Reflecting Poolwith Reverend Greg Coles, M.Div.
This past month I had the pleasure of attending Unity Worldwide Ministries Annual People’s Convention. For me, this was by far the most exciting Unity convention ever, reminding me that we are on the precipice of unchartered change and evolution as a spiritual movement. This transformation is not only happening globally, but also within our own community here at Unity of Bay City.
The theme of this year’s convention was “Just Imagine” and our newly co-created vision is:
“A world powerfully transformed by advancing the global movement of spiritual awakening
and transformation through Unity.”
In conjunction with our theme, the focus of many of our keynote presentations was on Future Trends, as we ask ourselves as a movement of ministries, who we are called to be in 2030. You might feel as I did that 2030 is a far off date, but some elementary math soon clarified that this is less than 12 years away.
The process offered for our imagining was called “back-casting’” We are all familiar with forecasting, which predicts a path based on known criteria of the past. Back-casting, on the other hand, is imagining the future first, and then implementing the plan to get there. It is discerning a spiritually guided objective, and then creating the steps needed to get there.
An example of back-casting is President Kennedy’s claim to put man on the moon in 10 years, even though the technology did not yet exist or the resources in place to create it. Other familiar examples are Edison’s attempts to invent the electric lightbulb, or the Wright Brothers investigating and harnessing the law of aviation which would allow humans to fly. These men were guided by a vision from the back-casting process.
The reality is that like Unity, most churches are in decline, and declining support from spiritual communities has sometimes resulted in the sale of their building to downsize, or letting go of the full-time minister so they can afford to maintain the building. Others are transforming who they are and back-casting in order to be viable to the needs of our future. Unity of Bay City is no different.
It is also interesting to note the trend in growing orthodox mega-centers, with the financial resources to minister to the whole family and in an infinite number of ways that are beyond a Sunday church service. My pastoral training has taught me that during times of stress or anxiety, our immediate response is to regress emotionally and spiritually. In these very anxious times of unprecedented rapid change in our world, I believe people are seeking the comfort of a regressed spirituality that promises the security of orthodox structure, along with promises to get to heaven. It is my personal belief that this will not last, but is a short-term fix to our search for change, structure and certainly. Notice our political world is doing the same.
The general outcome from this convention is that we must transform and evolve into something more needed and meaningful to the younger generations, and that this will require reaching out to them in new ways than we have done before. We must stop doing what is no longer working and allow ourselves to dance within the mystery of something yet unknown that is evolving. Like the acorn to the Oak Tree, or caterpillar to the butterfly, we must discover what is deeper within us that wants to emerge, beyond the shell of what we have been – however wonderful - into something we have not been before.
Some very exciting announcements were made that demonstrated Unity Worldwide Ministries commitment to creating a transformed world by advancing the global movement of spiritual awakening and transformation through Unity. These announcements include:
1) The goal of UWM’s board of trustees, in conjunction with the board of trustees for Unity Worldwide Headquarters at Unity Village, is to put forth a proposal at next year’s convention to DISSOLVE both Unity Worldwide Ministries and Unity Worldwide Headquarters into a single, united organizational movement. While we remain committed to Silent Unity, the Unity Worldwide Spiritual Institute, and support to our Ministry members, there will be no “sacred cows” in how we reorganize and transform ourselves.
2) We are partnering with other new thought organizations to work together, and for the first time this convention was attended by senior members of Centers for Spiritual Living, the Association of Global New Thought, and more. Both Unity Worldwide Ministries and Centers for Spiritual Living also issued joint statements that Unity Ministries and Centers for Spiritual Living may now hire ministers from either organization. (side note, while many orthodox faiths such as Presbyterians and Methodists are on the brink of splitting, New Thought ministries are uniting and working together as never before.
3) Because we are a universal faith that is less attached to orthodox rules, dogma and creeds, we are poised to better survive, transform and become a dynamic spiritual resource for an emerging global society. And, it will require us to change & evolve.
During my travel between Unity Village and our conference hotel in Olathe KS, we came upon some construction on the interstate highway and some abruptly stopped cars. We safely squealed to a halt, but the car behind us was unable to do so, and ran into my back bumper and punctured the rear tire. You might have noticed some damage to my car that is awaiting parts to come in for bodywork. Everyone was safe, but their car was no longer drivable. The metaphysical lesson in this for me was that sometimes we have to slow down and stop what we are doing, to notice the changing landscape and make necessary adjustments. Paying attention, listening, and stopping what we are patterned to do, are crucial parts of the journey.
So where will you be in 2030? And what will Unity of Bay City look like? The path is unchartered, and it is up to us to listen deeply for our spiritual guidance and work together for the greatest good to emerge.
I love you, I bless you, and I behold the Christ in you.