My family was drawn to Unity after my husband Wayne experienced a Celebration of Life service and how that particular family dealt with the loss of their loved one. We knew nothing about Unity beliefs. When we arrived, our hearts were opened by the warm greetings, message by Rev Scott Sherman, posters on the walls, and the way the kindergarten teacher, Barbara Allen, interfaced directly with our daughter rather than focusing her conversation towards us.
When our 4th grade daughter brought home the Prayer of Faith, my sister said “How can the prayer say ‘I can’t be sick.’ That is not true.” My response was, “I don’t know. There is a reason and I want to find out.”
Taking the First Steps
Whenever a class was taught, I was there. Why not take it for credit? Might as well.
I refused, initially, to volunteer in youth ministry explaining that I did not know enough about Unity. This resistance was met with assurance that exploring Unity teachings with the young ones is the perfect way to grow my awareness. As licensed teacher Joy Wilson said, “Teaching Sunday school is the fast track to spirituality.”
I envisioned Unity ordaining youth ministers so that on Sunday mornings one would be available to answer spiritual questions asked by kids or their parents—or at least to reassure me that my answer was appropriate or how I could revisit the situation in the future.
Volunteering as youth education director, with Charlene Mettler by my side every step of the way, led me to serve with my husband as YOU sponsors. [Youth of Unity is for ages 14-18.] This opened the door for me to be hired as the Northwest Region Youth of Unity Coordinator in 1978.
When I told my sister that I had a job, she asked about the salary. I said it is either $50 or $500 per month. My hearing has been compromised since I was a child. I was so excited when told over the phone that I was hired, that I had not asked for clarity. I was going to be paid for what I loved doing!
In 1980 Rev David McClure, who encouraged me to apply for the regional position, now encouraged me to apply for the local position of family services director with focus on connecting all ages and supporting youth ministry. This other “part-time” job has been the perfect fit for me in balancing regional and local roles.
Beginning My Credentialing
Amazingly 10 years was about to pass when I noticed that my credits would expire if I did not complete my licensed Unity teacher (LUT) requirements. Motivated, I gave a burst of focus that included two back-to-back 2-week sessions plus a week of IYOU (International Youth of Unity) Conference (3 events in 5 weeks on one plane ticket!) My requirements were fulfilled in 1985 at age 45. Now, with online classes, you can study from your own recliner at home using fewer travel miles!
All my LUT class assignments were hand-written. My theory was that I would not be giving my Unity message in researched and prepared sermons, lessons or writings. I would be giving short spontaneous answers to people as we met in the hallway or sat beside each other in a crowd, or to a group of children sitting in a circle. I wanted the professors to mark my papers so I would know if I was off base or on track by answering from flow of consciousness, not looking up the answer in a book.
Finding out that I had become a licensed teacher, people would ask, “Are you teaching adult classes now?” My reply, “My focus has always been to bring my experience to children and adults.” (Adults to me means parents and those who volunteer in youth ministry).
When the Certified Spiritual Educator program was introduced in 1993, my qualifications covered all the designations: youth education director, youth education teacher, Uniteen leader and YOU sponsor.
With our daughters raised, I wanted to deepen my consciousness and develop more awareness. People would say “Are you still doing the same thing after all these years?” I would say, “I have the same titles, yet what I do keeps changing.” I wanted to continue to grow for myself and for the roles I hold in Unity.
Next Step: Minister
One of my fellow regional youth consultants, Ken Harrison, mentioned in that I was qualified to apply to be a minister. That idea had never occurred to me when it meant moving to Unity Village, Mo., yet one that seemed more possible was when the Field Licensing Program (FLP) was developed.
I knew my area of ministry would be like fitting a round peg in a square hole as the program was geared for adult ministry, yet I ventured out, explored and got encouragement and support from Rev Ron Jones and my Unity in Spokane home. So I applied—and was denied. Then with “resilient” as my mantra, I applied again—and was denied again. I decided that Catholic Gonzaga University here in Spokane might accept and provide a path for expanding my spiritual journey. Then, low and behold, Unity Light Beings appeared to open the way for me to participate in the Field Licensing Program and become ordained in 2004.
The sacred ceremony was conducted by Rev Sonya Milton, Rev Clare Austen, Rev Deidre Ashmore, my husband, our daughters, their husbands, our grandchildren plus several young adults who grew up in youth ministry with me.
I recognize that this was a pivotal point for Unity and for me. My roles in ministry were not in the realm of adult ministry which was then the criteria for entering the FLP Program. My mentor in the program, Rev Sonya Milton, guided my experiences so that I am fully-trained to minister to all ages. People ask, “When will you be getting your own church?” My reply, “My passion is youth ministry.”
My vision is fulfilled, just not exactly as I pictured.
When in training to become a minister, delivery of my message on Sunday morning was not my strong suit. Speaking from notes, I would look up, see people’s eyes, and find it almost impossible to look back down again to find my words. So now when I speak to a crowd, I say to myself, “Okay, God, you’re on!”
I, and those around me, keep changing. I am still learning and growing. Unity’s message and those living that message continue to light up my world. In 2015, when I was 75—much to my total amazement—Unity presented me with the Light of God Expressing Award.
My gratitude to licensed teachers and ministers who expand my reality, to authors and musicians who inspire me, to children and teens who revitalize me, to adults who journey with me, to Unity Worldwide Ministries and Unity World Headquarters for creating the foundation and structure to support my path.
Words and phrases that resonate with me:
• “Who will take care of the children?” (Asked by Unity co-founder Myrtle Fillmore)
• All kids are our kids.
• Masai greeting: “How are the children?” Response: “All the children are well.”
• All ages are Unity, right here, right now.