentation with a thirty-minute social gathering and they ranged between 12 to 50 attendees averaging around 25 attendees. The Council also started to have an annual picnic at a local park averaging 50 attendees. After a year or so the Council decided to hold an annual weekend retreat with a recognized teacher of ACIM from outside of St. Louis. The Mercy Center was selected as the place for these annual retreats and there have been nine retreats (2007-2015) averaging about 60 attendees. Robert Perry was the first retreat speaker. A complete list of activities since 2006 is on the ACIM St. Louis website.  
 
In addition to Council organized events, Mary Lenihan and John Hutkin had a number of one-day events since 2005 where Mary shared her experience with the Course. Mary has become an internationally known ACIM author and teacher. Her current “Pause For Inspiration” approach to living is reaching people around the globe.  
 
The ACIM St. Louis Council became officially incorporated in 2014 and continues to hold speaker events and provide loving support to the local ACIM community.
 
 
(Article assembled by Richard Donnelly with input from numerous ACIM students including Rev. Sally Hori, Thomas Dunn, John Hutkin, Ruthann Herring, Robert Ferre, Jan Worley, Rev. Bob Brown, Rene Hernandez, Corinne Esneault, Barb Land and Gary Liming.)