Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Apr 21st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

An Experiment in Hope

NEWS_HOPELocal church launches a 50-day testament to the power of positive thought
Almost 14 years ago, just two years after becoming a pastor at Twin Lakes Church (TLC) in Aptos, René Schlaepfer became overwhelmed by anxiety. He couldn’t sleep, was constantly worrying, and, having never heard of anxiety attacks, was freaked by the abrupt racing of his heart.

A series of panic attacks eventually landed him in the hospital, where, unbeknownst to him, the doctor had recently started attending TLC and recognized Schlaepfer as the pastor.

“He came in and said ‘there is nothing wrong with you physically, but you’re having anxiety attacks,’” remembers Schlaepfer. “I immediately started feeling guilty. Here I am a pastor talking about peace and joy and love, and I’m having an anxiety attack.”


The doctor didn’t let on that he knew who his patient was until he gave him two prescriptions: one medicinal and one spiritual. “You need to practice what you preach,” he told the surprised pastor. He recommended that Schlaepfer write positive messages and scripture verses down on 3-by-5 index cards, stick a rubber band around them and keep the stack in his pocket so he could flip through them whenever he had a free moment. Schlaepfer took the suggestion to heart, habitually reading through the cards several times a day and even sleeping with them under his pillow at night.

“Just a few weeks of doing that really changed me,” he says. “It turned me from being an anxiety-ridden pastor, a worrier, into feeling more hopeful about life.”

In the years since, Schlaepfer has watched the global morale reach all-time lows, including the emotional debacle that followed the recent economic crisis. On top of that, he felt that Christians, already surrounded by a cynical world full of depressing headlines, were more negative than ever. Remembering that worn-through stack of index cards, Schlaepfer felt it was about time his 3,400-person congregation got a dose of hope, too.

The stack of scribbled pick-me-ups became the foundation of Schlaepfer’s 2009 fall sermon series, which then became a hope-based curriculum for home groups, which then became a loose-leaf book, and so on, until the “The Hope Experience: 50 Days of Hope” experiment was born. “The Hope Experience” is a full-blown multi-media project: a self-published manual with the pizzazz of a coffee table book—complete with a Library of Congress number and availability on amazon.com—an accompanying DVD, website (hopeexperience.com), and all the social media stops, including a blog, iTunes podcasts, and Twitter and Facebook accounts. The 50 days will wrap up with the church’s annual food drive, but this year they are pledging to raise half a million meals—more than ever before.

The congregation’s 50-day hope immersion began Oct. 4, and thanks to Internet ubiquity, groups as far as London and Venice have joined in. “Viral may be a strong word, but it’s starting to spread,” says Schlaepfer.

Positive-thinking exercises aren’t anything new: Masaru Emoto, a Japanese author and doctor of alternative medicine, became a household name among the new-agey with his scientific research on the impact loving thoughts have on the crystal structure of water. Another famous study on the power of positive thought is the 1993 experiment in Washington D.C. in which 4,000 people practiced Transcendental Meditation hoping it would prevent violent crime in the area. Homicides, rapes and assaults dropped by 48 percent during that time. Santa Cruz efforts in positivism include the Possibility Advocate Society, an organization whose mission it is to combat pessimism by encouraging bold, positive actions and fun group activities.

But Schlaepfer wasn’t aware of these similar-minded efforts when he became determined to launch an experiment in hope at his church. He simply saw the stress levels rising and felt compelled to help.

“A sense of hope in our personal and national future is being drained away,” he writes in the introduction of the Hope Experience book. “Every year, 23 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders—largely expressed in fear about their present and future—and that number is swelling. Even Christians are feeling hopeless: 62 percent of evangelical Christians now say they are worried about the future.”

A few days before TLC embarked on its 50 Days, I hopped down to Aptos to meet the Hope-Bringer himself. Stepping into the church office, I was struck by how quiet it was. A friendly woman at the front desk asked me to wait a moment while the staff wrapped up their morning prayer, and a quick “Amen!” later, I heard the office erupt into a choir of chatter, questions, laughter and ringing phones. “This room was like a library when I started here, but now it’s more like a newsroom,” said Schlaepfer, who had appeared just a moment later and swept me into a tour of the picture-perfect, almost movie-like church campus. The office was brimming with smiling faces and youthful, surfer-dude staff eager to welcome me to the church. We peeked in the main auditorium and checked in with the Food Pantry Ministry, a group of ladies assembling free bags of groceries for the poor. If any group could launch a full-fledged attack on frowns and fretting, this is it.

After settling into chairs in his bright and airy office, Schlaepfer explains that he was largely motivated by the declining reputation of Christians. “I was hearing a lot of angry Christians and political Christianity and so on,” he says. “That [attitude] seems to be taking over the public perception of Christianity and Christians’ own emotions seem to be getting really angry and pessimistic and negative.”

Schlaepfer believes that Christians should be “agents of hope,” not the critics or alarmists he believes they are seen as. Although the Hope Experience program is bibliocentric, he is wishful that people of all walks of life will benefit from the experiment. “Of course I hope that people will eventually come to a point of faith in Christ, but this could be helpful wherever they are on their journey,” he says. “Santa Cruz is a really unique place—there is a secular culture that is open to spirituality, and that makes it a place that is uniquely influential when it comes to these kinds of movements.”

While it’s hard to predict what the results of the experiment will be, Schlaepfer is certain of one thing: That it has reach. “Everything is contagious—your lifestyle is contagious, your attitude it contagious,” he says. “Everybody is spreading something, the question is what are you spreading?

“Panic, paranoia, negativity … they are increasing,” he adds. “I feel like the project is a corrective to that. I hope that it will help people the same way that the stack of 3-by-5 cards helped me.”

Comments (1)Add Comment
Love how people distort the Hagelin Trancendental Meditation study
written by NerdyDragon, March 21, 2011
II believe in the power of positive thinking, I also believe in the power of self deception, and the most importantly i believe in science (being a method of acquiring and testing knowledge

READ about the wash DC TM study yourself
http://www.pnyv.org/fileadmin/images_articles/reports/Tm-Maharishi-Study.pdf

In districts 6 & 7 (the two largest, combined make up approx 1/3 of the land mass) patrol increases between thur - sun 6pm-2am (each night) was up about 27% (and the study says this isn't statistically important. ALSO note that is NOT routine activity for the area)

July 13th - Religious and social leaders ask for a 72hour non-violence moratorium. (the cities response was quite low, according to Washington Post. with approx 1 out of 7 expected volunteers arriving) The largest drop in HRA crime was in during that week (also not considered statistically important by the study... what?)

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Forty Years of Good Times

When I came on board as the publisher of Good Times a year ago, the lease was up at the office where the paper had resided for nearly 20 years, and a move to new offices was imminent.

 

Pluto Retrograde, Aries New Moon, Lyrid Meteor Showers

As the Lyrid meteors, radiating from the star Vega in the Harp constellation, begin showering heaven and earth with light, Pluto, planet of transformation (or die) turns stationary retrograde (Thursday, April 16), 15 degrees Capricorn. Retrogrades have purpose, allowing humanity time to review, reassess, research and reinvent while returning to previous situations. Retrogrades are times of inner activity, seeds sown in bio-dynamically prepared soil. Pluto retrograde is the most serious and resolute of retrogrades—a pure tincture, or, as in homeopathy, a “constitutional” touching the essences of all that matters. Pluto offers deep insight into confusion or puzzlement and areas where transformation is still incomplete. It’s valuable to have one’s astrology chart to follow what area of life the major planets— especially Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto—are influencing. These outer planets have long-term and lasting effects on our psyche, inner/outer life events, how people see us and how we see and process our world. Pluto, retrograde for five months (until Sept. 24) offers deep earthquakes of change, awakens humanity to the task of building (Capricorn) the new culture and civilization, flailing our inner world about, deepening us until we transform and do things differently. Pluto is an unrelenting teacher. New moon (29 Aries) is Saturday, April 18. With the personality-building keynote, “Let form again be sought.” Mars anchors the new creative fires of Aries into our world. The New Group of World Servers participates together in the new moon festival, while also preparing for the Taurus Wesak, Buddha Full Moon Festival (May 3). Join us everyone.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of April 17

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

What would you like to see a TED talk about?

Hydrogen-gas cars that are coming this summer. Scott Oliver, Santa Cruz, Professor

 

37th Parallel Wines

I visited the Capitola Mall recently to check out the newly launched Third Fridays Walking Art Tour, and was surprised to find an impressive assortment of artwork from local artists.

 

Mighty Leaf

Radicchio from Dirty Girl Produce, wine etiquette fail, and a treat from Gayle’s

 

What’s your favorite happy hour downtown?

The 515. I like their french fries, and they've got great cocktails. Spring Carver, Santa Cruz, Cashier