believe they form a divine curricu- lum.” Ray added, “When we first came to the New Church, I didn’t know all the commandments. Now they’re like the ten fingers on my own hands. I could never forget them.” Growing the Program— and a Family “I continue to marvel as each class makes a remarkable transition from a group of unfamiliar students to a close-knit learning community of trusted friends supporting each other on their spiritual journeys.” been inspiring and challenging on many levels. There has been a lot of talk about God and how he’s a part of our life. I still can’t say it’s ‘God,’ but I can say I appreci- ate the Divine more than I’ve ever been able to.” Ray himself has felt blessed to teach this course. He said, “It’s difficult to put into words how grateful I feel for the opportunity to work with these students. I con- tinue to marvel as each class makes a remarkable transition from a group of unfamiliar students to a close-knit learning community of trusted friends supporting each other on their spiritual journeys. When friendships have this kind of foundation, they tend to last far beyond the classroom.” Since its inception in 2001, over 400 students have taken the class, leaving Ray with over 12,000 reflective student essays and jour- nal entries. These essays, now carefully coded and arranged on his shelves for future research, are full of stories and self-reflection from the minds of young people navigating a pivotal time in their lives, and learning to live more consciously. 20 | F A L L / W I N T E R 2 0 1 7 - 1 8 How the Course Came About In the summer of 1979, soon after discovering the New Church, Ray came across a small book writ- ten for children called The Child’s True Christian Religion by Thomas Hitchcock. While reading through the section on the Ten Command- ments, Ray learned that “to mur- der is to injure someone’s spirit.” Ray was astounded. “Here I was with a Ph.D. from a great univer- sity, and I had never learned that distinction about murder. What a void there was in my education.” He added, “I don’t have words to describe what a vacuum it is for people not to learn these things.” This discovery launched Ray on a long journey of studying vari- ous major religions in the context of the Ten Commandments—a study that would one day turn into a teachable program, and even a book. Ray explained, “We’re sur- rounded by books everywhere and great insights, and a lot of it goes in one ear and out the other. But the Ten Commandments are like a divine filing cabinet—everything that comes up in life can be traced back to one of them. We really 34 z In 1980, Ray and and his wife Star, along with their two young daugh- ters Serena and Sasha, moved to Bryn Athyn so Ray could study these teachings in depth in the College’s Theological School. After Ray’s or- dination in 1984, the family moved to the Pittsburgh New Church, where Ray and Star began teaching a Ten Commandments class to their congregation. The class proved suc- cessful, bringing the fastest surge of newcomers that the church had experienced in years. Looking to continue sharing what they were learning, Ray and Star began teaching the Ten Com- mandments in churches, homes, prisons, and even in remote African villages. Through this process, they collected hundreds of “journal en- tries”—participants’ anecdotes and reflections on keeping the com- mandments. Ray and Star used these stories to supplement their curriculum, which was now taking shape as a book: Rise Above It: Spiri- tual Development through the Ten Com- mandments. A Timely Prize In 2000, while teaching a Rise Above It course at the Lord’s New Church in Bryn Athyn, Phyllis Pitcairn (BS ’53) attended. She told Ray and Star some exciting news: Her husband, the late Garth Pitcairn had an- nounced a $10,000 prize for anyone who could write a self-help book based on New Church principles.