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THE UNITY RELIGIOUS MOVEMENT IN CANADA

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Sponsored link.


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See also an essay on Unity in the U.S.

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History of Unity in Canada

Unity in Canada began in the late 1880's with a publication called Modern Thought, published by a married couple: Charles Fillmore and Myrtle Fillmore. The magazine was later called Christian Science Thought and finally Unity.

The Fillmore's, the co-founders of Unity School of Christianity, were influenced by a number of religions and philosophies. Unity values the inspiration and progress made by all the great religions of the world especially Christianity from which they derive the bulk of their beliefs. At one time they called themselves Practical Christianity as they wanted to recapture the energy and essence of the first century BCE spiritual communities that followed Jesus' teachings.

This commitment to personal spiritual growth has grown into a gentle and practical set of beliefs and organizations (see Beliefs and Unity Organizations below).

Unity in Canada grew during the religious revival that flourished in North America at the beginning of the twentieth century. In the early years Unity in Canada was loosely organized. Individuals corresponded directly with the American headquarters at Unity Village in Missouri. Informal study groups often grew into churches or centers drawing much of their leadership from within the group.

During the late 1920's and the 1930's Unity in Canada experienced a settling-out process. The birth of the United Church of Canada as an ecumenical, cooperative, Christian spiritual experience absorbed many of the individuals and study groups affiliated with Unity. The strong anti-Americanism that developed in Canada following the great depression also had an impact on the development of Unity in Canada as did the lack of a trained and qualified leadership to assist study groups and centers to stay focused on the goals of Practical Christianity.

1978 saw the birth of the Association of Unity Churches - Canada and a coordinated effort to make the Unity ideas and ideals more easily available not only in Canada but around the world. The Canadian Association supplements the policies and services of the Association of Unity Churches home office in Lee's Summit, Missouri and also the world headquarters of Unity School of Christianity in Unity Village, Missouri.

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Unity Beliefs:

bulletDeity:
bulletThey have abandoned the popular image that God is a elderly, superhuman male with a white flowing beard who lives in a remote place "up there". They do not believe that God is fickle, answering some prayers and ignoring others. They do not look upon God as a deity to be feared.
bulletOne fundamental attribute of God is that He is good. We are created to be "healthy, happy, prosperous, loved and loving, courageous and strong ". If we fall short of these goals, it is because we have separated our mind from God, and allowed negative thoughts to intrude.
bulletGod is within each one of us; he is directly accessible. We need only to quietly turn within ourselves to contact Him.
bulletUnity follows a form of pantheism. God exists in all things. He is present throughout creation: in humans, plants, animals, the earth itself, etc.
bulletJesus Christ: They reject the traditional Christian view that Jesus is a deity to be worshipped; they point out that at no time did Jesus tell his disciples to worship him. Rather, they look upon Jesus as a great healer, miracle worker, and mystic who had a direct access to God. They believe that his actions can be emulated by believers today.
bulletPriorities: One's life is to be dominated by love, and compassion, even toward one's enemies.
bulletOriginal sin: They reject the concept of original sin, (the belief that because of Adam and Eve's actions in the Garden of Eden, we are all conceived in iniquity and born in sin). They look upon the Genesis story as an allegory; a very human attempt to explain our beginnings. They emphasize that humans are created in the image and likeness of God, and are thus not intrinsically evil or sinful.
bulletHeaven: Rather than looking upon Heaven as a place "up there" to be experienced as a reward after death, Unity conceives of heaven as expressed by Jesus: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand", and "The kingdom of God is in the midst of (within) you". Charles Fillmore defined it as "a state of consciousness in which the soul and the body are in harmony with Divine Mind". One does not have to wait until they die. Heaven can thus be enjoyed at any time through prayer. Through proper technique, attitude and receptivity one can elevate our personal consciousness to a heavenly state.
bulletHell: The Unity Church does not conceive Hell to be a place of eternal torment in which people are eternally punished with fire because of their beliefs and/or actions during life. It is not a place to go to after death. Rather it is a state of consciousness to be suffered here on earth. Charles Fillmore wrote:

"One does not have to die in order to go to hell, any more than one has to die to get to heaven. Both are states of mind and conditions, which people experience as a direct outworking of their thoughts, beliefs, words, and acts. If one's mental processes are out of harmony with the law of man's [sic] being, they result in trouble and sorrow; mental as well as bodily anguish overtakes one, and this is hell".

bulletSatan: Many Christians look upon Satan as a quasi-deity; an all evil presence who is the opposite of the goodness of God. Satan and God are often portrayed as fighting over individuals' souls. This dual divinity has obvious links to Zoroastrianism which was incorporated into ancient Jewish legends and, in turn, were later codified as the book of Genesis. Other aspects of Satan were derived from ancient Greek and Babylonian beliefs.

Unity interprets Satan's temptation of Jesus symbolically. Satan did not tempt Jesus to turn stones into bread; it was the "voice of human hunger;" the temptation to throw himself off the highest part of the temple was "the voice of human desire for recognition"; the temptation to become a ruler was "the voice of worldliness".

Thus Satan is not a physical entity; he is one's lower nature: selfishness, greed, the desire to turn away from God. He can be resisted by systematically striving towards one's higher nature.

bulletSin: Traditionally, sin has been defined as falling short of perfection. Unity uses an alternative definition: "living under a false sense of separation from God". They view this as a delusion because God is in reality continuously present within us. This false belief can be overcome through prayer.
bulletLife After Death: Unity defines heaven and hell as conditions in the here and now. They are not places where people go to spend eternity. Some members believe in a reincarnation. After death the soul is believed to leave the body, and to live again in another human body. This is/was a common belief among:
bulletpresent day Eastern religions
bulletthe early Christian Church prior to the Council of Constantinople in 533 CE.
bulletthe Essenes, one of the three major Jewish sects while Jesus was alive.

They cite references from the Christian Scriptures which show that the concept of reincarnation was common during Jesus' time. In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark , John the Baptist is referred to as the reincarnation of Elija. In Matthew, some of the populace guessed that Jesus was a reincarnation of John the Baptist; others guessed Elija; still others guessed Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. Jesus neither criticized the people for their beliefs, nor declared reincarnation to be heresy.

Among believers in reincarnation, each lifetime is viewed as a time of preparation for the next life, leading towards eventual perfection.

Others within the Unity Church believe that one's personality does not survive death, but that we become spiritual beings after we die. Unity is an unusually inclusive faith group and welcomes diversity of belief.

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Sponsored link:

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Unity Practices:

bulletUnity has no missionaries. They rely upon their teachings being spread by their readers and followers and by the literature itself.
bullet"New centers and churches are normally started as study groups sponsored by an existing ministry or the expansion department of the Association of Unity Churches. Both the Association and Unity School provide support materials and services to emerging ministries."
bulletPrayer: Real prayer does not involve begging God for a favor, or repeating standard prayers in a ritual setting. It an act of becoming spiritually one with God. If one applies Ralph Waldo Emerson's concept of prayer: the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view, then prayer can be a constant personal activity. One can also use the "arms" of prayer by mentally embracing some other individual as the target of a prayer or the "wings" of prayer by directing your prayer at all those who are receptive.
bulletWorship: It is not limited to Sunday church services. Worship can be pursued at any time and location when one feels adoration and devotion for God. Ideally, it can be experienced continually through the day.
bulletBaptism: Within Christendom, some faith groups follow the tradition started by John the Baptist; they totally immerse the body in water. Others regard baptism as symbolic; they simply sprinkle drops of water on the person. The Unity School does neither. They note that Jesus never used baptism during his ministry; and so, they do not have formal baptism sacrament. Rather they encourage every believer to attain a spiritual baptism which is a deeply personal event, a cleansing "prayer experience with Spirit, an ultimate dialogue between an individual and God." The individual emerges purified, having experienced a religious conversion of great intensity.
bulletCommunion: There has been much controversy over the meaning, details and purpose of rite of Holy Communion (the Lord's Supper) within Christian Churches. The Unity School does not have a formal ritual. They recall the words of St. Paul "The Kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit". Communion becomes a close encounter with God in private prayer, in which one becomes aware of the impact that God is making in all areas of their life.

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Sacred Texts

The Hebrew and Christian Scriptures are the main religious text used by Unity followers. However, all writings of all world religions are respected. "Unity believes that there is good in every religion on earth" (Charles Fillmore).

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Unity Organizations

Unity consists of a number of organizations that work individually and jointly to further the ministry of Unity:
bulletAssociation of Unity Churches - Canada
Foundational Policy Statement: The Association of Unity Churches - Canada will follow the polices and guidelines of the Association of Unity Churches and Unity School of Christianity, insofar as they do not conflict with Canadian federal or provincial law. It is the purpose of the Association of Unity Churches - Canada to supplement, not duplicate, the services offered by the Association and Unity School and the Canadian Association will work cooperatively with both organizations to better provide Unity to Canada and around the world.
bulletAssociation of Unity Churches
bulletCore Values: "We affirm the following core values as embodied in the Unity teachings and way of life. We believe in:
bulletour common unity with all life and the "new commandment" of Jesus Christ: 'That you love one another as I have loved you' (John 13:34).
bulletuniversal principles and spiritual values as revealed and demonstrated by Jesus Christ and the continuing revelations of the Christ Presence.
bulletpracticing prayer and meditation as our primary means of becoming conscious of our oneness with God.

We demonstrate these values through:
bulletcaring, responsive, and spiritually nurturing relationships in our common unity with one another;
bulletcommunication from a level of spiritual integrity that is trustworthy, clear, open, and timely;
bulletstandards of excellence which promote spiritual leadership that inspires us to live and teach a God-centered life;
bulletquality spiritual education that supports and nurtures children, youth, and adults."

bulletOur Mission: Our mission as an Association is to serve, support, assist, and love one another.
bulletOur Vision: We, as an Association practicing the principles taught and demonstrated by Jesus Christ, serve one another all over the world with loving leadership, integrity, and excellence. Our vision is expressed through a consciousness of love, authenticity, open mindedness, cohesiveness, responsiveness, decisiveness, prayer, progressiveness, equality, professionalism and relevance. We are committed to living a God-centered life, continually developing and providing creative, spiritually sound, and socially responsible programs, materials, and training. We assist and support one another as we serve humanity in all it cultural diversity.
bulletOur Goals: In order to achieve the shared vision as determined by ministers, licensed teachers and staff, the following goals will guide our Association over the next three years. In deepening our relationship with God, ourselves, and one another, we, as members of our Association, commit to the following goals:
bullet1. To lovingly support one another through authentic sharing and by being sensitive and responsive to each other as individuals.
bullet2. To lovingly support our youth and families by developing a spiritually-based living curriculum relative to the needs of the 90's.
bullet3. To identify and implement ongoing professional education and training by providing up-to-date materials, resources and skills development.
bullet4. To continue creating an effective and professional organization that demonstrates quality management while serving our members.
bullet5. To enhance communications with each other in clear, direct, and effective ways.
bullet6. To expand and increase our tithing base that, combined with fiscal responsibility, supports desired services and products and an excellent home office facility.
bulletOur Affirmation: I daily dedicate myself to demonstrate the unconditional love and faith of Jesus Christ.
bulletUnity School of Christianity
bulletMission Statement: Unity School of Christianity is a center of spiritual light for the people of the world. We are dedicated to letting this light shine so brightly that people become more aware of their spiritual nature and express it in their daily lives. We address physical, mental, and emotional needs through affirmative prayer and spiritual education. We serve those who seek inspiration and prayer support as well as those who use Unity teachings as their primary path of spiritual growth.
bulletApproaches to Achieving Our Mission
bullet1. We strive to approach all our activities with awareness of spiritual principles and to provide a supportive, affirming environment that respects the uniqueness of individuals.
bullet2. All Unity School programs and services are developed in response to the spiritual needs of people and are evaluated in terms of how effectively and responsibly they meet those needs.
bullet3. Acknowledging the trust of those who support Unity School, we use the principles of good stewardship to provide programs and services at an outstanding level of content quality and at an appropriate level of production quality.
bullet4. Our programs, products and services are conceived, developed, produced and promoted through a cooperative, interdepartmental effort, guided by our common purpose of responding to specific, researched needs.
bullet5. We are committed to promoting organizational effectiveness and efficiency through clear roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities, and through personnel selection based on competency.
bulletPeople We Serve
bulletI. Prayer and Inspiration Path: We serve people who seek inspiration and prayer support.
bulletThey seek prayer as a solution to human need
bulletThey want a positive message
bulletThe are comfortable with Unity teachings presented in the language of traditional Christianity
bulletII. Primary Path: We serve people who use Unity teachings as their primary path of spiritual growth.
bulletThey see the application of Truth principles to human need
bulletThey are interested in studying Unity teachings at depth
bulletThey require/respond to new, evolving expressions of Unity teaching

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Sources for Additional Information

bulletThe Association of Unity Churches c/o Unity Internet Ministry, M01-630, Montreal Street, Victoria, BC, V8V 4Y2.  e-mail at unitycanada@uimc.ca
bulletThe Association of Unity Churches Home Office, PO Box 610, Lee's Summit, Missouri, 64063. Phone: Area Code 816-524-7414, FAX 816-525-4020
bulletUnity School of Christianity, 1901 NW Blue Parkway, Unity Village, Missouri, 64065-0001

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

bulletJames Dillet Freeman "The Story of Unity" and "Answers to Your Questions About Unity", Unity School of Christianity, Unity Village, MO.
bulletMarcus Bach, (a non-Unity author) "The Unity Way", Section 2 of Charles Braden "Spirits in Rebellion". Southern Methodist University
bulletHugh D'Andrade, "Charles Fillmore, Herald of a New Age", Harper and Row
bulletThomas Witherspoon, "Myrtle Fillmore, Mother of Unity"
bulletC. Fillmore, (Unity co-founder), Jesus Christ Heals and Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, Unity School of Christianity, Lees Summit, MO
bulletWilliam Fischer "Alternatives". Our descriptions of Unity's beliefs and practices were taken from this document. See the Unity Church of Victoria BC at: http://vic.uimc.ca/
bulletThe Association of Unity Churches has an official home page at: http://www.unity.org/
bulletThe Unity Center of Arden, North Carolina has a home page at: http://www.OpenMindOpenHeart.org/
bulletThe Austin TX centre has a home page at: http://www.realtime.net/
bulletThe Orlando FL Youth of Unity has a home page at: http://metro.turnpike.net/
bulletChrist Unity Church of Sacremento CA in has a home page at: http://www.calweb.com/

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