Unity Urban Ministerial School: Built on a Dream and Commitment
“What can we do to help your people?”
That was the question Stan Hampson, minister of Unity Village Chapel, asked Ruth Mosley in response to an article in the February 1978 issue of Ebony Magazine that exposed Unity discriminatory practices to the world.
Without hesitation, Mosley responded: “Educate them. We need our own school.”
The article, written by Rev. Johnnie Colemon, who had left Unity to start her own organization, spoke of the shameful treatment of African Americans studying to become teachers and ministers at Unity Village.
Colemon exposed the hypocrisy of Unity—teaching one thing and doing another. Like the elephant in the room, it was a situation that many knew about but rarely acknowledged or confronted.
Preaching Love, but Allowing Disgrace
As a result of the article, Rev. Vertell Allison-Talifero writes in The Book of Ruth that “The power movers and shakers were being scrutinized and looked upon as being responsible for allowing disgrace and shame to be directed in their spiritual institution that preached love and acceptance in the name of Jesus, no less!”
Colemon had been one of Mosley’s teachers at Unity School. There had been some improvement by the time Mosley joined the program. But, Mosley, (recalled) ... challenges she faced as a student when her questions and comments in class were disregarded by teachers and she was forced to sit in the back of the cafeteria unlike her white counterparts.
A Focus on the Truth
Even during those times of outright discrimination, Mosley understood her purpose and stayed focused on the Truth that would free her and others like her from the false teachings that had been keeping them in the bondage of pain, sickness, despair, and poverty.
Her goal was to serve those whom Unity did not serve, want, or welcome.
Mosley explained to Revs. Hampson and David Williams, senior minister of Detroit Unity Temple, how the Unity system for educating, licensing, and ordaining teachers and ministers was rigged against black people, and how operating in this way was counterproductive to Unity principles.
They agreed to help her make the case with the Association of Unity Churches to do something for the “colored people” in Unity.
On their advice, Mosley prepared her proposal for the ministerial conference in Birmingham, Mich. No one showed up.
She was then directed to send her proposal to the Educational Committee of Unity, but she was told the Committee could not act on it unless and until she had the approval of the area Unity ministers.
“God Tapping at the Door”
Inspired by her studies of H. Emilie Cady’s Lessons in Truth, she recognized that this was no time to judge by appearances. What appeared to be dead was very much alive in Mosley’s heart.
She recited over and over those universal Truths that she had put into practice:
“Asking springs from desire to possess some good. What is desire? Desire in the heart is always God tapping at the door of your consciousness with His infinite supply, a supply that is forever useless unless there be a demand for it.”
She recalled the verse in Isaiah 65:24: “Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear.”
Mosley held to the belief that this was a divine idea given to her by God and, therefore, it was already complete, and that her job was to stay with the idea as God was bringing it into fruition.
A Purpose: “To Educate Black People in Unity”
She sought the support of Rev. Jim Sherman, a member of the Association board, and Rev. Ed Rabel, one of her teachers. Following the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Mosley outlined the basic Urban Ministerial Program and its purpose to “educate Black people in Unity.”
When Mosley took the proposal to Rev. Bernard Dozier, president of the Association of Unity Churches, he suggested that she rewrite the proposal in “white folk’s language.”
At the Unity Conference in June 1979, Rev. Dozier presented Mosley’s proposal for the AUC-UMS Urban Program, and it received full approval. Unfortunately, there was no money to support it.
Taking the Message to Urban Communities
Mosley stepped out in faith and started Unity Urban Ministerial School practically on a shoestring. The Association set up an Academic Advisory Committee of seasoned Unity ministers; Revs. Jack Boland, Doris Caldwell, Catherine Knight, Bob Washer, and David Williamson, to assist the Urban School in “reaching the vast ethnic groups found in the urban metropolitan settings, to enhance the spirit of renaissance in urban areas, bringing more Unity ministers into the Unity movement and the Unity concept in the city of Detroit, and other urban areas.”
The vision for the school was to train ministers who might never have the opportunity to take the message of hope and faith so needed in urban communities across the United States and beyond.
Mosley used the model from the colleges she attended to develop the structure of the Urban School, and based the School’s mission on Isaiah 61:1:
“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.”
A Pilot Program
The school began as a five-year pilot program in 1980 to reach those committed to living the principles of Jesus Christ as taught by Unity School of Christianity.
It was not intended to be a shortcut to becoming a Unity minister. It was intended to assist potential ministers who were not in a position to attend Unity School of Christianity at Unity Village, for a variety of reasons.
Rev. Mayola Salt Paw was the Dean of the Urban Ministerial School from its inception until 1998. She was the recipient of the Myrtle Fillmore Award given to Unity ministers who exemplify a consciousness of prayer while gently and lovingly radiating positive, affirming ideas of the Christ in harmony with the consciousness of Unity cofounder Myrtle Fillmore.
In a tribute to Rev. Mosley, Mayola said, “The vision of Rev. Ruth Mosley and the courage she has shown in rushing to fulfill her vision is to be commended. Each of us has our dream, but rare is the person who pursues it to its conclusion.”
A “Head Start” for Ordination
The fledgling school would not have succeeded without the ministers who volunteered their time, talents, and treasures in teaching and managing the program. At the time, it was known as the “Head Start” program and students attended classes after work until they met the prerequisites for the Unity ordination path.
In 1982, the Urban School graduated its first class. Those eight students, known as “The Detroit Eight,” joined the students at Unity School of Christianity in Unity Village to complete their final year leading to their licensing and ordination by Unity School of Religious Studies in 1983.
When the Urban School first started, most of the students were members of West Side Unity, the church Mosley founded. Because of the recession, enrollment in the school had dropped substantially and Mosley was looking for ways to generate more students.
The First Unity Online Courses
During a visit at Unity Village, she met Catherine Thomas, a licensed Unity teacher and prayer associate with Silent Unity. In their conversation, Mosley learned that Thomas had been a school administrator, admissions officer, a college instructor, and ran her own recruiting firm. She asked Thomas what she could do to help the school. Thomas offered to teach classes online.
It was no coincidence—because there are no coincidences in Spirit—that Thomas had been learning to navigate the online platform at a local community college where she had been teaching.
In 2008, through the consciousness of these two women, Unity Urban Ministerial School developed the first online learning program in the Unity movement.
About that time, as Unity School was working toward accreditation, there was a disconnect between the Urban School’s Head Start Program and Unity Village.
Students from the Urban School would no longer go to Unity Village for their final year prior to licensing and ordination. Instead, all Urban School students would attend licensing and ordination exams twice a year at the Urban School in Detroit.
Once they had completed the graduation requirements from the Urban School and were accepted on the Ordination Path by Unity Worldwide Ministries (formerly the Association of Unity Churches), students would complete a nine-month internship leading up to ordination as a Unity minister.
In 2008, the first student enrolled in Unity Urban Ministerial School’s online program. Later that year, two other students joined. These were the first three students in the entire Unity movement to graduate from classes taken completely online. In 2013, the three were ordained Unity ministers by Unity Worldwide Ministries.
A Lasting Change to Unity
Since its inception in 1980, there have been many significant achievements by Unity Urban Ministerial School. Some 200 students have attended the Urban School. Practically all of them have become licensed and ordained Unity ministers.
The alumni have made significant accomplishments, planting and leading churches, serving on church and administration boards, writing books, teaching classes, and starting amazing innovations such as the only Unity-on-campus ministry at several colleges in Michigan.
Unity Urban Ministerial School continues to operate on campus and online learning platforms with its main mission based on the foundation that Rev. Mosley built on:
“To bring good news to the poor, to comfort the brokenhearted, to liberate the captives, and open doors to them that are imprisoned.”
This community, built on a dream and a commitment by Rev. Ruth M. Mosley, has a long-standing history and legacy that continues to bring out the best in the Unity movement.
Unity Urban Ministerial School is a legend and just as the founder dreamed, students come to the Urban School for the education. They stay for community.