Sunday #33 – Unity Church of San Antonio – 1723 Lawndale, San Antonio
Why this Church?
Shortly before moving to Colorado, my mother and father attended the Unity Church of Beaumont, which I believe is now called the Unity Church of Southeast Texas. This church had a dramatic impact on their lives as I saw my father go from being quite negative to one of the most positive people I knew. So, I wanted people to know a bit more about Unity Churches and what their services are like.
Unfortunately, people will typically go to a church website before visiting a church. When looking up a Unity church, you probably won’t be impressed – at least I wasn’t. I usually get a sense of the whole denomination by Google searching every church across the U.S. through their websites. My research took me to well over 600 websites this past week and sadly, most Unity sites were horrendous in viewer engagement. They all fell basically into three categories:
- Websites with the look and feel of the 90s – old and outdated with little useful information.
- Websites that were probably sold by one company or given as a template from the Unity headquarters – because they were all alike.
- A rare few (mostly from Washington state oddly enough) were well done and provided a progressive feel with engaging content.
Definitely something for the Unity churches to work on, because most people initially judge a company or organization from its website. Employing old technology for communication is like using a horse and buggy to pick up the elderly for church services.
Today, I arrived so early that I had to wait outside the church doors with other early birds. Apparently another meditation service or class was going on before the 11:00 service. Once allowed in, I walked into a room of cushioned chairs located on each side of the main aisle. Two guitarists, a keyboardist and a drummer played on the small stage at front.
A cacophony of sound continued to rise as people came in and greeted one another. I knew from the start that these people were a true and vibrant community. In fact, I’d say that this group rivaled the Congregation Agudas Achim for the happiness award. These people were HAPPY!
We were asked to stand as the words to a song hit the large overhead screen. Churchgoers immediately began clapping to the music. I guess being happy makes you a bit clappy, because they continued clapping during most of the songs. Kids of all ages added to the sweet sounds as light chatter filled the room.
After that, we were asked to sit. (YAY!) The “Celebration Host” named Pamela walked to the podium that stood at the right of the stage and she led us all in stating the Vision of the Church from the words on the screen. After that, she introduced Reverend Linda Martella-Whitsett.
Now let me just say that from my initial research, here’s one area where the Unity Church excels – the ordination of women. I found no reference to numbers that the Unity Church ordains more women than other religions, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that of the 600+ websites I perused, most had women as pastors.
After the introduction, Reverend Linda welcomed guests, then opened a book about the history of Charles and Myrtle Fillmore – the founders of the Unity movement. I didn’t know much about these two spiritual leaders before attending, however, I learned today that Myrtle healed her tuberculosis by applying many of the principles she had learned.
My parents used these same manifestation principles years ago. My thoughts immediately went back to proof points from their lives that illustrate how these principles work.
Shortly after my father, a rice and soybean farmer, fell from atop a rice dryer, narrowly escaping a sure death, my mother began prompting him to retire. They had enjoyed their trips to Colorado to see me and my family, so decided they’d buy a second house in Golden, Colorado. Yet, they quickly learned they wouldn’t have nearly enough money to own two homes. So, they decided to return to Texas and sell the farm. The farm consisted of a house built in 1969, a large shop that dwarfed that house, a barn and scads of combines, tractors and trucks surrounded by 90 acres of farm land. Added to that was about 1500 to 2000 more acres of farm land my father either owned or leased.
When they told me they were headed back to sell the farm, I’m not sure what I thought or said at the time, but it was probably something akin to: Yeah, right! Like that will ever happen. Good luck finding that buyer!
Instead, my father began applying those principle he had learned in the Unity Church. He picked up the phone and called a farming acquaintance and said, “Hey, Tommy. I think you should come buy my place. I’m moving to Colorado.” Tommy talked to him a few minutes, came over to see it, agreed to a price and bought it lock, stock and barrel, without doing an inspection and with no Realtor negotiating on either end. AMAZING! Then he called a physician who was investing in farmland and offered his other acreage. The doctor, in turn, bought that land from my dad. In no time at all, they were headed to Colorado.
Honoring the Youth: the Uni-teens
After the minister talked about the Fillmores, a man came to the podium to introduce a young lady who called for more youth volunteers and then to recognize those kids moving to the next grade level.
Then it was time for another song that we stood for and everyone again clapped to the music. At the end of that song, we all greeted one another, then sat down for announcements. It was then that I noticed the seat back pockets in the chairs in front of me. As typical, they were filled with church literature, but then I noticed a small pocket filled with Kleenex.
Then Rev. Linda shared that the Unity people offer affirmative prayers versus beseeching prayers, so then instructed us to fill out cards in front of us and write our prayer in the affirmative, then pass it to the aisle. The prayers would be picked up and prayed over for the next 30 days. As we passed these cards to the aisle, the band played some beautiful music. In fact, all of their music was serene and beautiful.
Rev. Linda’s Message
Rev. Linda talked about the two major contributions of Charles and Myrtle Fillmore:
- The guiding principle that “There is only One.” She explained that all of life is thought and that everything begins with thought.
- The Gift of Healing – Rev. Linda explained that we all need to get in touch with the misconceptions that we hold about ourselves and recognize the reality and truth underneath those misconceptions. Then she used some examples from her own life that touched everyone deeply.
After the message, Rev. Linda led us all in a quiet meditation while the band played softly.
Following the meditation, the Celebration Host returned to the podium and shared a touching story of a tattooed man on prison work release. She had complimented him on his heart and soul, but he couldn’t accept that compliment.
In the end, she told him something we all need to hear: “The problem is not that other people say horrible things to you; the problem is that you choose to believe those things.” No truer words have ever been spoken.
We then held our tithes in our hands and offered them up as a blessing, then dropped them into the baskets passed around the congregation.
Finally, we stood to close the service and joined hands to sing “Let there be peace on earth.” This is the same song, and the way we closed every service at Mile Hi Church in Lakewood, CO, so I immediately felt at home. Great way to end a service!
Post Service Thoughts
This service brought back many memories of my mom and dad. Instead of tears, I breathed in their presence and just enjoyed hearing more about what they learned many years ago. I liked this service and the people. I think if I lived closer to this church, it’s definitely one I’d consider, so if you are ever in the area, check this one out.
I’ll be in Fort Stockton next weekend to see a high school friend get married. Not sure where I’ll be on Sunday. Perhaps I’ll be back in San Antonio. Still have many more churches to visit. Just realized that I’d forgotten about the Seventh Day Adventists, but they worship on Saturday, so that won’t be happening next week. It will just have to be a surprise!