Ask the Minister
with Reverend Greg Coles
*Reverend Greg Coles served as the Senior Minister at Unity of Bay City Oct 2010 - April 2019
These are common questions received about Unity of Bay City and our world wide movement, with answers provided by Reverend Greg Coles, who, like Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore, reserves the right to change his mind.
Q: Unity is called a cult on the internet. Why do you think that is?
Unity is called a lot of things on the internet, and how we are described or labeled tells us more about the observer than about Unity, because "cult" generally implies something different or unorthodox from one's own beliefs.
For example, I was visiting the mega-sized Lakewood Church in Houston TX, led by popular author and televangelist Joel Osteen. This is a non-denominational community with very rigid, orthodox teachings. I went into their beautiful bookstore and when I looked under the title of cult I found Catholicism. So are Catholics a cult, or does this indicate that Catholicism is different and unorthodox from Lakewood Church?
In early western civilization Jesus and his followers were definitely considered a cult because they challenged the orthodox teachings of the time – Jesus challenged the Letter of the Law and preached the SPIRIT of the law. In that same way, Unity may be considered a cult today, because we challenge dogma and creed, and teach truth that is universal. Truth that transcends boundaries or religions.
In the year 325 CE many of the Christian cults banded together to form “the church” of western civilization, at the Counsel of Nicea. They moved from being a cult to becoming a new orthodox religion.
Unity does not seek to be a religion. We do not require allegiance to any dogma. We encourage a willingness to look within, to Seek first the Kingdom within you.
So from the perspective of any orthodox religion we might well be considered a cult, and so was Jesus, so I think we are in great company.
Q: Fillmore is co-founder of Unity you said – who is the other?
Charles and Myrtle Fillmore are the co-founders of Unity. They were a young married couple in the 1880s who studied with such New Thought masters as Mary Baker Eddy, and Emma Curtis Hopkins. They graduated from the School of Divine Science, studied many eastern religions, and developed what is now called “Unity School of Christianity”
Unity School has 3 distinct functions:
Note: The history of Unity is covered in a 2 hour class, as part of our 3 part New Member classes. Anyone interested may attend. Please let us know if you'd like to be notified when the next New Member Class starts.
Q: The previous Minister quoted Fillmore a lot – you don't as much – you have many sources. Other churches quote Jesus on Bible verses a lot, sometimes too much talk about sin a lot – what's best?
What's best? What I do of course! All kidding aside, I believe that each person chooses for themselves what is best at any given time.
When I create my lessons I follow my spiritual and intuitive guidance about what is happening in our community and our world, and how God may be seeking to express truth in so many ways around us and through us. I don't believe that God stopped speaking to people after the Bible was written. God is speaking to us always, and so I take a very spiritual and prayerful approach to developing my lessons, and really try to integrate new thoughts and discoveries, as much as ancient wisdom and universal truth.
Regarding Fillmore, in the old days Unity would quote Fillmore a lot, and that's because he had a most wonderful way of incorporating the contemporary sciences and education of the day into universal teachings of truth. He was remarkable at doing that and prided himself on keeping abreast of the latest news & discoveries. Fillmore earned his reputation for offering NEW THOUGHT about ancient wisdom and universal truths. That's what I seek to model in my lessons as well.
If Fillmore were alive today I don't believe he would be teaching from his old textbooks a lot either. With the incredible advancement since the 1800s in science, technology and education, he would be teaching and writing new books and new lessons. Consider this introduction from Unity's Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, developed by Charles Fillmore:
Cofounder with his wife Myrtle of the Unity movement and Silent Unity, Fillmore was a lifelong advocate of the open, inquiring mind, and he took pride in keeping abreast of the latest scientific and educational discoveries and theories. Many years ago he wrote, “What you think today may not be the measure for your thought tomorrow”; and it seems likely that were he to compile this book today, he might use different metaphors, different scientific reference, and so on.
Indeed it is in this spirit of integrating new thoughts with ancient truths and spiritual wisdom that I seek to offer my lessons.
So what's best? Ultimately, each person chooses the path and style that may be best for themselves. What works well for one may not be for another; and so just as we like to vary our music, I like to bring in guest speakers and incorporate varying lesson styles as well.
Q: If Unity doesn't believe in original sin why do we Baptize?
Great question! In the early days the Hebrews and then later the Christians would develop their “HOLY DAYS” around pagan holidays, and they would integrate their understanding of spiritual truth into these holidays and pagan rituals. I think it is much in that same tradition that Unity integrates our understanding of spiritual truth into traditional Christian rituals.
And so when we Baptize or Christen a child, it is not washing away any sort of original sin they may have inherited from the allegorical characters of Adam and Eve. We believe that child is born whole and perfect just as they are, and so our Christening ceremony is to behold the CHRIST in them - their spiritual nature - and to use this Christening ceremony as a reminder of our own CHRIST nature as well.
Q: What is Unity's thought about reincarnation? Does Unity embrace reincarnation?
Unity does not have a formal statement or belief about reincarnation. We certainly honor all spiritual paths including many eastern traditions which do believe in reincarnation. In the book, Discover the Power Within You, Unity author Eric Butterworth makes a case for reincarnation in one of the chapters, and you can find other Unity writings about reincarnation also.
However, whether or not one believes in reincarnation has nothing to do with living a Unity life. Unity is centered on living life NOW. In this NOW moment is your point of power, your connection with the divine.
The challenge with focusing on reincarnation is a tendency to focus on the past, and that takes you away form your point of power, your source, today. For others, reincarnation might even be an excuse for not living responsibly in the now, because they can “get it right in the next life instead”.
In Unity we teach that eternity is now. Eternity isn't something that happens after we die, and it didn't just happen sometime ago in the past. It is right now.
So whether you believe in reincarnation or not is not relevant in Unity. You may or you may not. What's relevant in Unity is how you are living your life now - to live your full potential this day, now.
Q: What does Unity believe regarding the “Trinity” - Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
The concept of the Trinity really was developed in the late 4th Century following the Counsel of Nicea, as the new “world religion” attempted to define God in a way that each of its new partners would agree. It originates from the Greek concept that God has different masks or personas. Essentially, the three different personas of the Trinity represent different aspects of one God.
Of course, early Christians were an especially paternalistic society and there was a high degree of importance placed on family bloodline and inheritance. So it is no surprise that God was accepted to be a Father figure, as Jesus spoke in the Bible. Unity embraces this concept of God as father and more. Today, you will often hear Unity ministers refer to God as father-mother God, or Divine Source, Holy presence, moving away from the traditional limitations of gender and recognizing God as in and of all things, everywhere present.
God the Son was intended to represent God incarnated by Jesus. While in Unity we agree that Jesus was a divine child of God, we believe the same of all people. All people are sons and daughters of Spirit, of God, and we each have a divinity—Christ nature—within us.
The Holy Spirit in 4th century was a nod to Gnosticism. The Gnostics were a very unique sect of Christianity whose primary appreciation was for the divinity of Wisdom itself, rather than a person or figurehead. For some of the authors of our psalms and wisdom literature in the Bible, wisdom was represented by the Goddess Sophia, Wisdom, who first birthed the God of the Hebrews.
Charles Fillmore taught Trinity within Unity as Mind, Idea and Expression:
God the FATHER - as MIND, SOURCE
God the SON – as IDEA; Humanity is an idea in the Mind of God.
God the HOLY SPIRIT – as EXPRESSION; the activity of God.
GOD is Source, Idea and Expression.
Q: Is there an easy way to know the Unity Principles and what they mean? Not that a book isn't good, but some of us don't have the time to read (or read consistently, or $for a book...) and principles are mentioned from the platform. I can understand the words of the principles, but that only goes so far.
Wow – that's really a profound question. The best resource — and free—I know of for reading Unity Principles is on the website www.UNITY.org
My favorite books on Unity are written by Eric Butterworth, including Unity: A Quest for Truth and Discover the Power Within You.
But this question really goes to the heart of the matter:
It does not matter what you read or what you understand so much as HOW YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE NOW. Life is our teacher, and our spiritual practice is a moment by moment activity:
Do you live your life, knowing it is sacred, and knowing that you are a whole and perfect child of God?
Do you live with an awareness of the Kingdom of God that is within you?
Do you love your enemies as yourself, as your brothers and sisters?
Do you treat your body as a holy temple, as a sacred vessel for your eternal soul and spirit?
Do you live with an awareness of God as your source in a universe of Unlimited Possibility?
If you do not have a spiritual practice to assist you, you can start now and easily. It can be as simple as reading the Daily Word, Unity's Daily Inspirational Magazine each morning, or a prayer of gratitude each night. That's enough. The great theologian Meister Eckhart said “If your only prayer is Thank-you, it will be enough.”
Q: Why don't we teach Unity Principles rather than Interfaith classes?
We do. I've never taught an Interfaith class here, and every class I have taught has been Unity based. Starting back in October 2010:
What is Unity
Unity: A quest for Truth
Keys to the Kingdom
Unity Membership Class
And next week begin The I of the Storm.
Each of these are Unity classes based on Unity Principles.
Perhaps this question stems from our ongoing Interfaith Discussion Group that meets here each Sunday from 9:30-10:30, and is open to all. We are blessed to have this ongoing discussion group because we are blessed to have a trained facilitator who has come forward and offered to lead these. I have seen ongoing Unity Metaphysics classes meeting at other Unity centers and they work very well, and the only reason we don't have one is that no one has come to offer to lead it, yet. I am very open to having one.
Q: Is there any training required to be an Usher or Platform Assistant? How does one get involved in the music ministry program? Why don't we have kids more involved in the service?
Great questions! Many folks weren't able to be with us during the summer hours, when we offered a wonderful series called SUMMER TREASURES. This was a 7 part series based on discovering and expressing our spiritual Gifts. Every Sunday in this series the community was introduced to the different Team Leaders for most of our ministry teams, including Ushers, Music, and Youth Ministry, and in the bulletin we provided descriptions of these teams and how to get involved. These forms and how to get in touch and how to get training are still available. They are located inside the Social Hall. There is a bright yellow board with pictures of our team leaders and forms for you to sign up and find out more about getting involved.
Anyone ready to participate in joining some of our amazing teams under the direction of our wonderful and loving team leaders, please sign up.
Why don't we have children more involved in the services? The same reason we don't have kindergarten children in high-school, or grade-school children in University. Our Sunday lessons are targeted for adult audiences to understand and apply Unity principles, and our classes in Youth Ministry offer these same principles but at a level that our children can understand and apply.
In addition to that, we also offer inter-generational activities such as our Christmas Cookie Walk and Spring Rummage Sale sponsored by Y.O.U., our Halloween party and Easter Egg Hunt, and various other events and potlucks through-out the year.
Addendum: There were some questions that were quite personal in nature and I'm not going to read them, but essentially they were asking why bad things happen and how to deal with them.
The best way through any situation is just to walk through it, like the valley of the shadow even when it feels like death. And don't pitch a tent. Walk through them.
Why do bad things happen? Truth is I don't know why. Some people say that tough things happen to make us stronger, but I've also witnessed where tough things can sometimes break people too. What I DO KNOW is this: that in any situation we have the choice as to how we are going to respond. And I believe that no matter what the situation or how horrible, there is always a possibility for good, and we can choose that possibility.
As your minister, my commitment to you is to always choose to see the highest and best for you no matter what you may be going thru and no matter how dark it may seem. And as a spiritual community, our commitment is to see the highest and best for one another; To be a spiritual trampoline and lift one another up when we fall down. And that takes spiritual practice. Spiritual practice—not rules—is what Unity is all about.
Unity minister Eric Butterworth writes that you don't become a mathematician by memorizing answers in the back of a book, and you don't become spiritual by memorizing a lot of metaphysical principles, creeds or dogma.
Unity is not a creed to accept or definitions to memorize. Unity offers positive, practical tools to help you discover the Kingdom of God within you. Within you is the seed of unlimited possibility for positive and abundant living, and it is our privilege and our spiritual practice to tap in to it.
The Divine in me beholds the Divine in you, which is what I mean each week when I say, Namaste.