In September 1991, when I entered a Twelve Step recovery program, I had little hope of long-term recovery from my primary addiction and codependency issues. My life was unmanageable in so many ways—emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. I soon learned that I possessed a malady that only a spiritual awakening or spiritual experience would resolve.
With the guidance of a sponsor, I sought this spiritual awakening and began to “work the steps” and to rebuild my life. I learned to manage my emotions and survive the events and circumstances of my life through experiences of the death of family members, bankruptcy, cancer, job loss, depression and loss of romantic relationships.
After many years, despite long-term active participation in the program, there was still something missing. I was not thriving. In fact, my health had gone from bad to worse—I was on multiple medications and managing side effects with more medication. I was overweight. I had been declared unable to ever work again. My life seemed doomed to be one of bare existence–merely getting through one day after another, with no real hope or vision of attaining that status known in Twelve Step circles as “happy, joyous and free.” Abundance and prosperity were nowhere to be found.
I had been a long-term member of a local church. I was attending for the koinonia (community), rather than for the teachings. With seemingly no other avenues presenting themselves, I continued, day after day, plodding along the path that was my life at that time. I had given up.
One day a friend invited me to attend a Unity spiritual community, and my life began to change. I did not hear any of the dogma and doctrine that had permeated my previous experience. My ears began to open. I heard about tools that would augment my program of recovery by working on “old ideas”—the belief systems that no longer served me. I enrolled in Spiritual Education and Enrichment classes, and my life started to change dramatically as I began applying the tools and principles I learned. In less than 3 years, I had lost 75 pounds, regained my health, and was back to work, full-time. Oh, and I was off all medication. I had been reborn.
In September 2012, I entered Unity Institute with a very clear intention—to bring the Unity teachings, tools and principles to a specific population—people in recovery who were ready to augment their Twelve Step experience with the additional spiritual development offered by Unity principles. I graduated June 2015 with a master of divinity, as a licensed and ordained Unity minister, having founded an alternative ministry: Unity of Spirit.
While in seminary, I had the opportunity to develop tools and materials for my vision of ministry. I was well-supported by the instructors of each of my classes, and encouraged to do assignments, class projects and research that were aligned with my calling to bring the Unity message to people in recovery.
Knowing that I wanted to work within a recovery community, I secured permission to craft an “alternative ministry internship.” In this internship I was able to work with residents of Amethyst Place in small group settings. Amethyst Place provides a supported housing program for women who are emerging into a new life. I worked with individuals as they applied the principles to their particular challenges. I focused my electives on classes and experiences that would enhance my understanding of ways to integrate the Unity teachings with twelve step teachings.
Through subsequent classes, I was able to develop materials that assessed the spiritual development and addressed the specific concerns of those newly in recovery. I have plans to further develop these materials into a format that may be used by other Unity ministers wishing to serve this type of population.
As my vision unfolded, new opportunities began to emerge. We (my life-partner—now wife—Kelly Wilson) were introduced to the 100 Jobs for 100 Moms jobs program of Operation Breakthrough. This jobs program strives to break cycles of generational poverty and addiction by providing supported employment opportunities and job training for single moms so that they can get back on their feet.
We decided to participate in the jobs program and offer employment through our entrepreneurial business, Weave Gotcha Covered! Our company specializes in the fabrication and installation of custom window treatments and fabric furnishings.
In the summer of 2013 we hired our first employee through the jobs program, and since have hired three more. We operate the business on the basis of spiritual principles rooted in both recovery and Unity. And while this is a for-profit business, we operate our business as a social action/justice ministry. We provide not only jobs, but mentoring, coaching and deep listening with a large dose of compassion as these young moms learn to function in a job environment—many for the first time.
February 2015 we moved our business from the suburbs into the city, within three blocks of Amethyst Place. Previously, our employees rode a bus over an hour each direction to work. Now, they were within walking distance. They are able to work a few more hours each week with less transportation cost, improving their economic position. The story was featured on the front page of the Kansas City Star on Sunday, February 8, 2015. (additional photo gallery)
In January 2015, Rev Myra McFadden, senior minister of Unity of Kansas City North, Kansas City, Mo., invited me to participate in planning a new service, an outreach to the recovering community. Many hours were spent talking through the relevant issues and worldview differences such as those around anonymity, language and word mapping, rituals, theology, general approach and talk topics.
After many discussions and much planning, Unity of Kansas City North kicked off the new Sunday evening service, Living Serenity, with a ten-week pilot. Three speakers rotate responsibilities, with a different one speaking each week, and the other two carrying the platforming and announcement responsibilities. (Audio recordings are available on Unity of Kansas City North’s website.)
The first eight services were well enough received and attended that the board authorized continuation for another twelve weeks. As a regular speaker at this service, I am finding the niche in which I am called to minister!
Editor’s Note: Look for a follow-up article on the Living Serenity service to be published Sept-Oct 2015.
Question for comment: Have you experienced a healing by using Unity’s teachings that then resulted in a specialized program or service within your ministry? Please explain the type of ministry in the comments below.