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What really works in the ministry today? Curiously, almost anything, if it is done with spirit—or Spirit. Now, as in other times, there are ministers with that special gift of God that the Greeks called charisma, an ability to inspire energy and enthusiasm among the apathetic and the alienated. Though they can be found in every ministry, many seem to work a special magic among the young.

Last month in Florida, Los Angeles-based Baptist Minister Arthur Blessitt, 29, took his hip spiritual message to the West Palm Beach Rock Festival. Of the 50,000 spectators who heard him speak, 20,000 showed up for a Sunday-morning Gospel service. Blessitt, who holds almost permanent open house in a converted nightclub on Sunset Strip called His Place, appeals to his young congregation in their own argot: "Jesus is just the best trip, man. You don't have to drop acid to get high—all you have to do is pray and you go all the way to heaven." He runs a home for reformed drug addicts, regularly holds "toilet services" in which parishioners who want to kick the habit ceremonially flush away their drugs. A Louisiana bayou boy who has been preaching since he was 15, Blessitt criticizes the churches for being "more interested in condemning than helping"—a criticism not likely to be made against him.

Like Blessitt's free-form vocation, New York-based John Rydgren's ministry to the young is conducted in their own language—but in Rydgren's case the language is rock. Snappily dressed and sideburned, Rydgren, 37, is an ordained minister of the American Lutheran Church still on the active books of his denomination—and one of the country's most articulate and popular rock disk jockeys. His show, called Love, runs on 13 FM stations in major cities. On Los Angeles' KABC-FM his tapes are broadcast 24 hours a day, dispensing a lively selection of rock aimed at pointing up his capsule philosophical comments or provocative questions about life and the state of the world. Rydgren has picked up a sizable group of young followers who write to him as "Brother John," asking for personal or spiritual advice. He answers them all. And, he points out, he can say what he likes because "I don't have to pass the plate."

One ancient life style the young have taken up with fresh enthusiasm is communalism. Increasingly popular among the youthful dispossessed, whose rural hippie enclaves seem to be adopting more and more a quasi-religious mystique, the commune is an authentic American tradition, dating principally from the Utopian religious communities of the 19th century. Young and old are again attempting the collective life, particularly in several urban communities.

An Episcopal pentacostalist is having remarkable success with one such experiment in Houston. Some 120 followers of the Rev. Graham Pulkingham have organized 16 experimental communes, ranging from groups of working people to foster homes for parentless children. The communes are set up in ordinary houses scattered throughout the city. Members contribute all or part of their income to the community, basing their action on the example of the early Christian communities.

Pioneering Commune

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