In mid-October 2016, I had the privilege of conducting an interview for Unity Leaders Journal with Rev Howard Caesar. Our focus topic was on mission, vision and values at Unity of Houston, Texas, where Howard has served as the senior minister these past thirty-three years. This article is a snapshot of what transpired during that fall afternoon.
We had a good conversation with me querying him on how mission/vision and values play out and show up in this big Texas Unity spiritual community. (Which, incidentally, is near evangelist Joel Osteen’s ministry.)
Unity of Houston’s Values, Vision and Mission
They define their values as “what they live by.” Rev Howard was/is committed to their values with his whole heart and being. Those values are:
Oneness: We live from our oneness with God and each other and experience the interconnectedness of all life.
Spiritual Principles: We uplift all people in their spiritual growth as we apply the principles taught by Jesus the Christ and embrace the Universal Truths of other faith traditions.
Transformation: We bring into full expression the Divine idea we are held to be in the mind of God through the expanding awareness of our spiritual identity.
Community: We join together to create a sacred environment of acceptance, shared trust and mutual growth, honoring our diversity through relationships grounded in Truth and Love.
Stewardship: We commit to the practice of giving and receiving, to living prosperity principles, and to being good stewards of the abundance God gives our families, our church, and our world.
When Howard and I spoke about values, he informed me that their values are a high priority at Unity of Houston. He and the board of trustees invoke the power of the spoken word and speak the values out loud at the beginning of each board meeting. He also shared that he is committed to diversity on the board and in leadership roles.
There are five values and he commented, “They are five for a reason,” and we connected them to the idea of the five basic principles in Unity, a five-pointed star, and five is a number known to create freedom and change. Five for a reason … of course.
Grace Under Fire: Oneness
We touched on all five values but two of them jumped out at me. The first one was the value of “oneness.”
A couple of years ago Howard came under fire for his involvement in the Oneness teachings. He came under attack by what one might call Orthodox or perhaps even fundamentalist Unity. It is challenging when being attacked by anyone, let alone colleagues. He stood centered and strong in his Unity teachings, and in his faith and belief. We are strengthened by standing strong in our faith.
We touched on the idea of the importance of oneness in light of today’s world. Unity, just the name itself, is a statement of “oneness.” We shared how we found Unity with its call to oneness, inclusivity and its expansiveness held appeal to us both. We touched on the seminal work of Emma Curtis Hopkins as part of the Unity groundwork. She drew heavily on the Bhagavad Gita for her work contributing to the very foundation of Unity. A bit of further discussion revolved around our co-founder Charles Fillmore and his study of the Eastern Traditions with the potential parallel between chakras and the Twelve Power system. It is well-known that Charles Fillmore studied and drew on various world religions to create the Unity path.
Rev Howard visited India, the seat of the Oneness teachings, and in his own words, he “brought Oneness back to people in his community who could not go.” I confessed to my own trepidation of visiting a country that had one-fourth of the land mass size of the USA and four times the people. I, too, now, have had a touch of India through Howard, for which I am very grateful.
The second value that piqued my mind was “transformation.” He said something that fascinated me. He said, “Transformation speaks for itself.” That truth has stayed with me, lingering long after our time together. People in Unity (ministers included—or should I say especially) put their courageous hands up in the air for transformation all the time. As ministers we are constantly transforming our consciousness and our own lives as well as the people we serve. Transformation is no small thing and it truly does “speak for itself.”
They view their vision as the support for “what they are becoming.”
As a spiritual community we are a beacon of light, love and healing that cultivates a harmonious, unified and cooperative global family. We discover the inherent good in each other and ourselves. Together we co-create a field of possibility and energy in which people feel uplifted, loved, blessed and healed. By mastering spiritual principles in our daily lives, we experience our oneness with God. Our ever-expanding and enthusiastic congregation supports and enjoys the vibrant, joyful and loving atmosphere at our church. The beautiful campus welcomes and inspires all, providing the perfect environment for loving transformation.
Our abundance of resources allows us to create dynamic and continually-evolving programs and services that impact the community and the world. We have a center for education and evolution that supports both adult and youth programs, including a school for young children. Our programs for evolving consciousness and enlightened leadership are imbued with spiritual values that promote peace within and without. We dream great dreams and think beyond day-to-day realities to co-create a world that works for everyone. We are making a great difference within our church, our community and our world.
Lastly they defined their mission: as “what we are doing to achieve the vision.” They are “teaching, loving and inspiring people to be all they are created to be. Guiding the evolution of consciousness for servant-leadership. Creating financial stability for this church in perpetuity.”
As I write this article we are in the midst of “Decision 2016” here in the United States of America. And people are already planning their work for 2017 and the theme showing up is Healing and Reconciliation. Howard has been working from the place of Oneness where healing and reconciliation has already taken place.
Unity Church Then/Unity Church Now
Rev Howard Caesar has been in the Unity of Houston ministry for the past 33 years and in ministry itself for forty years. (Seven of those years were spent in Olympia, WA) He has seen a lot of church from the inside out.
So I wanted to just touch briefly on the “state of the church” (although today we call them “spiritual centers”) to which he responded, “Sunday church is more demanding in today’s world, of course.” When he first began in ministry, Unity was the only positive message around. Others seeing the value of it began to create similar services. When I mentioned Joel Osteen’s “positive declarations” (nearly in his backyard) and Unity’s “affirmations” (for the past 100 years), Howard said that he was good friends with Joel’s father John. Might there be a connection?
Rev Howard Caesar leads one of the biggest, most successful ministries in the Unity movement, and you know when you speak with him that you are in the presence of greatness. You can’t help but feel it. But even with all that success and inherent power, he is just so approachable. Whether that be at our Unity People’s Convention, in person, or on the phone. He is available to genuinely “connect” and allow the energy to flow freely and fully. He creates a comfort zone where you can ask any and all questions: those about his commitment to “Oneness” to the “five values” that best represent his spiritual community, as well as the impact of the mission statement of Unity of Houston.
But my personal favorite part of this interview? Even though he leads one of the biggest spiritual communities in the Unity movement, he was so easy to talk to, to interview. It was like sitting on a front porch sipping sweet tea, talking about his ministry, its mission, vision and values … back and forth … ebb & flow … there we were … in that vibration of easy oneness.
If you find yourself in Houston, you will want to pay them a visit. If you find yourself on YouTube, you can search for Unity of Houston and have an online experience. Either way, it will transform your life, for transformation truly does speak for itself.