Spiritual education classes have always been central to the Unity path. In the words of co-founder Charles Fillmore, “Unity is an educational movement” that is always inviting Unity students to take their spiritual journey to a deeper level, i.e., beyond the Sunday worship experience.
At Unity of Monterey Bay, California we have enhanced our spiritual education mission over the past few years with the addition of a “Second Hour’ experience following the Sunday service each week. Beginning shortly after the formal Sunday service concludes, Second Hour is “an informal discussion of the day’s lesson—and/or anything else that is arising on participants’ spiritual journeys.”
Structurally, Second Hour involves the minister and spiritual teacher and/or guest speaker sitting at the front of the church, with participants gathering in the front pews. The discussion often opens with the Sunday speaker sharing some of the “good stuff” that ended up on the cutting room floor in order to conform the Sunday lesson to the 20-30 minute time frame allowed in the worship service. Other times, it might begin with a “burning” question or reaction to the lesson from a member of the group.
Second Hour is specifically designed to support participants in “taking the Sunday lesson deeper” in order to enhance their personal spiritual practice and journey. By inviting questions, and offering opportunities for discussions that involve clarification, exploration and illumination, as well as personal examples and experiences, participants often gain important insights and discover practical applications inspired by the Sunday lesson. The end result is members who are more fully living our Unity principles in their daily lives.
For example, a recent guest speaker, Rev Michael Moran, spoke on “The Art of Moving On,” and shared the story of Mohini, the regal white tiger who lived for many years at the Washington D.C. National Zoo. For many of those years, she paced the 12- by 12-foot cage in the old lion house that was her home. Years later, she was finally released into an expansive natural habitat of several acres; but unable to move beyond her earlier experience, she sadly remained virtually “caged,” seeking refuge in a back corner of the large compound where she paced a 12- by 12-foot section of grass for the remainder of her life. Michael challenged the Second Hour participants to discern where they were allowing past experiences to keep them “caged” even as circumstances had changed in their lives.
The Second Hour discussion began with a participant sharing how the Mohini story had made her recognize a 12- by 12-foot virtual cage she had created in her life around a health challenge. An engaging and insightful discussion followed where others also became aware of and shared their own virtual cages. Once identified, of course, participants realized that they could now make new choices to move beyond these previously unconscious limitations.
Other Second Hour programs have involved inviting representatives of various organizations or causes to share in the discussion. For example, local members of a “Black and Brown Lives Matter” demonstration (who were not members of our community—but were seeking speaking venues) participated in a discussion following a Sunday lesson on Divine Justice; and a woman who sponsors a public school in Songwe, Zambia, joined in a discussion about world service.
Second Hour discussions often morph from the specific Sunday lesson topic to address current issues—including local, national and international politics, events and crises, as well as popular television shows, movies, or other spiritually relevant events and books. No subject is taboo—with the consistent focus being to seek spiritual meaning and guidance for our daily living.
We have found that, in addition to deepening the spiritual journey, Second Hour also helps build a greater sense of commUnity for both newcomers and established members. The open, friendly and informal environment creates a safe (i.e., non-threatening) space for first-time guests and other newcomers to ask questions about Unity teachings that the service may have sparked. Additionally, the informal discussion format allows participants to engage and get to know the minister/spiritual leader—as well as one another—in more personal and meaningful ways.
Finally, Second Hour provides an alternative experience to the more traditional worship service. The dialogue format, the opportunity for open questioning and exploring, and the unstructured agenda, all serve to engage younger generation seekers who are looking for a more interactive experience.
If you would like more information about establishing a Second Hour in your commUnity, feel free to contact Rev Vicky Elder at Unity of Monterey Bay.