Rev. Dr. Johnnie Colemon

Rev. Dr. Johnnie Colemon
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A Visit With Dr. Catherine Ponder about the Rev. Dr. Johnnie Colemon

Rev. Johnnie Colemon
Rev. Johnnie Colemon

Little did I realize when I first met her at Unity School where we were both studying in the early 1950's, that she was destined to build an ever-increasing church in Chicago, Illinois, and eventually she would even found her own movement, "The Universal Foundation for Better Living" with churches, ministers, and students all over the world.

Among her illustrious ministers is Rev. Della Reese of Touched by an Angel fame. However, Johnnie is also a special friend and counselor to many of the "greats" not only in show business, both on Broadway and in Hollywood, but her acquaintances also include such "name identification" people as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Michael Jordan family. However, such associations do not slow her down from ministering to a large following who especially love her teachings on prosperity.

When I first met Johnnie at Unity Village almost 50 years ago, I had no idea she had a diagnosis of "six months to live" hanging over her. And I would like to think she did not suspect I only had the proverbial "one pair of shoes." I was a single parent, between marriages, and seriously studying for my own self-improvement, as well as praying to be able to raise and educate my young son.

The last time I had the opportunity to talk at length with Johnnie was at the INTA banquet in Scottsdale, Arizona several years ago when I insisted that she sit next to me. We talked all the way through the banquet, barely touching our food, trying to catch up on the last 40 plus years of our lives and ministries.

This was not because we had not seen each other in all the years in between. We had. I had gone to speak at Johnnie's church on the famous "South State Street" in Chicago a number of times in the 1960's and early 1970s. But she always kept me so busy working that there was little time to visit. Just following Johnnie around was no small task.

You are encouraged to follow the link for the quote from Emerson, and to read the paragraph from which Dr. Ponder quotes. Catherine Ponder knows the value of friendship better than most anyone I know. Mark Hicks.

I returned to her large new complex in the 1990's on my fortieth anniversary in ministry to thank her for being among the early ministers who believed in me and helped "launch" me as a writer and minister, when there were those who said, "Catherine will never make it."

Not only did Johnnie champion me in her own unique way, but she has spent all the years since my books began being published in 1962 teaching them and selling them in her church book store. She has sometimes called me "Miss Prosperity." Well, if so, she can "take a bow" for doing what no other minister I know of in the New Thought movement has done: persistently promote my books year in and year out since that magical year of 1962. For some time, now, my son has acted as my Business Manager. I don't claim that he "laughs all the way to the bank," but I must admit he does smile. So Johnnie, take another bow! Emerson was right when he wrote, "We talk of choosing our friends, but friends are self-elected." (from his essay on "Friendship.")

One of my favorite Johnnie Colemon stories is about the time in the 1960's when I went to Chicago to conduct a series of prosperity lectures at our church. One morning she said, "Ponder, let's go down to Marshall Field's store and look around." Upon arrival, I was somehow drawn toward the diamond counter. When Johnnie realized where I was headed, she said to me in a firm voice, "Ponder, stay away from that diamond counter." Startled I slunk back, while the clerks, the security officer, the customers, and heaven knows who else looked at me as though I were a diamond thief, and that Johnnie was saving the day for them.

After we left the store, I asked, "Johnnie, why did you do that to me?" She replied, "Ponder, I have a problem with you and diamonds." Puzzled, I replied, "How can that be, when I don't even have any diamonds?" She said, "The problem is that every time you come to town and lecture on prosperity, members of my congregation give me diamonds—mostly diamond rings. And each one expects me to wear their diamond. I have a drawer full of diamond rings. The last thing I needed was for you to look at Marshall Field's diamond display and visualize them, thereby opening the way for more diamond rings to appear. I've got too many already!"

I thought, "God, don't get me wrong. I'm delighted that Johnnie's congregation is so generous and that she's got all those diamond rings. But what about me? I wrote the book."

After the lecture that night, I was finishing up at the autographing table, and here comes Johnnie. She again seemed exasperated with me as she said, "Ponder, you did it again. Only tonight I was not given one, but two diamond rings."

I thought, "Some problem," but said nothing.

I almost never had any diamond rings, but years later when mine arrived, the first one came from Tiffany's of Beverly Hills, California. It reminded me of that statement in one of my books, "The longer your good is coming, the bigger and better it will be when it comes, so hang on." Amen.

I don't know what Johnnie ever did with her drawer full of diamond rings. Frankly, I've never had the courage to ask. But I suspect she uses them to help build her ever-increasing ministry in one way or another.

If "diamonds are a girl's best friend," Johnnie surely has a lot of "best friends." And I know through observance that nobody works harder for the New Thought movement than "our" Johnnie, so nobody deserves all the blessings of the universe and more, including those "best friends."

However, I have a confession to make. Even though that "diamond event" happened more than 30 years ago, I've never had the courage to put my foot in Marshall Field's store of Chicago ever since! I think you know why.

Nevertheless, we can all thank Johnnie for being such a long time "self elected friend"—of whom Emerson wrote—to the entire New Thought movement. We all take pride in our multi-talented life and endless accomplishments. So "cheers" Johnnie, you deserve it.


(Excerpt from New Thought Magazine - Summer 2002)

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