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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

David Ault Leaving SLCA

by Paul B. Chen

The Rev. Dr. David Ault, dean of the Spiritual Council at the Spiritual Living Center of Atlanta (SLCA), will leave his post at the end of December. He was previously senior minister of SLCA for seven years.

Ault had considered moving on earlier; he was disturbed by his apparent lack of effectiveness.

“The thing that would be unsettling to me is that after eight years, I would see the same [congregation members] having the same issues, year after year,” says Ault. “Where's the disconnect between the teaching and the embodiment of the teaching? I hold myself accountable if I’m the one who's teaching.”

Ault tries to embody his teachings, not only for himself but for the benefit of those he teaches.

“I believe people want to see a sermon rather than hear it,” he says. “If I can be the example of what it is that I’m saying, then maybe that level of embodiment will strengthen.”

Ault believes that one issue is organizational—the personality-driven structure that developed with him at the center. In devising a solution, he was influenced by the experience he and SLCA had with a group of millennials several years ago. They organized themselves, developed a range of “amazing” activities and events, and then scattered to the winds. The group was so successful that the international Spiritual Living organization asked Ault for his secret.

He told them, “I didn’t do anything.”

So, one attribute Ault framed his solution around was bridging the gap between generations. And he wanted to move away from the personality-driven organization. His solution? A Spiritual Council consisting of a group that spanned multiple generations, multiple faiths and multiple examples of embodying teachings. The six-member council was approved as a one-year pilot program by the SLCA board for 2018. Ault hoped that by exposing the congregation to more examples of embodied teachings more people would be inspired toward embodiment.

Ultimately, the Council missed its mark. Financial support declined and feedback demonstrated that members preferred the senior minister model, says Ault.

Nevertheless, Ault praises SLCA for trying something very different. At the same time, he says that while the council concept fell short at SLCA, the idea is still valid. Ault says he's received many calls about the council concept, and he is working with a group that would like to try the model.

With the council experiment coming to an end, Karen Ratts, SLCA's board president, said, “We know the best structure and next expression of spiritual leadership will unfold in Divine order. The beauty of having a teacher like David Ault is that he leaves an indelible mark of knowing each person’s spiritual magnificence, and that change and evolution are necessary and desirable. We stand gratefully on his shoulders as we consciously evolve to our next expression.”

As for Ault, he looks forward to writing more, taking his teaching on the road more and devoting more time to his Kaleidoscope Child Foundation.

“I realize what I really want to do is write more,” he says. “I want my writings to have a large enough audience that I can go out and I can lecture about my writings. I love to teach.”

Kaleidoscope's mission is to “advance vulnerable children and communities worldwide with sustainable education, life skills, and fresh water.” Its beginnings are found in Ault's 2004 trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Upon encountering the town's poverty, the tour group he led bought a large quantity of food; the visitors rented vans and traveled to the most destitute area to distribute their donations. The orderly process lasted only minutes. Ault recounts: “Off in the distance, [there was] thunderous running; we just saw hundreds of children, and before you knew it, we were encircled in this cyclone of pulling and grabbing.”

Afterward, Ault was overcome with emotion. He crawled onto a pontoon boat, broke down and wailed.

“I can't explain it any other way than it wasn't out of pity,” he says. “It was this inexplicable realization that I was that child, or they were me. I felt like literally my physical heart burst. And I thought I’m called to do something here. In that pontoon boat, I said, ‘I’m available.’ ”

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Photo: The Rev. Dr. David Ault

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