Mary Quattro writes about the experience of attending the retreat at Unity Village, with photos from Bowman Kell.
On Thursday, May 17th, 20 members of the Unity of Fairfax congregation led by the Retreat Ministry and Rev. Russell Heiland began a four day mystical journey and return to our spiritual roots at Unity World Headquarters in Unity Village, Missouri (unityvillage.org). We experienced remarkable tours, music, meditation and an improbable half hour of stand-up as we explored the origins, history and present status of the Unity Movement.
We had the pleasure of staying in the comfortable rooms of Unity Village Hotel and Conference Center, a certified “green” hotel, and of taking most of our meals at the nearby Unity Banquet and Dining facility.
We were welcomed by Rev. Donna Johnson, CEO of Unity Worldwide Ministries (UWM), and Jim Blake, CEO of Unity World Headquarters (UWH). Both spoke to our group at the beautiful Fillmore Chapel (the only place in the Village where both Charles and Myrtle prayed, lectured, and taught classes) about the present status of the Movement as well as the exciting developmental and progressive plans for the Village itself and about program and administrative changes envisioned for the future. Exciting changes are anticipated to this Movement in transition from its administrative structure, to its training of ministerial students, and it’s rephrasing of the publication of its Daily Word.
Thanks to the outstanding assistance of the Outreach and Engagement team of Unity World Headquarters, we were treated to a complete and fascinating tour of Unity Village: from the Tower, to the tunnels, from the Room of Shining Words to the Blue Room and Peace Chapel. We toured the Activities Center, housing Unity Chapel Church, and stopped by the well supplied Book Store and Coffee Shop. Led by Rev. Mark Fuss, Director of the Outreach team, we visited the Archives and the Heritage Office of Charles and Myrtle Fillmore and heard from Mark Hicks, Archivists (truthunity.net) where we received copies of the Daily Word from the date of our birth.
We rode the Jolly Wagon (pulled by a farm tractor) to see the grounds, the golf course and the homes of various members of the Fillmore family, including the home of Rickert Fillmore, the genius behind the design and building of the distinctive English Cotswold and Italian architecture buildings which grace the 1200 acre campus. We toured the accredited Rose Garden which contains over 800 prize roses and the refurbished, beautiful Fountains and Venetian-inspired Bridge of Faith in the central courtyard. The Fountains stretch the length of a football field and are the largest in the Kansas City area.
We had the privilege of listening to master teacher, Rev. Tom Thorpe, minister at Unity of Independence, MO, and previous adjunct faculty and subject matter expert in Unity Institute and Seminary, and seeing his amazing power point presentation about the Fillmore’s and the history of the Unity Movement.
Rev. Ellen Debenport, Vice President of Content and Media, (and UOF alum) who oversees the work of editors and producers for Daily Word, Unity Magazine, and Unity Media Network, spoke with us about the publications and various media produced by UWH (unityonlineradio.org). Ellen is also the author of The Five Principles, and Hell in the Hallway, Light at the Door.
Certainly, a highlight of the visit was the opportunity to tour Silent Unity, and to participate in the vigil of 24 hour pray in the upper prayer room where a 24/7 prayer ministry has been offering prayer support to all who request it since 1890 when Myrtle Fillmore first began the practice.
On Sunday, we attended services at Unity Temple on the Plaza in Kansas City. MO. Land for Unity Temple on the Plaza was purchased on Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza in 1928. 15 years in planning and five years in building, Temple services were first held in 1948, and the sanctuary was completed in 1950. The Temple is a vibrant, large, traditional, fully utilized structure led by senior minister, Rev. Duke Tufty. Rev. Sandra Campbell, Associate Minister delivered the talk and gave us a tour of the building. Music at the Temple was outstanding and inspirational.
Many of us felt that a particularly moving experience was our visit to Unity Church Universal on 913 Tracy Avenue in Kansas City, MO (www.913tracy.org). Dedicated in 1906, Charles and Myrtle began their ministry at this site. Home of the first Unity Headquarters and the site of the original home of the Unity Movement, Charles and Myrtle spent virtually all their ministry at this location. It is the only structure ever to house all the departments under the same roof, including worship services, Silent Unity, education, printing and administration. Myrtle Fillmore’s office remained on the third floor of 913 Tracy throughout her life, and although in need of extensive repair and improvement, the presence of Myrtle can still be felt there. Unity sold the building when the Unity Village complex in Lee’s Summit was completed.
In 1949, after both Charles and Myrtle Fillmore had passed on, the Unity School of Practical Christianity moved all of its activities to Unity Village. The congregation which had worshiped at Ninth and Tracy for more than 43 years moved to the new Temple on Country Club Plaza.
While the structure suffered years of neglect, it stands today as a reminder of Unity’s most important beginnings in Kansas City, MO. Rev. Greg Neteler reopened it as a Unity church in December 1982. It is on the Kansas City Register of Historic Places. Rev. Neteler serves as senior minister, and has made it his life’s mission to preserve and restore the building. He and the small congregation of Unity Church Universal are dedicated to the restoration and revitalization of Unity’s first World Headquarters. Unity Church Universal is an affiliated church in the Unity Movement, and as all affiliated churches, it is an independent financial entity. Unity Church Universal is funded entirely by the “Father through the loving channels of dedicated members and friends”, and in the words of Charles Fillmore, the building is “the property of Unity people everywhere”. Contributions may be sent to Unity Church Universal, 913 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64106.
If you would like to see more photographs and hear more about the retreat to Unity Village, mark your calendars for Sunday, July 15, when retreat participants will present a "Coming Home To Unity Travelogue" after the second service.