Excerpted from a past Unity Magazine® column, "Life Is A Wonder."
Unity held a meeting and the whole world came. You may think that is an exaggeration, but that is how I felt about it. We called the meeting the first Unity World Conference, and that is what it was. It was held at the Metropole Hotel on the grounds of The National Exhibition Center in Birmingham, England, from August 8 through August 13, 1995.
Unity has had many conferences through its hundred years of history. Perhaps a few have been larger as far as the number of people who came, but I don't believe that any event that has happened at Unity for a long time has been more important than this one. It was important because it made an important statement: Unity truly is a world religion. We invited the world to come and meet with us, and more than 700 people came from 38 different countries.
Let me describe the session that made such a powerful impression on me. A huge room in the hotel was crowded with people from front to back and side to side. Soft music filled the room, so soft I was almost unaware of it. I just felt it. Across the front of the room, there was an exceptionally long stage. In the center of this stage was one lighted candle, symbolizing the Christ. David Davenport, the minister who conducts the Unity work in England, stood at one side of the stage. David said, "Argentina," and a beautiful woman dressed in an Argentinian costume rose from the front aisle, walked forward holding a small candle, lit her candle at the Christ candle, took her place on the stage, turned, and said to us, "We bring you greetings from the people of Argentina."
David said, "Australia," and a man dressed in authentic Australian hat and boots, carrying a boomerang came forward, lit his candle, and said to us, "We bring you greetings from the people of Australia." Then, one by one, people from all over the world—countries as far away as South Africa and Japan and Guyana and Nigeria and Romania—lit candles and brought us greetings from their countries until there were 33 men and women, dressed in 33 different costumes, standing in front of us. I became aware that they were all softly singing, and slowly I recognized the song they were singing: Let There Be Peace on Earth. As I sat there watching this long line of people from so many different countries lighting their candles and bringing us greetings from so many parts of the world, I realized that I was starting to cry. I glanced around and saw that all the people sitting around me were crying, and I had a feeling that all the people in that room were crying. When the last of the 33 representatives took his place on the stage, we all rose as one and joined hands and voices and sang Let There Be Peace on Earth with our friends from so many places around the world.
This song of peace is in itself a symbol of the worldwide nature of the Unity movement. The song originally came to Silent Unity during World War II in the form of a prayer. We never knew who wrote it. We printed it in Daily Word, and Jill Jackson, a songwriter who was a Unity student, turned it into a song.
I am probably not getting my spiritual experience across to you the way I experienced it. I doubt if one can ever fully communicate a spiritual experience. But somehow, for a few minutes, I just knew I was present at a great spiritual event. I had a vision of what Unity is and what it is to be.
Friends once drove me up a high mountain. The road ran round and round. Usually I felt the car ascending, though at times I felt we were going down instead of up. I could not see the mountain. All I could see were the cliffs and slopes and trees that hung immediately around us, but I felt sure the mountain was there. Then, suddenly we went around a turn in the road and for a moment the great mountain shone complete. This is what the moment in the meeting mom in England was like. Suddenly, I saw Unity and I saw it complete, carrying its message of God's instant, constant availability and power.
An inner light in me was lighted, and I was seeing not with my eyes, though they were quickened too, but with a suddenly illumined mind and heart. I saw Unity as the worldwide spiritual force that it is—active in every area of this globe, influencing, inspiring, enlightening people, helping them to find God's presence and power in themselves and bringing it into expression in their lives. I saw the whole world in Unity.
I thought of other conferences that have been important in the history of Unity. In 1893 Charles and Myrtle Fillmore went to the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and there they met with people who were forming and formulating new ideas in religion. Two years later they returned to Chicago for a meeting of the International Divine Science Association, and the Fillmores were selected to conduct the next meeting of this association in Kansas City. This conference opened on May 12, 1896, and you can imagine what a great moment that must have been for Charles and Myrtle Fillmore and Unity. It was so important to them that they did not take time to publish a May issue of Unity, but omitted it and put out an extra-large issue of the magazine on June 1 to give their readers an account of all the meetings.
We have had followers in foreign lands almost from the beginning of Unity. When I came to work in Silent Unity more than 60 years ago, hundreds of people were already writing to us and praying with us from such faraway places as Nigeria, Australia, Jamaica, and India. We wondered how they had found our message.
We never send out missionaries. We are not evangelists. The only proselytizing we do is when we give friends subscriptions to our magazines or suggest that they call Silent Unity for prayer or invite them to come with us to a Unity meeting. Yet we have freely and spontaneously spread throughout the world. We have even had astronauts carry our message to the moon; interestingly, those astronauts were not Unity students.
More than a third of those who attended the World Conference did not attend Unity churches. There were Catholics and Methodists and Presbyterians and Episcopalians and New Thoughters and, a few of them, Buddhists and agnostics. Unity crosses church lines, and it does this not as a separating force but as a strengthening spirit. Unity is happy for people to find spiritual help wherever they can find it.
Do you know why we have spread? We have spread because there is so great a need for a religion like Unity. People need help. They need it here and now, in this world, for it is here and now in this world that we are alive. Unity is a here-and-now; seven-day-a-week, this-world religion.
God is with you here and now. God is within you. God is good. God is love and intelligence, and God's will is for you to use God's love and intelligence—they are yours—to build a good life here and now.
All over the earth, there are thousands of people seeking spiritual guidance and communion and not finding it. People who have nowhere to turn. People with no communication with anyone else. People who feel no one is interested in them. People sick and hungry and troubled and lonely. People angry and afraid. People looking for God and not knowing where to find God. To all these people—people of all classes, people of all races, educated people, uneducated people, people of all religions, people of no religion—to all people comes Unity. Unity asks for nothing in return, leaving them free, just offering to join them one with another and with God in silent soul communion, and instructing them on how to find God and God's power and intelligence within themselves and, with God's help, how to create a good life for themselves and for other human beings.
Charles and Myrtle Fillmore did not set out to found a new religion. They set out to find healing and help for themselves. Then they had the inspiration called Silent Unity. This is how it began in April 1890:
"A little band in this city have agreed to meet in silent soul communion every night at 10 o' clock—all those who are in trouble, sickness, poverty, and who sincerely desire the help of the good Father.”
"Whoever will may join this society, the only requirement being that members shall sit in a quiet, retired place, if possible, at the hour of 10 o'clock every night, and hold in silent thought, for not less than 15 minutes, the words that shall be given each month by the editor of this department."
Almost immediately thousands of people around the world answered their call. The Fillmores had a great insight: People don't have to be in the same room in order to pray together. They don't have to be members of the same religious group. They don't have to subscribe to the same sacred creed. Heart speaks to heart, and when your heart reaches out in prayer, you come through the door of prayer into the room of God's heart where we are all together as one in the heart of God and in the heart of Jesus Christ in whose name Unity carries on its ministry.
Unity is a spiritual bond that leaves everyone free but leaves no one out. It is an affirmation of your unity with yourself, your unity with other human beings like yourself, and your unity with God. You become a link in the lifeline of prayer and faith.
There is in the world today a vast vacuum of unbelief and discontent with the established churches and their narrow and divisive teachings. Too many churches are not human-need oriented. They are theologically oriented, and their theology is out of tune with the new scientific knowledge. So they leave it to the physical scientists to be the miracle workers of this age, and the physical scientists are happy to play this role, but the physical scientists are not enough. Too often we are left spiritually starving.
We human beings are by nature religious. We know that the physical world is not all there is; we have a spiritual nature. We feel it seeking expression in us. So the whole world is hungering for a new faith that will express the hopes and potentialities of this new age into which we are moving. Unity is a new religion that does not deny the findings of the new sciences that are freeing us from old scourges and limitations; Unity confirms their truths and urges us to seek yet newer truths within ourselves. Unity is a new church that sets our minds free to seek and find the living Truth within ourselves so that we will unleash not only the physical forces of the outer world but also the spiritual energies of our inner world. Unity is a church universal and a world religion that bind us not with vows and creeds but in a silent soul communion in a community of hearts. Perhaps it is in its name that the true meaning and purpose of Unity in the world is best revealed: Unity.