Journey To The Center
Several years ago, Joanna and John Quintrell were vacationing on northern California's Mendocino Coast over Valentine's Day weekend when God interrupted early one morning with a decidedly unromantic message.
John was reading on the couch while Joanna huddled by the fire for personal devotions. She was reading the Good Samaritan story, which led her to muse about people who had been figuratively beat up and robbed in life.
"I had a strong sense of the presence of God," she says, "and a message from him: 'Take out a piece of paper. I want to tell you something new.'" Quintrell found herself filling up a sheet of paper as though by dictation. "I had never had anything like that happen. I knew it wasn't coming from me."
At the time, Quintrell served as executive pastor of Redwood Covenant Church in Santa Rosa, California. The words that filled the sheet of paper before her added up to something quite different from anything her church was doing:
Journey Center: Christ-centered spirituality, healing, and wholeness.
"I wish I could say that my response was, 'Speak Lord, for your servant heareth.'" What Quintrell actually said was, "Oh no!" loudly enough that her husband jumped up looking for a spider to squash.
"I'm sorry, John. Go back to your book. It was just God."
Time To Find A Guru?
Redwood Covenant, part of the Evangelical Covenant Church denomination, has a mission to reach "sincere seekers and disenchanted disciples." It deliberately attracts bruised and wounded souls who find participating in church difficult. Quintrell's vision, though, was for the "spiritually thirsty of Sonoma County."
Troubled by the message, Quintrell had John read what was written. "This sounds like people in the New Age movement," she said. "I don't know anybody like this. My whole life is inside the church. What should I do? Climb a mountain and find a guru?"
Sonoma County, in the middle of wine country, has low church attendance and highly liberal politics, but its religious profile is less secular than alternative. Many are attracted to eclectic spirituality, what used to be called New Age spirituality.
In this city, Quintrell thought, there must be tens of thousands who have known Christ in some way, but disillusionment or woundedness has caused them to leave. These are Christ's lambs. They have been hurt, and nobody's tending to them.
Quintrell didn't know any of them, and couldn't imagine where to start. Then one day, as she was driving by the county fairgrounds, she saw a sign advertising an upcoming event. She said aloud, again, "Oh no!"
She knew about the Health and Harmony Fair, an annual gathering of some 20,000 alternative spirituality enthusiasts. It was the last place she wanted to go, but now she had a powerful sense that she had to.
Immediately upon entering the fair gates, she found a booth for the Psychic Institute, where people were channeling spirits. She felt uncomfortable, "creeped out," she says. Next she sat down to listen to Ram Dass, an internationally known teacher of Eastern religion. His workshop was crammed, and the attendees in front had their eyes closed and their hands raised in worship. "It was like another planet," Quintrell remembers.
Walking around the festival, she encountered the Eco Village and the Goddess Grove. She found a booth where an elaborate camera took pictures of passersby's auras. Palm readers and yoga enthusiasts abounded. One thing she noticed: Everybody was charging money.
She pictured a different kind of booth where everything was free—a place offering escape from the sun, a free drink of water, and healing prayer.