Great Morning Beloved!
Unity’s Nuts & Bolts
Many of you have been a part of Unity Spiritual Center from its beginning. And others have found us or even, looked for us, as they came into our area or found that they were ready for this Spiritual Path.
But what do you know about the goings on behind, or maybe it would be better to say, within Unity Spiritual Center? Since our Congregational Meeting will be in a few weeks, February 9th, I thought it might be a good idea to know what makes Unity tick.
Today we are going to learn a bit about what holds a successful Unity Church or Center together… it’s important stuff, if you wish for a successful Unity Spiritual Center.
Did you know that there were four categories of churches? They are somewhat based upon size and with the size will indicate what duties go to whom.
The smallest is a Family size, up to 50 people. Obviously, we are considered a Family Center, just based upon size, but our activities and leadership flow into Pastoral size category even though we are not between 50-150 people.
The other categories are a Program church at 150-300 and a Corporate Church above 350. Obviously, we are not either of these, and I’m not sure I would want to be attending a Spiritual Center this large, though they do have some good points, like lots of opportunities for classes and programs.
For the most part, Unity Churches and Centers are small, Family and Pastoral in size. We do have a few large Churches and Centers, like in New York and Miami, Chicago, and others.
Have any of you visited or traveled here from the larger size churches?
We, the Board and I, your Spiritual Leader; along with our other Leaders, are trying to make 2020 the best year yet for Unity Spiritual Center.
We are growing our Leaders and working hard to be transparent in all our workings.
The minister or spiritual leader is the central figure in each of these first two categories, but as the center grows, more and more leaders step up to take on more responsibility. And we see that as people volunteer to start activities like the Men’s Group and the Adopt a Highway, as well as class facilitators for the classes coming in February on Prosperity with Susan and in April on the book, “The Gathering” with Donna Joy.
But that is only two legs of the stool that represents a healthy Center…the Minister or Spiritual Leader, the Leaders and the third, the congregation. All three must be engaged in the Vision, Mission, and Values.
These three guides, the Vision, Mission, and Values, were developed not long ago during a workshop attended by just over half of our regular attendees. So, they must represent what most of us feel this Unity Center is here to do, to be.
So, if that is true, then what are my duties? What are yours if we wish to have Unity Spiritual Center be successful? And what does success for Unity Spiritual Center mean to you? What does it look like? We will come back to that.
What is my responsibility to Unity? Basically? I am responsible for the over-all administration of operations and the day-to-day fiscal management of Unity Spiritual Center, as well as Sunday Service and any classes or workshops we provide. There are 32 items listed in our manual that I am responsible for, so I think we’ll just stick with the statement above.
Then what is the responsibility of the Board of Trustees? Two things, basically: 1) to conduct the business of the Center and 2) to support the Spiritual Leader. Of course, there are a few details to that description of responsibilities.
Think of what it would take to make sure we paid our bills on time, we have the funds required to pay them, that we made choices as to what opportunities or activities we should take advantage of; that is what the Board does.
You, the congregation empower the Board to conduct the business of the Center on your behalf.
If you are interested in the details of any of these, please let me know and I can show you the details.
Of course, we have a Code of Ethics and a Covenant for all those in these positions too. These are important, although I do not see anyone on this Board or myself falling out of line with the covenants we sign.
These codes and covenants are available for you to see in our Book of Documents. Also, in this Book you can find the By-laws and Policies we currently adhere to. The Book of Documents is in the office on the bookshelf for anyone to see.
So, the third leg on the stool of Center Strength and success is you, the Congregation.
What do you think would be your part in keeping the stool on even ground?
Part of your responsibilities are attending Services regularly, participating in volunteer opportunities and classes, and additional activities like concerts and outreach opportunities.
Of course, you aren’t expected to be at every Sunday Service, though I wish that were so; or every activity. But you are asked to be willing to step into opportunities that fit your talents and where you can learn more to help your soul’s journey go more smoothly.
Time, talent and treasure…. we ask that you consider if you are following that theme as best you are able?
Now, what does success for Unity Spiritual Center mean to you?
A successful Unity Center or church is:
Of course, it means fiscally sound. And the growth of ownership of the Center. More people stepping up to fill the needs of our community.
But it also means a growth in consciousness for everyone. When we come to this Center on Sunday for Service or maybe for a class, we come with an open heart as well as an open mind. We come without preconceived ideas and attitudes but an openness so that we can learn and absorb the information presented to us.
Numbers are important, for we wish to be a success and be here long after I am gone from this pulpit. A growth in the consciousness of us all, of the understanding of the Principles and how we can apply them to us…. that is success.
GREAT MORNING BELOVED!!
Black History and the Unity Movement
We are going to do something a little different this morning. In observance of Black History Month, I thought I’d talk about that a bit and then go into some Unity history regarding the African American members of the Unity family.
First, as you know, Black History Month is an annual observance originating in the United States, where it is also known as African-American History Month. It has received official recognition from governments in the United States and Canada, and more recently has been observed unofficially in Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. It began as a way of remembering important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. It’s surprising to me that the recognition has not gone further.
Black History Month started out as Negro History Week” back in 1926, started by historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History when they announced it would be observed the second week in February.
Does anyone have an idea why that week was selected?
It was chosen because it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and of Frederick Douglass on February 14, both of which dates the black communities had celebrated together since the late 19th century.
And what were the reasons behind this celebration? Recognition and importance.
In 1926, knowing our countries history, we can kind of understand the lukewarm response that was received, but, maybe surprisingly, they did gain the cooperation of the Departments of Education of the states of North Carolina, Delaware, and West Virginia as well as the city school Baltimore and Washington, D.C
By 1929, officials with the State Departments of Educations stated: “every state with considerable Negro population”, with only two exceptions, had made the event known to that state’s teachers and distributed official literature associated with the event”.
Churches also played a significant role in the distribution of literature in association with Negro History Week during this initial interval, with the mainstream and black press aiding in the publicity effort.
Negro History Week was met with enthusiastic response; resulting in an increase in interest among teachers, and interest from progressive whites. The Week grew in popularity throughout the following decades, with mayors across the United States endorsing it as a holiday.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month, during the celebration of the United States Bicentennial. He urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”.
So, after that little bit of history, let’s look at the Unity journey through segregation & de-segregation.
It took Unity more than several years to do some ‘practice what you peace’ consciousness. But we must remember, unfortunately, they did go with the times for a while.
It took some years for Unity to step away from city and state ordinances that didn’t allow for the mingling of the races.
Their statement, when questioned in the 1930’s after two Negro students were denied service at the on-campus Unity Inn were the students ate was: “It is not our province to force acceptance of the Negro race upon the public. We feel that we can do more to continue to help our colored friends by keeping a feeling of good fellowship between the races until full love—which we are teaching at Unity School—can be established within the hearts of men.”
A few people were instrumental in removing the restrictions that Unity had on the students of color.
One person was a Black playwright named Garland Anderson. He was planning to visit Ernest Wilson at Unity Village and while planning the trip, said: “I’ve looked forward to a meal at your famous vegetarian inn.”
And the Inn was famous. The Fillmore’s were vegetarians and the ‘farm’ at the Village provided the organic vegetables that were used at the Inn.
Keep in mind, this is still during segregation and Anderson put Wilson to the test. So, Dr. Wilson, Sr. minister of Unity and editor of their publications, had to work around the segregation laws and had Anderson go through the line to be served and then they took their food and went upstairs to eat.
Thus, the de-segregation of the Inn! One small step that led to huge results.
Another significant influence on Unity for Blacks was Rev. Dr. Johnnie Colman. Colman’s journey to Unity started with a phone call early one morning from her doctor telling her she had an incurable disease and had 6 months to live.
This is her telling the story:
As I passed the cocktail table a magazine fell to the floor. I picked the magazine up, I held it up and line jumped off the page. The line said, ‘God is your health, you can’t be sick.’ Now, I’m standing in the middle of the floor arguing with a magazine because how can you tell me I can’t be sick, and the man just told me I’m going to die in six months – something is wrong!
Her mother had been placing Unity magazines and other materials all around her home, hoping Johnnie would see them. She told Johnnie,
‘If you want to know anything about Unity School of Practical Christianity, you get on the train and you go there, and you ask them.’
I said, ‘Fine, I’ll go and ask them.’ I got on the train and went to Unity Village in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. When I walked through the gates, something hit me as I walked through, and I begin to feel a way that I had never felt in my life. The place was so beautiful. The hedges, the flowers were perfect, and the little squirrels were sitting up on their little back legs saying hello. It was the greatest place I had ever seen.”
While standing in awe, one of the Unity teachers walked up to JC, that’s what she became to be called, and began a conversation with her. JC told the Teacher that she had only a few months to live and the teacher said, “You don’t have to die.” JC told the teacher, “I really don’t want to die because I have not yet learned how to live. And the teacher said, ‘We will teach you how to live as long as you want to live.’ I said, ‘this is the place for me, sign me up.”
JC rushed back home to gather her belongings to prepare for the summer-long sessions at Unity. She continued in the program which lasted four years.
Her last year, she almost quit because of car trouble. Remember, this was still segregation time. She was living in Kansas City, about 15 miles away. Her classmates petitioned for her to be permitted to live on campus and so JC went back to classes, but they put her in a workers’ cottage at the end of the Village, making her the first African-American student to live at Unity Village.
She did received her teaching certificate and became an ordained minister.
She believed that not only was she being healed but she was also healing Unity.
Here’s another example of clearing the way for change in Unity. While in charge of the youth conference at the village, the Black children were invited. When they got there, they found out that the Black children were not permitted to swim in the pool or dance with the other children.
This is Dr. Colman’s answer to that:
“When they got there, I told everyone of them to go to their rooms and put their swimsuits on. When they came down to the swimming pool, I pushed them all in the pool! Then, I had a very lovely statement and affirmation for them at Unity. ‘Black does not come off in water! It’s all right. Be at peace.’ After that, they calmed down and the Black kids danced and swam with the white children and so it was.”
Dr. Coleman is famous for her mantra, ‘It Works If You Work It.’ She said; “If it’s not working, it’s not God’s fault it is your fault. In order for prosperity, health and peace to work, you’ve got to get rid of some things. You’ve got to let go of some things. You’ve got to stop gossiping. You’ve got to stop being jealous. You have got to let all of that go and realize that the same God that is within me is within you and can do for you the same things He has done for me.”
There are many other Black Unitics who helped to bring Unity through the de-segregation journey. Unity was, in many ways, the same as the country. But after the struggle through de-segregation, I believe they acted, often times behind the scenes, to promote equality for all.
Today, you will find Unity Centers and Churches and Study Groups all over our country and all over the world. Our Ministers and Licensed Teacher, as well as our Association Leaders are a diverse group of black, brown, yellow and white.
If you are interested in knowing more, check out TruthUnity and search Black History. There’s a neat video that ministerial students produced on the topic. You will enjoy the history.
So, what did you learn? What did you feel push back on? Take THAT into meditation.
GREAT MORNING BELOVED!!
The White Stone Ceremony & Letter to God
Last week we participated in a sacred fire ceremony of clearing…clearing out those thoughts, habits, situations and even people that no longer serve us.
And that action brings us to this week’s White Stone Ceremony.
This time of year, where one ends and another begins, is a special time. Many of us are more open now to let go of the old and look forward to the new. It’s a time of endings and beginnings.
The monthly theme from Big Unity for January is Mystery – and the affirmation for the month is “I allow space for the unknown and the unknowable.”
That’s perfect for our next step into the New Year.
I invite you to remember the Burning Bowl ceremony, in which many of us participated, when we wrote down that which we wish to release, and we literally burned these concepts: we let them go and set an intention to rid ourselves of them. This ceremony is a profoundly impactful experience. It helps us release, which is very freeing. And when we release, we create an empty space, which will be filled with something! This morning, I invite you to consider what will fill that empty space.
Many Unity churches do a second ritual along with the Burning Bowl. It is called the White Stone Ceremony, and it is typically done as a follow-up to the Burning Bowl, as a symbol of starting anew. It can help us at the beginning of the year to claim our good for the coming year. I will invite you to do this very personal ritual in a few minutes. You have been given small white stones when you came in. We will use these in the ceremony to identify our “new name.”
Let’s put this in context. You may recall, the ceremony is inspired by a quote from the Book of Revelation: chapter 2, verse 17. Consider these thoughts: “Let anyone who has an ear listen: ….To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.”
As you can see, this passage refers to a couple of actions and promises:
The first activity is listening: otherwise known as Meditation
An ear to hear is not an outer ear, but the ear of the soul; the ear that hears the “still, small voice”. We develop this inner listening quality by getting out of our intellect and into our hearts, through meditation. It is a tool to help us quiet our busy mind and listen to the Divine Voice of Wisdom. We open our minds and hearts to a deep intuitive “knowing.”
Another activity or tool is surrender:
The passage says: “To everyone who conquers…” The conquering is not an outer war, but an inner one. To everyone who takes the time to listen to the still, small voice; to everyone who practices release and affirms inner spiritual qualities…. We realize it requires surrendering personal will to Divine Will, and the paradox is that in that surrender of the egoic self is Victory. It is a birthing of the Essential Self just as Jesus taught and demonstrated.
In this passage there are also 3 Promises:
It said, “To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.”
The first promise is “Hidden Manna:
In the days of wandering in the wilderness with Moses, the manna was sent by God. The people only had to go and collect it each day; they did not have to do anything to earn it. If they tried to save it, it spoiled.
When we are in “the wilderness” of our spiritual searching, we receive “hidden manna,” not visible to the world. We are given spiritual energy and nourishment that sustains us. Grace. It nourishes the soul and the body. It benefits the whole being.
The 2nd promise is a White Stone
Back in the time when Jesus was teaching and someone served time in prison or in bondage of any kind, they were given a white stone when they were released. It served as a symbol that they had done their time and they had been given passage to live with all the rights of a free man.
Each of us comes from the bondage of past nonsense – false limitations, old beliefs, error thinking that have been a prison. With a release from bondage, comes a sense of worthiness: we are beloved of God, one with the Divine, free and unlimited!
The 3rd promise is a New Name
In the Bible, we read of many name changes. For example, Saul – which means personal will – was struck to his knees. He was blind for three days and had to look within. He was given a new name at the time of his awakening. Saul (personal will) was transformed to Paul, which means enlightened will. He is a symbol of human will that surrenders to Divine will, and in that surrender, he claimed Divine Power.
Not just Paul, but Abram, as he grew in spiritual awareness became Abraham. Sarai became Sarah. Jacob was re-named Israel. Simon was renamed Peter.
So, when we awaken to inner Spirit, we take on a new identity, a new name so to speak. This refers to the new, higher realization of the I AM, a new awareness of our God Self. And this is where the Ceremony called White Stone” comes in. In the passage, we are told “I will give a white stone and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.”
So, I invite you to meditate on what you’re being called to in the new year and claim that as your new name.
Now hold the stone in your hand. As you hold it, open your mind to “hearing” your new name. At any time in the next few minutes as I am speaking, if the new name comes to your awareness, you will have an opportunity to write it on the stone. If nothing comes to you during this ceremony, bring the stone home with you and continue to ask. Whenever we ask there is an answer.
Allow yourself to ask a question: Who am I or what am I called to be in this coming year? As I let go of my old habits, those I released during the burning bowl ceremony, what is it that I am called to be known as? This new character Identity that you intend to cultivate in the coming year might be connected to that which you released at the Burning Bowl ceremony.
Let your awareness drop from your head down into your heart and gut: from your intellect and into your deep inner knowing, an awareness of Divine Love and Wisdom. Listen for a moment to your still small voice.
Open your imagination, allow Wisdom to speak. give your ego a few minutes off and let that divine holy Voice in you come through.
Perhaps there is a new career, a new title, or a new quality that Spirit is pressing out through you.
Give yourself permission to know that as you release that which no longer serves your highest good, you can claim a new quality, a new name.
And so, as you are guided by Spirit, I invite you to trust in this moment, ….as Spirit gives to you …an insight into your divine purpose… an insight into your holy essence, and so in that secret place of the most high, I invite you to allow yourself to hear the new name that is speaking within you.
It may be a title; it may be something like clean and sober…or grateful…whatever.
Sometimes people who write the word peace, love, or presence, take on a new essence of who you are becoming.
If a name has come to you, remain quiet and allow yourself to ask for a deeper understanding, to ask if there are any steps to take. In this moment allow yourself to simply open to Spirit, to say, “God in me reveals my true essence. God in me reveals my next step. God as me, lives a joyous, peaceful, fulfilling life.”
As you are ready, quietly, write your new name on your stone. Please remain quiet as others receive their name or word.
Anytime you look at your white stone realize that you have the gift of choice; the gift to live differently, to live a more fulfilling life, to begin again, to connect with God and create with God.
Jesus said, “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you this kingdom. “Accept this consciousness of ever increasing good in your life. I invite you to carry this white stone as a reminder of that promise.
A thankfulness flows over us as we receive our new name. Along with it comes the power and guidance to achieve all that we desire. This is our new name. We see it. We decree it. We are on the path to gaining greater insights and awareness and a new beginning.
We come before You, Divine Spirit, hearts open, minds receptive to the gifts of this New Year. We still our thoughts that we may hear Your thoughts speaking to us and through us now.
Open us to the vision of Your Divine Will at work in all we do. Let us perceive the potential of this day and every day to create for us the goodness of Your purposes.
Still the noise of our cluttered minds, as we rest into the depths of meditation and prayer, responsive to new understandings of Truth.
On the sheet of paper given to you, write your letter to the God within yourself, affirming the good we wish to see manifest in our lives between now and the end of the year.
Use this quiet time to write your intentions for this New Year. Begin to communicate your dreams in writing. Look at them in the stillness of your own being.
Ideas that are as yet dormant will awaken to the promise of this New Year.
Poems that are as yet unwritten will flow through us to touch the hearts of others.
Books that are still embryos in my mind will mature into the inspiring revelation of Your Light in the months ahead.
Friendships will strengthen in this year of transforming power. The synergy of caring enfolds me in the willingness to reach out and touch my fellow travelers along life’s pathway.
We all, each and every one of us, have a choice as to how we will live each day. We can choose peace, love, joy, compassion, gratitude. We can choose to feel Blessed for we are Blessed.
So, write your letter to yourself as if you are the God of your understanding, because you are.
When you are finished, reread your letter. Reflect on Spirit’s Truth revealed to you and be at peace with it. Place it in your envelope and address to yourself. We will collect them, and they will be mailed back to you around June.
Great things can be accomplished when we continue the work as Jesus, our Wayshower directed, when we pray believing that our prayers are answered, and live our lives in alignment with the answer we desire.
Let us prepare now for a time of meditation, followed by a period of silence and quiet reflection before we begin our writing.