Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Building bridges

When I was younger, Unity's name had a profound effect on my thinking about my faith. I was able to embrace God with open arms unrestrained from the shackles of sect and sectarianism.

I remember how I built walls between myself and the world when I was a young Baptist. I hid within them from fear. I was afraid of beliefs that differed from mine because I knew that my way was the only way. I retreated behind these same walls when I felt challenged by what I felt to be opposing viewpoints.

As a YOUer, I did not know that I would soon confront divisions. This time, this was a barrier that stood between like-minded ministries that had a cold war of their own.

Nearly thirty years ago, my church was torn apart over a disagreement between the more traditional members who stood on the Bible and in the fundamentals of the Fillmores and the progressive members who sought to find alternative channels for expressing their Unity spirit.

The former group eventually left and formed their own Unity church across town. This happened years before I even began attending, but the aftershocks were still felt in our city.

One Sunday in 1992, I went with a fellow YOUer to see the 'other' Unity church for myself. I was curious to know more about a church that was in the same family but remained a mystery.

In the far reaches of Jacksonville's outer suburbia, I experienced a hidden gem tucked away in the woods that preceded the gas stations, shopping centers and gated communities that now define the area.

I received a Unity lesson and shared in the usual Unity joy with my new friends. I went home to share my new discovery.

As the time, however, I had committed a great sin. The 'other' Unity church was not our kind of people, I was told.

I learned the hard way that even good people have their walls to climb. Thankfully, I persisted even when I was made to feel unwelcome by 'hardliners' who wished to turn their backs on former members who struck off on their own.

Years later, through a strike of Divine Order, my work with the youth helped to reach out to our sister church. It was easier to build goodwill through preteen lock-ins or high school skate days than to change hearts that were obviously hard-wired to stay the course.

Before I knew it, our children were carpooling to regional events and I soon convinced my board of directors to attend board training at the church that dare not speak its name. Our exiled former ministers returned to our church when we created our minister emeritus position for our retiring co-minister.

Today, our two churches are supportive of each other in our missions to bring UNITY into the commUNITY.

This was a long time coming, but this is a shining light in my illuminated path to Truth.

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