The longer I work here at Unity Village, the more I take for granted. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, because it sometimes leads to new discoveries—or in this case, a rediscovery.
Every workday at 11:30 a.m., I mosey on over from my office in the Administration Building to the Glenn H. Korff Fitness Center in the basement of the Silent Unity Building. When the weather is nice, my route to the gym takes me outside to enjoy the splendor of the courtyard’s fountains and mirror pools, while also taking in the majesty of the Unity Tower.
During one of my recent jaunts, I needed to take a different path because a young Hispanic woman in a stunning Quinceañera dress was being photographed with her family on the Charles and Myrtle Fillmore Bridge—more commonly known around the Village as the Bridge of Faith. I never truly appreciated how convenient the bridge was until I was no longer able to cross it. Now I know how employees and guests must have felt before the bridge was completed in 1951.
Lowell Fillmore dedicated the Venetian-inspired, Italian Renaissance-style structure on June 27, 1951, during the Unity Ministers’ Conference as a way for the Fillmores’ sons to honor the legacy of their parents. The bridge also served a practical purpose, too, as it dramatically reduced the distance it takes to walk from one side of the campus to the other. At one point, the bridge was even part of a unique system for cooling water used in the village’s air-conditioning equipment.
However, it’s what the bridge represents that makes it such an iconic place at Unity. Clara May Rowland, former director of Silent Unity, spoke these prophetic words during the 1951 dedication: “We are not only dedicating a bridge today, we are rededicating Unity, for Unity is a bridge of faith. In the years to come, untold thousands of people from all over the world will visit this place of beauty and peace and walk across this bridge.” They did, Clara. They are. And they will.
One of the unique features of the structure sits inside the white concrete balustrades at the apex of the bridge. Sealed inside the east and west balustrades are two boxes. The east box contains about 22,000 names and blessings of donors who helped fund the building of the bridge, and the west box holds the contents of the cornerstone of the original Unity building on Tracy Avenue in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.
Time eventually took its toll on the bridge, and in 2004 it was closed and eventually torn down because its concrete was crumbling. In March of 2005, construction on an identical but much stronger version of the bridge began, and this time steel supports were added to make it more durable. The east and west boxes of the old bridge were also placed in the new one. The effort was part of a $55.3 million renovation of the campus infrastructure. Finally, on September 28, 2005, the new Bridge of Faith was rededicated.
Many people now know the bridge as the ideal spot for couples to tie the knot. About 90 percent of all weddings at the Village are performed at the Bridge of Faith, according to Unity Village director of hospitality, Kelly Hatch. (Visit unityvillage.org/weddings for more details.)
Although for me the Bridge of Faith serves a utilitarian role—helping me get from point A to point B every day—I must admit that it also has a metaphysical purpose. It connects my work life with my workout life. You could say the Bridge of Faith makes my time at Unity Village whole.