Michael Beckwith was born in 1956. His first experience with religion wasn’t an entirely pleasant one, and he left his native Methodist and Congregational church at 16. As he has said since, “it just wasn’t feeding me. I liked the teachings of Jesus, but I didn’t see people practicing what he said.” Like many other baby boomers, he began investigating Eastern and African modes of spirituality the 1970s. However, unlike many of them, he decided to found his own church by the time he was 30.
The interdenominational church that became Agape was founded on the notion of New Thought-Ancient Wisdom — generally that focusing your mind and training your thoughts allows you could more fully experience the single divine force at the heart of every living thing and communicate that to others through your actions. Though the New Thought Movement is quite old, going as far back in one form or another to such figures from the turn of the last century as William Walker Atkinson and Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, it remains vital today as several different denominations, such as Religious Science.
Michael was ordained in Religious Science in 1985, and he soon began teaching a few friends at his home. In 1986 he founded Agape International Spiritual Centre in Santa Monica, California. In just a few years, membership swelled. Eventually the ministry found a new, much larger home in Culver City, California, where it remains today.
What started out as that small gathering of practitioners has today grown into a centre that serves a congregation estimated at nearly 10,000 each week. While the message may seem to differ from that of the more “mainstream” churches, Reverend Beckwith’s church is responsible for a bevy of ministries such as, aiding poor and disadvantaged individuals in the US and worldwide. Other campaigns include supporting orphanages for the survivors of AIDS, the peace movement, food distribution to the local homeless populations and environmental advocacy.
Today, the Church itself is a model of interracial and interdenominational harmony. Indeed, many members continue with their various faiths in addition to feeling the message at Agape. While the congregation does include the wealthy and powerful people who live and work in the nearby area, people of all backgrounds witness the rousing spectacle that is a service at Beckwith’s church.
As a founding member of the Association for Global New Thought in 2000, “dedicated to creating a spiritual transformation of the Earth as a whole,” Michael continues working to promote peace and forgiveness. The charter documents declare an emphasis on the shared nature of all life and the birthright of abundance that is each member’s right.
The Reverend Beckwith has received a great deal of attention lately, from other devotional and service groups, appearing as a guest columnist in several devotional websites and magazines. With other members of the New Thought movement, he had an audience with the Dali Lama. At Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, the all-black men’s institution has installed him in their Wall of Preachers display. He and the ministry have toured the world bringing the message of peace and prosperity, calling for an end to nationalism, racism, environmental degradation and conditions that encourage unhealthy living.
Michael has also found himself the subject of much media attention lately from his involvement with the powerfully profitable The Secret. He was a featured interviewee in the film and has appeared on television interviews promoting the film and companion book along with the practice contained therein. He has also participated in The Secret seminars across the United States.
Continuing his education to better serve the 35,000 worldwide who have interacted with the message of universal love and peace that Beckwith and Agape preach, the Reverend earned a Doctorate of Divinity in Religious Science from the United Church of Religious Science in 2003.
While serving as the leader and keynote speaker of Agape, he fell in love with and married the choir director, the former Rickie Byars. Rickie BB is prominent in her own right as a musician, composer and performer. She joined Agape in 1988 and was persuaded by Michael to form a 30-voice Christmas choir. Nearly 20 years later, it continues with over 200+ members and tours worldwide. She continues, to this day, in her role as choir director at the church. The couple have appeared together on several albums of devotional music. Their four children are grown now with children of their own.
Reverend Beckwith continues to bring his message of peace and self-love to millions with his inspirational ideas. He is the author of several books, recently including Inspirations of the Heart and A Manifesto of Peace.