Unity of Greater Portland, Maine, and I were brought together initially in 2001 by one sentence in their ad for a minister. “We are a community with broken trust issues and we are rebirthing our community.” It was as if the letters were blazing in light and I “knew” that they were my community. It’s important for the minister and ministry to be on the same growing edge together, and with that one sentence, I knew that this was true for us.
Unity’s fifth principle is, “It’s not enough to know these principles, we must live them together in all of our experiences and relationships.” This was the way my congregation and I journeyed together for ten wonderful years. So when “the call” came that our time together was ending, we lived this end time from this perspective as well.
On Easter morning 2011 at our sunrise service (Sonrise service) at the lake where I live, a congregant shared that, in the Chinese I Ching philosophy, lake consciousness meant coming full circle. This phrase spoke to me with a “knowing,” as if it were hanging in the mists over the lake. I knew to pay attention, even though I didn’t want to.
After our resurrection experience, a friend asked me out to lunch. Almost the first words out of his mouth when we sat down were, “Jesse, you’ve been here nearly ten years. Do you ever think it is time for a change for you?” I was hoping that the words didn’t mean what I thought. Once home, I prayed and meditated on all that had transpired. I began to ask whether my resurrection story and that of my community had a different spin to it than either of us had been expecting.
Once I began this journey in meditation, the knowing grew clear that my time with my beloved community was coming to a close. I had hoped to always stay with this community in Maine, yet if Spirit had another plan, I would follow. Spirit did indeed have another plan. It was drawing me back to Florida, where I was born, married, raised a family, and where I had begun my Unity adventure. Coming “full circle” would begin to show up in many forms.
I spoke with our Regional Representative, Rev Pat Bessey, about timing and how to begin this process. She was supportive and gave me a suggested timetable that made sense in an outer way. After a few days, I knew I had to move up the process. We had grown into a community of such transparency that I couldn’t live with this secret even for a few weeks.
Everything began to fall into place in a grace-filled way from telling my board and congregation, to drawing to us the right and perfect temporary minister who would then become the permanent minister. This minister was none other than Pat Bessey. How easy and grace-filled can it get? This was Pat’s home church where she and her husband Rev LeRoy Lowell would first discover Unity, each other, and enter ministry—full circle again.
We lived this three-month leave-taking in a conscious way. We told each other everything that we wanted to say so that nothing would be left undone. We cried, celebrated and prayed. We shared stories of how we had grown together, touched each other, forgiven each other.
This time of ending grew me into a much deeper “knowing” that I was the Christ. All that I had preached for 10 years was coming alive in a deeper way. I felt the privilege of traveling together with these other “Christed Beings.” We had come together for our specific transformative process and it was complete.
On my last Sunday as minister with this community, we again cried, laughed, prayed, celebrated and sang together in full-out Christ expression. My community did a beautiful ritual with a prayer sending me to Florida in the name of Unity of Greater Portland. They said, “You go in our name. We will be with you.” You have no idea how in the days to come I would cling to that Truth.
I continue to bless Unity of Greater Portland with the prayer, “I love you, I bless you, I behold the Christ as you.” I feel and know that we are One and that our journeys in Spirit will always be together.
My reason for writing this is that our story can support other ministries and individuals in truly seeing “endings,” perhaps in all forms, as spiritual experience and springboard for Spirit’s continuous call to new life, new resurrections in living.