Focused, intentional, and dedicated to service exemplify the ministry of the Rev. Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith. Empowered by those traits, he founded Agape International Spiritual Center and three decades later, the fellowship reaches thousands of people around the world.
Beckwith and Agape members will gather on Saturday, November 19, at 7 p.m., to mark their 30th anniversary with the “Love Comes Home” Reunion Concert on their campus at 5700 Buckingham Parkway in Culver City. Musical Director Rickie Byars Beckwith, the Agape International Choir and several special guests will perform. The concert will include selections from “The Sound of Agape Music” that contains original compositions by Dr. Beckwith and Byars Beckwith.
To many in the community, the celebration is a fitting tribute to the work of Dr. Beckwith, who started Agape in his home in November 1986. As spiritual director, he has built the congregation into a multicultural, trans-denominational church that teaches oneness with God and inner transformation through practices such as meditation, affirmative prayer, life visioning, sacred service, spiritual study and tithing.
“My philosophy of life is that each of us are individualized expressions of the one God. Everyone is a unique image and likeness of God. Everyone has a gift, a talent, an assignment to do,” said Beckwith.
“God made no mistakes, no throwbacks, God did not repeat Himself at all. Everyone is precious. Everyone is here to discover that preciousness and deliver their gifts to the fullest, so when we leave this planet, the planet is better because we walked on it, because we were here.”
A calling from God led Beckwith to establish Agape. While serving as a spiritual therapist as well as director of a prayer ministry, he felt a strong “inner urge” to mount a larger work to help people develop inner peace and “awakened awareness” as they carry out the activities of everyday life.
Inspired by his desire to serve, Beckwith started the church that soon attracted hundreds of believers representing a range of ethnicities desiring to make a difference.
“I think that Agape is an example of Dr. King’s dream in terms of the fact that everyone here is under one roof worshipping God, white, black, Latino, people from all around the world. But, I think for such a time as this, when there’s a rising up of a sense of separation and bigotry and racism, I think that we serve as a shining example of the potential and possibility of the human race,” noted Dr. Beckwith.
Involvement opportunities abound at Agape through its scores of ministries for youth, young adults, seniors and families. In addition to music, theater and arts group, programs such as Adoption and Foster Care, Grief Support and the Freedom Light Prison Ministry are available. Also, the church offers international aid through its Globalworks arm that promotes interfaith collaborations, disaster relief, and philanthropy and humanitarian projects.
Locally, Agape sponsors Sacred Service Saturday where 800+ members and volunteers unite each year to support women’s shelters, youth programs, elder care facilities, and environmental projects like community gardens along with beach and park cleanups.
“The practice of Sacred Service Saturday builds deep connections for all of the Agape participants and brings a network of support to the local community and bolsters our knowing of our Oneness in the Spirit,” said Dr. Beckwith, who led church members in being one of the first responders to the Haiti earthquake in 2010 with Agape sending funds, doctors and medical supplies to assist with rebuilding Hope Hospital.
Agape also hosted the 10th anniversary commemorating the end of apartheid. The celebration service featured a number of South African officials as well as Thabo Mbeki, who served as deputy president under Nelson Mandela and became President after Mandela.
Beckwith’s impactful ministry has brought recognition from many areas. In 2000, he was inducted into the Martin Luther King, Jr. Order of the College of Preachers at Morehouse College. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was one of the honorees as well. In 2012, he addressed the United Nations General Assembly during its annual World Interfaith Harmony Week.
He has received several awards and commendations including the Ebony Magazine Power 150 Award in 2009, the Kindred Spirits Humanitarian Award in 2014 and the Illuminate Film Festival’s Conscious Visionary Award in 2016.
As for the future, Beckwith plans to continue to advocate Agape’s mission to serve others.
“I wake up in the morning, I put my feet on the ground and I have a deep sense of gratitude that I’m alive. I have a deep sense of gratitude that I know my purpose and I have another day to be of service to the world and I open myself up to be used,” he shared.
“I live very intentionally, one day at a time so that I can give my full power and presence to that one day. And the next day, I do it again. Even though my calendar may be full for months at a time, my attention is on the one day. That’s how 30 years sneaks up on you as well.”
To learn more, visit agapelive.com or michaelbernardbeckwith.com.