A Journey into New Spiritual Waters- An Interview with John Gilmore
“I’ve watched you and you have some of the gifts and graces of ministry”, he said to John Gilmore. “Have you considered it?”
These words struck John Gilmore like a freight train. Having recently graduated from Ohio University, he was in a quandary as to his next steps. The two “sure” job leads had vanished and he’d sent out dozens of resumes without a response.
He moved back with his parents in Shreveport, Louisiana and was attending the Leadership Training Institute of the 4th Episcopal District of the CME Church, where his father served as the presiding bishop. Not knowing why, he sat in on a class for ministers and as he listened to them, he pondered that path. But he quickly came up with a list of 5 reasons why that could never be the path for him.
The class adjourned and he was walking down the hallway when a close family friend, a minister himself, stopped John and asked him if he had considered the ministry as his path. That wasn’t an unusual question for this preacher’s son. What was unusual was that this minister went on to say, “I know you probably have reasons why you can’t” and went on to name the 5 reasons John had previously listed to himself. The shocking thing was the family friend has named them—verbatim and in order!
“How could he know?” John wondered, seeing it as some kind of important sign. Later that night, he prayed for guidance and the following morning he felt a sense of certainty. “Yes!” he thought, God is calling me to ministry.
He later shared his thoughts with his father, Bishop Marshall Gilmore, who told him that he always wondered about his path but was careful not to say anything because he wanted it to be something that John and God worked out. His advice was to enroll in seminary and further explore this call.
He applied to Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. It was the middle of the summer and they both knew that enrollment had closed. But John applied and was informed exactly that. However, a few days later he received a call saying that a slot had come open and he was accepted—with tuition and a housing allowance! “God was opening doors”, John recalled.
In 1987, John graduated from seminary and began serving his first congregation, Elizabeth Chapel C.M.E. Church in Dallas. In 1990 he left Texas to serve as pastor in Memphis at Martin Temple C.M.E. Church and later Mt. Olive Cathedral C.M.E. Church. His time in all three of those congregations provided many memorable opportunities and experiences. He would serve as the General Conference Secretary of the C.M.E. Church and in many other capacities.
He states, “I’ve always felt a calling to the community at large and have never confined my ministry to the church building”. That philosophy would put him at the forefront of issues that are still considered controversial for many: working with persons living with HIV/AIDS and being a straight ally of the LGBT community. “I am for radical inclusion”, Gilmore says.
Gilmore continues, “I take chances and risks because I believe in living the courage of my convictions”.
This outlook would propel him to take even more steps that might be considered risky. In 2001, he left the C.M.E. denomination to answer a calling from deep within. As a teenager, he was drawn to writings from authors who had a different take on faith. Their words resonated with him deeply and stayed with him from that time on. He didn’t know at the time that those works were part of a spiritual philosophy referred by many as “New Thought/Ancient Wisdom”.
There were people along the way that continued to point him to this teaching and as he studied it he became convinced that it spoke to what he’d been intuitively feeling all along.
“For a long time, I truly knew that I was not separate from the Infinite or that God was “out there” but rather God manifests as me. In my practice of living in the present moment, I can sense the entire universe rushing in and flowing through me.”
He became a licensed practitioner in the then United Church of Religious Science in 2007 and has continued studying and teaching the New Thought/Ancient Wisdom principles.
In order to be true to himself and to provide a place for those of like minds, Gilmore organized Open Heart Spiritual Center, a place for the New Thought-Ancient Wisdom teaching in 2002. It is a place that teaches a spiritual philosophy that captures the threads of truth that span across the religions of the world. OHSC embraces all people, regardless of race/ethnicity, background, sexual orientation or belief.
It truly represents a journey into new spiritual waters for John Gilmore. A journey he absolutely feels is worth it.