Mystery Worship: Unity Spiritual Center of Denton

Image Courtesy of Unity.
Image Courtesy of Unity.

[Note: commentary on this particular day of worship can be found here. Below is a version of the article that is slated to run in the July 17, 2015 edition of the Denton Record Chronicle.]

On this past hot Sunday morning in July, I take in the delightful odor of a freshly mown grass parking lot at the Unity Spiritual Center of Denton in Krugerville. The peacefulness of the quiet neighborhood enfolds me as I walk to the building.

Entering the empty foyer, I see a rack of tie-dyed t-shirts and a table with books and information. A number of women enjoy conversation and coffee in the next room.  The Rev. Ellen Davis, minister, greets me. She explains that a guest speaker will be bringing the message that morning.

The small and simple light-filled chapel area is furnished with blond pews cushioned in red.  A wall painted in nighttime blue flecked with white backed the small stage area. A lectern, center screen, a small pew, piano and drums await the worship leaders.

The small summer congregation, all mature and predominantly female, sit quietly, scattered around the room. At 11:00, guest musicians Michael Loveless and Sidd Foster bring the musical invocation, “What the World Needs Now is Love, Sweet Love.”

The platform leader for the day offers words of welcome. She reminds us that this is a place where love is felt, truth is taught, and good things happen. The song leader invites us to stand and learn a song. The words are projected on the screen and pre-recorded music accompanies us.

The prayer chaplain speaks about the nature of prayer, offering personal experience of a recent accident and the love and energy that was sent her way. The words from John 14:27 show on the screen:  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

Together we recite, “I embrace change in my life. We embrace changes in our lives.” We speak the Christ blessing: “We love you, We bless you, We behold the Christ in you,” and then the Church Affirmation, “Unity Spiritual Center of Denton is an Expanding Center of the Christ Light, Mighty to Attract its Good and Radiate Good to Other.”

At this point, Lin Weinburg, a Licensed Unity Teacher, comes forward and leads the congregation in a time of guided meditation. She encourages us to go deeply inward, taking deep breaths, to be fully present within our bodies, to notice in a micro level how much everything within us constantly changes. The room darkens during this time of quiet and deep relaxation.  I drift off mentally.

We emerge to Weinberg’s message on the “Dance of Change.” She offers a helpful overview of Unity. The movement was founded in the early 20th century by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore. It is rooted in Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science and also from the work of Emma Curtis Hopkins, who organized the New Thought Movement in the mid 1880’s. The Filmores studied multiple religions before starting Unity. They based it on the Christian Bible as they felt that there was enough insight there for a lifetime of spiritual growth.

Unity honors all paths to spiritual growth and contends we create our own reality by our thoughts and words. Weinburg described the movement has highly successful, with such megastars as Joel Osteen and Oprah Winfrey instructing the masses in its basic principles..

Wineberg flies through an overview of the Buddhist teaching of non-attachment, or not holding onto material things as objects of necessity or affection. She notes that Jesus also taught non-attachment when he told his followers not to lay up treasures on earth but to lay them up in heaven. She described heaven as our higher spiritual consciousness.

After the message, the guest musicians treat us to a delightful rendition of “I Could Have Danced All Night.” An opportunity to donate to Unity follows. The platform leader blesses the donations and the prayers in the prayer box. We join hands and sing “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

Ending prayer, “The Light of God surrounds us, The Love of God enfolds us. The Power of God protects us, The Presence of God watches over us. Wherever we are, God is. And all is well. Thank you, Father-Mother God.”

Multiple friendly invitations to stay for the weekly lunch  come our way. Although I could not stay, I did enjoy conversations. Several spoke of the joy of being a part of Unity and how much it means to them along with their ability to be in active service to the wider Denton community.

It was a simple, quiet and meditative time. None of the traditional Christian doctrines will be found here–there are no confessions or pardons or even the hint that humans might struggle with an intractable sin nature or that there is an actual place of heaven or hell. The Bible is certainly mentioned but other sacred texts receive equal respect. Healing is a core value and sessions available with the minister available at various times during the week.

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