I never saw our congregation of Unity of Fort Myers, Fla., lift a hand to pour concrete, install carpet, paint the walls or pound a nail, but their consciousness was the cause of every action that brought into manifestation our new 400-seat sanctuary. Our challenge was not building a new church; our work was becoming a congregation whose consciousness could bring into manifestation a legacy of love.
As we planned to build a new church home, a fund raising expert who became a dear friend told us that we could raise $600,000 toward our project—$800,000 perhaps—but it would be a stretch. When we looked at what we wanted to build, the minimum required was a million dollars. Then we had a town hall meeting and several members said that we should pay off our $430,000 mortgage before embarking upon a building project.
When I told our consultant that our fund raising goal was $1,500,000, he was astonished. He thought it could not be done. One of our licensed Unity teachers told him in what is now a famous quote in our community, “You don’t know Unity.”
And so we began, and the following idea was our foundation. It was echoed at the beginning of our campaign and voiced again on dedication day when 400 people gathered to celebrate our new beginning. It is not what we will do; it is what we will become.
Working on Ourselves
This spiritual principle is true of all challenges. The call is not to achieve the goal or meet the challenge; it is to become the person who can achieve the goal or meet the challenge. When we began, it was obvious that who we were could not build a new church home. And so we went to work on ourselves.
We followed the guidance of our fund raising consultant and on our commitment Sunday when we recorded the commitments made toward our new church home, the result was $1,518,000. We were on our feet clapping and crying and holding one another. And then, of course, the money began to flow in as we became something we had never been before.
We practiced Radical Generosity. We told the members of the congregation that we do not want generosity from you, we want it for you. Radical Generosity transformed us as we considered what our individual gifts might be. We pushed into the state of giving until our ego declared, “You can’t do that. If you give that much, it will be your ruin.” How absurd. It is like saying, “If you declare God to be your Source, it will be your ruin.” Never.
And so each of us pushed ahead until our ego squirmed, and we experienced an inner peace. When there was peace, we knew it was the defining moment. We had become something we had never been before. Actually, we expressed the truth of our being.
Then we discovered that the cost of building material and labor had increased. We needed another $600,000. Imagine, we were told our limit was about $600,000 and now it was going to require $2.1 million dollars to complete the project. And so the commitments flowed in and are still flowing in … as we celebrate each Sunday in our beautiful 400-seat sanctuary on Peace Lake.
The Lessons Learned Were Legion
When you begin an Adventure like this (The Adventure is what we called our project), even one that is a Legacy of Love, people will leave, and for each one that leaves, 10 will come. Other people discover that their commitment to Unity and to their spiritual lives is greater than their concern for the future or for themselves. They find that they can give radically and know firsthand that as we give there are 12 baskets left over.
Statements like, “You can’t out give God” and “Start with what you have” and “There is always enough” and “God is our source and a consciousness of God is our supply” become real.
Also, please know that if you are the leader of such a campaign, there are two things you must do. First, your primary work is to identify leaders. This is what true leaders do. It is not about them. It is about the leaders they uncover and support. Secondly, a leader abides by the following axiom, “I won’t ask you to do anything that I am not willing to do.”
As we entered our Adventure, I wanted everyone to participate, and I knew everyone could. Everyone could make a difference. There were three ways to share treasure. People could radically give from their assets.
Nancy and I did this, and we heard the voice of our ego saying, “No, you cannot do that,” so we pushed ahead. Our egos that saw only limitation said, “Your retirement is nearing, and if you give as you are thinking you will give, it will affect your retirement. You won’t be able to live the way you want to live.”
How alluring, yet how untrue. And even if it was true, how could I come to this point in my life, in my career, and not give radically to a Legacy of Love that would touch and transform the lives of thousands after I am forgotten?
The second way people could give was to sell something precious to them. Nancy and I knew we had to lead and to give in all the ways that we were asking people to consider giving. And so we gave. Nancy sold a beloved piano to a ballet school and gave the funds to the Adventure. I sold a boat that I had built, to a man in Williamsburg, Va., a beautiful cedar strip, 14-foot rowboat of mahogany and exotic woods.
And the third way we determined people could give was to stop buying something they always brought and give a portion of the money to the Adventure. I kiddingly told the congregation that if I donated the money from my trips to Starbucks, I could finance the church by myself. We gave on all levels: from assets, by selling precious items, and by giving a portion of the money we used to support the corporate profits of Starbucks to our campaign.
And it all worked out.
Tithing from Source
One final thing … we told the congregation in the beginning that we would tithe from the gifts given to the Adventure. Typically, this is not done. The reason is that a building fund is a designated fund; however, aren’t all the gifts streaming from the same Divine Source? Doesn’t a gift given to a designated fund have the same source as a gift given to the operating fund?
And so we created an Adventure Tithe Team that recommends to the board where the Adventure tithes should be given. When we are done, we will have given more than $210,000. This generosity born of our giving excites our congregation and is one of the reasons that we became a congregation that now celebrates in a beautiful new church home.
We found ourselves and expressed the truth of our being. This is the “true building” that now stands on 10 acres of land in Fort Myers, Florida. Come see it when you can, for the Adventure continues.