Ruth M. Mosley was born March 10, 1930, the eldest child of Myles and Versie Newborn in Olive Branch, Mississippi, a town whose name symbolizes the biblical story of a dove bringing a branch to Noah and a state known at the time for its poor economy, poor education, poor judicial system, poor social advancement, and more lynchings and killings of Africa-American people than any other state in the United States. Olive Branch was a segregated, one-horse town that divided Mississippi and Tennessee, with a population of fewer than 500 people.
A lot has changed in Mosley’s hometown since then.
From 1900-2010, owing to the exodus of large numbers of middle-class families from nearby Memphis, Tennessee, Olive Branch was the fastest growing city in the United States. Today it is home to more than 30,000 residents and many major businesses.
Like Olive Branch and many cities across the south in Mosley’s day, the town’s two churches were also segregated. Black people attended Halliburton Baptist. White people attended The White Church, whose obvious name signaled “welcome” to some and “keep out” to others.
Mosley remembers that the name, “The White Church,” was placed at the beginning of the long walkway so “certain people” could be spared the embarrassment of showing up unexpected.
Mosley’s early introduction to Unity sparked a certain search for Truth. One of her daily chores as a child was to walk the mile-long dirt road to the mailbox.
A Discovery of a Different God
On one of those long walks, she discovered a folded pamphlet with the words in big letters: Unity Magazine. It was the Fillmores' National Sunday School Lesson, but much different than what she was being taught.
It spoke of God as “love,” leaving Mosley to ponder whether there were actually two Gods—one that was discriminating, jealous, judging, vengeful, and the other that was just pure love with no consideration for one’s skin color or economic status. Mosley tucked that idea into her heart and thought about it often.
A Path to Unity
Mosley became pregnant in her early teens and was forced to drop out of school. She had two small children when she decided to leave home in search of a better life for her family, leaving them in the care of her parents and siblings.
She moved to Memphis where she was a live-in cook for a wealthy white family and attended a black church on Sundays where the bishop’s messages were much like what she had read in the Unity pamphlet. It was this preacher who encouraged Mosley to move to Detroit for better opportunities.
Moving so far away from her children and family was the hardest thing Mosley had ever done. When she arrived in Detroit, she found work with a family and began attending Detroit Unity Temple.
“All things work together for good”
It was there that she met and married William Mosley. He adopted her two sons, and they later had a baby girl. However, after two decades, the marriage ended. As Mosley tells the story, she took comfort in Romans 8:28: “We know that all things work together for good for those that love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
It was this Truth that led Mosley to pursue her purpose—her calling—to serve others. She would later meet and marry the love of her life—Clarence Hall, who died of cancer a year into their marriage. Sometime after that she met Marcus Burden, a graduate from Unity Urban Ministerial School, and minister of Unity Church of Cleveland Heights, Ohio. She says it was a marriage made in heaven, although short-lived. Marcus made his transition three days short of their first anniversary.
Armed with Truth principles and sheer determination, Mosley knew that she needed an education to fulfill her purpose.
She earned her GED through the High School of Commerce, attended classes at Highland Park Junior College, and earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and English through Mercy College.
Mosley set her sights to helping others find Truth.
In the early 1960s, she attended Unity School of Religious Studies. In 1964 she founded West Side Unity in Detroit and, upon completion of the Unity course work, she was ordained in 1966. In 1979, Mosley opened Unity Urban Ministerial School. In 1982, she was elected and served as President of the Board of the Association of Unity Churches.
The seed idea for Unity Urban Ministerial School grew out of a time when discrimination against blacks in Unity was prevalent. It was one of Mosley’s teachers, Rev. Johnnie Colemon, who in an article published in the February 1978 issue of Ebony Magazine, announced to the world the discrimination and prejudice that black people experienced in Unity.
Like the legendary Jackie Robinson of baseball, Rev. Colemon pulled back the curtains and exposed the elephant in the room at Unity Village for all to see. This was the beginning of a sea change for the good that would ripple throughout the Unity movement.
That following June, Mosley was approached by several well-meaning Unity folks asking her opinion of Rev. Colemon’s pronouncement. Of course, Mosley knew from her own experience that every word Rev. Colemon said was true. However, she decided to take a different approach.
When asked by Stan Hampson, minister of Unity Village Chapel, “What can we do to help your people?” Mosley’s response was “Educate them. We need our own school.”
We Need Our Own School
She explained again and again that the Unity system for licensing teachers and ordaining ministers was stacked against black people with tests biased in favor of whites, and that its discriminatory practices were counter to Unity teachings. In other words, Unity was not practicing what it preached—that “we walk our talk.”
At that time, there were only 10 black Unity ministers. Rev. Colemon, the first black president of the Association of Unity Churches, had left the movement to start her own organization that had already established churches throughout the country. Her message that it is everyone’s birthright to live a better life brought people together who before had been divided.
With the help of several Unity leaders who supported her vision, the Association of Unity Churches in 1979 extended the olive branch, giving Mosley the green light to move forward.
“He has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed”
Unfortunately, she was on her own to find the money she needed to get started. Mosley relied on the Unity teachings she had learned, setting her intention to put them into practice.
A specific passage from H. Emilie Cady’s Lessons in Truth kept her centered and focused:
“Before ever you are conscious of any lack, of any desire for happiness, for fullness of joy, the great Father-Mother heart has desired them for you. It is He in you desiring them that you feel, and think it is only yourself.”
Mosley understood that it was not her, but the Mother-Father God desiring this for His/Her children. She put feet to her prayers and moved forward.
Mosley consulted with education professionals and used the grading system and curriculum from her college experience as the model for the school’s curriculum. She made Isaiah 61:1 the mission of Unity Urban Ministerial School:
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners.Isaiah 61:1
The House That Ruth Built
Mosley put everything she had into serving others, and her legacy continues. The “House That Ruth Built” stands on a firm foundation. Its enrollment has grown from the eight graduates, known as “The Detroit Eight,” in the early 1980s, to some 200 alumni today. The school has led the movement into 21st-century education by becoming the first online ministerial education program in 2008 in Unity.
Rev. Mosley went on to earn a master’s degree in Divinity from All Faiths Seminary International and a doctorate of Divinity from Commonwealth Open University.
Rev. Ruth M. Mosley, D.D., was the author of four publications: Lord, Is It I? (1998), Strategies for Urban Ministry (2003), The Unity Urban Ministerial School: Its History and Its Impact on Urban Ministry (2005), and How to Attract a Guy (2008).
Rev. Mosley made her transition on November 8, 2020, hardly having slowed down by age 90. She continued to serve by practicing the Truth she knew, relating back to the Unity pamphlet where she first learned “God is love.”
In the care facility where she spent her final days, she shared those Truths with all who had “ears to hear and eyes to see.”
Whenever she was experiencing pain, her immediate go-to was the affirmation given to her by Bishop Williams at the church in Memphis: Jesus Christ is I AM and will heal with what the Lord and I will heal using these words: Jesus Christ is I AM.
Like the name of the town from which she came, the Association of Unity Churches extended the olive branch to Rev. Ruth Mosley, enabling her to lay the firm foundation for West Side Unity and Unity Urban Ministerial School.
Those of us who are the beneficiaries of the work of this kind, gentle, and loving spirit and following in her footprints are eternally grateful!