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November 2020

F.R.O.G. - My Spiritual Reminder

by Wendy Karr, Unity Canada Education Coordinator
As a child, I started collecting frogs – figurines, mugs, stuffed, jewelry, posters, books, you name it.  Wasn’t sure why, but frogs kept appearing in my life.  
When I was ten or so I found a bookmark in our local Christian bookstore with a frog on it – of course I had to buy it!  On further examination, I discovered that “frog” was an acronym – Fully Rely On God.  It seemed to explain the attraction...
 
In 1983 my parents found Unity, and I followed the next year– not an easy choice for a teenager to leave her “church of origin” and its large youth ministry.  But I had an inner understanding that the theology didn’t fit anymore, and never would.
 
I began attending Christ Church Unity Center in Hamilton (as it was then), and helped with the renovations to the church and retreat complex.  One day I was working with a long-time member (I forget whether we were painting, cleaning, or hauling cinder blocks) and somehow the subject of frogs came up.  She suggested that a more suitable acronym would be “Fuller Realization Of God.”  That felt closer to my understanding, but still not quite there.
 
My academic career eventually took me to Windsor, where I joined the Unity community.  One of our congregants was a firefighter, and he offered a CPR training session.  I had done first aid, but not CPR, so with some trepidation (“I’m going to be responsible for whether someone lives or dies?!”) I signed up.  
 
My concerns were unfounded – at least with this particular instructor.  The first thing he told us was to breathe and center ourselves (not exactly what the manual said).  He then shared that every time he was in that situation, he would say a silent prayer to the person, telling them that he was making a conduit for them to return but that if they were ready to leave, Godspeed.
 
As I digested that, a thought formed in my mind – a new acronym – First Rely On God.  Our co-founder Charles Fillmore frequently said to “go to God first and thereafter as God directs” – and he also reminded us that there was nothing too small or trivial to pray about.  
 
This awareness held a wonderful blessing – I eventually landed a job where the display of overt religious symbols was discouraged.  A frog isn’t religious, right?  So, I had a frog paper clip holder, frog magnets, frog mouse pad, frog pen, frog mug . . . well, you get the picture!  Since my workmates had dogs, cats, and skeletons in their areas, I fit right in.  My boss and co-workers never knew that my entire setup was a visual reminder of my spiritual path!  Even better, I received many more frogs as gifts in the twelve years I was there!
 
So if you see a frog in my email, Sunday PowerPoint, or SEE handout, now you know why!
 
Ribbit & blessings!
 

 

[back to November 2020 issue]

September 2020

Maestas of Ministry

Meet two remarkable women - Cheryl Rodgers and Vesna Mitchell - who are Ministry Coordinators in their spiritual communities, Unity Kitchener and Unity York Study Group respectively.  Like conductors of a 'spirited orchestra, they keep all the many moving parts coordinated and moving in alignment with the mission.
The Canadian Path (TCP):  What was life/career for you before Ministry Coordinator?
 
Cheryl Rodgers, Unity Kitchener (CR):  I had a very diverse career that started in South Africa and continued in Canada when I ran my own business as a bookkeeper.  An opportunity came up to take my bookkeeping skills into the world of restorative justice – which I loved.  I later became a Program Coordinator, got my certificate in Mediation and Conflict Resolution Management, and stayed for 12 years.  In 2012 I completed a post-graduate  Certificate program in Community Social Services Management.  Over the years I had attended Unity – I feel I’ve been on a spiritual journey since childhood!  Ultimately I was asked to serve on the Board as Treasurer.  It was an exciting time in Unity Kitchener as we moved away from minister-centric to mission-centric.  Then, following a 2-year unfruitful search for a minister, we established the Ministry Coordinator position.  It was so appealing to me, and I had both the skills and the interest, that I resigned from the Board, applied and was the successful candidate.  The initially part-time role became full time – and here I am!
 
TCP:  What’s aspect of your work inspires (or energizes) you most?
 
CR: I love working with volunteers, finding out what inspires them and how they want to serve.  Unity Kitchener also has many teams, so I created Team Lead meetings – it was important to me that we connected on many levels and that the team leads serve and support each other as a team too.  Deep conversations – really connecting with people – and working with others on the spiritual path are very fulfilling for me.
 
TCP:  What’s a current challenge in your work as a MC?
 
CR: Wanting to do more than I have time for!  Things all seem to need attention at the same time.  I’ve had to learn to prioritize: I start by asking “what’s most important today?” and refer to my monthly desk calendar so I pace myself.  Being mindful of not overdoing, practicing self-care and being OK not getting everything done – I’m not yet successful at these!  Personal relationships – friends and family – can suffer.
 
TCP:  What’s your tip for staying centered in Spirit during a busy day?

CR: “Stop and breathe” is my immediate go-to.  I meditate daily and attend a Sangha Mediation once a week with Robert Brumet.  I’m also on the Ministerial path; my spiritual work and studies keep me ‘juiced’ and centered in spirit.  I only need three more SEE [Spiritual Education & Enrichment] credit courses before I can apply for ministerial school.  I’m grateful our Board supports me as a spiritual leader.

TCP:  What’s the vision? Where are you headed now?
 
CR:  I see all Unity communities in Canada coming together for workshops, classes, spiritual discussions, collaboration and connection.  Technology is not going away and the hybrid model of technology plus in-person gathering lends itself to new ways of doing things.  I see us working and collaborating together with joy – perhaps being a spiritual cooperative-moving into a new dimension.
 
TCP: 10-15 years from now, when you look back, what contribution do you want to be celebrated for?
 
CR:  That I’ve served in a way that allows people to shift their consciousness into thinking and doing things differently. I want to be able to think outside the box and bring new thoughts and ideas into the reality of our future.
 

The Canadian Path (TCP):  What was life/career for you before Ministry Coordinator?

Vesna Mitchell, Unity York Study Group (VM): For 18 years I was self-employed as a personal trainer, health and nutrition coach.  Everything came to a halt with my breast cancer diagnosis in 2010.   It stopped me in my tracks and brought up big, important life questions.  My reflections prompted me to become certified as a Spiritual Life Coach but I still felt there was more waiting for me.  I found Unity and dove deeply into the teachings.  It was so aligned with how I want to help the world!  Concurrent with that, I became more involved in a leadership role in our Unity Study Group – I became a Board member and began contributing my skills with video, blogging, and social media.  My involvement kept growing which fit well with our 2018 group intention to expand.  The transition into the larger Ministry Coordinator role was natural.  The growth and healing I experienced by stepping into leadership I can’t properly quantify. There was no safer space for growth than my spiritual community!
 
TCP:  What’s aspect of your work inspires (or energizes) you most?
 
VM:  For me, there isn’t one specific thing. It’s the sense that I’m part of something special, that I’m contributing to humanity.  It’s seeing that what I do creates a community.  Seeing the individual tasks – emailing, arranging speakers and teachers, arranging Zoom, promotion – culminate in a Sunday service or classes is cathartic for me.  It’s about bringing it all together into the whole.  Coordinating comes naturally to me.  I’m the coordinator in my family too, although some of them might call it being bossy!
 
TCP:  What’s a current challenge in your work as a MC?
 
VM: Understanding and working with different personalities.  I love people, and I’ve learned not everyone is like me – task oriented, linear thinker, a planner.  The other challenge has been creating balance in leadership.  There is always something to do or that needs attention.  It’s like constantly pushing down beachballs only to have another pop up. I’ve had to learn to prioritize.
 
TCP:  What’s your tip for staying centered in Spirit during a busy day?
 
VM:  Breath and prayer.  Ideally, I have both a morning and evening practice of going into the silence and of praying for others.  Reality is, I can let that practice fall off when things get busy.   Then it’s about forgiveness and starting again.  I also do life as a prayer – while I’m cooking, before a conversation, etc.  And I read a lot – currently most of it is Unity literature – and think about how to apply what I’ve read to my life.  
 
TCP:  What’s the vision? Where are you headed now?
 
VM: I felt the call to be a minister.  I want to serve others in a way that’s aligned with the Unity world vision. I plan to start an Alternative Ministry, not being too attached to how that’s going to look.  The ministry of the future is going to look different than the traditional model.  So, I enrolled in SEE [Spiritual Education & Enrichment] courses.  I’m on the Ministerial track. However, I took the month of August to reflect and adjust my priorities.  I’ve decided to accelerate the process of becoming a minister. With that commitment made, I can breathe again!  I know where I’m headed.
 
TCP: 10-15 years from now, when you look back, what contribution do you want to be celebrated for?
 
VM:  Good question given I’ve just turned 50!  That I loved deeply and unconditionally, and that I expressed that in everything I did.  With love, anything is possible!
 

August 2020

Terra, Flora, Fauna, Gaia

Richly blessed by Mother Earth, I embrace our beautiful relationship.  Will you join me?
 
I have the most amazing friend that cares for me very much.
 
We’ve developed a beautiful relationship for almost 50 years. Our relationship is built upon trust, unconditional caring, filled with diversion and love, moments of serenity, reflection, peace and often deep spiritual connection. 
 
My friend glows and radiates strength and energy and sometimes has a more somber, reflective, even darker mood, at times, even rumbling with anger and roaring with power, such a blend of qualities that this cherished friend has. 
 
That diversity and holistic aspect of their “character” is what makes my friend so special.
 
This friend is also caring and has consoled and inspired thousands upon thousands of people upon generations of time. Stories, songs, poems and books have been written on my friend’s behalf. 
 
My friend actually has many names…Terra, Flora, Fauna, Gaia,…some even consider her like their Mother for the love they feel from her. 
 
Well of course, by now, you probably know who this special friend is…it’s Mother Earth.
 
As I reflected upon the words that I wanted to share about the Unity EarthCare Program it dawned on me that I indeed have a relationship with the earth that has richly blessed my life and deepened my spirituality in very personal and deep ways.  
 
And, like the relationships in my life, I asked myself, how am I doing in nurturing my relationship with Mother Earth? 
 
I recently gained a keen interest in learning more about the EarthCare Program and as a representative of the Unity Canada Board, “attended” their first online Summit last month. 
 
I was impressed by the commitment, dedication, creativity, and citizenry of the folks involved – all happening through Unity centres embracing this program. 
 
Some centers had even received awards and recognition by Unity Worldwide Ministries and in their communities from the transformative work they have done.
 
Based on the above, I’m pleased to be championing Unity Canada’s 2021 goal that, by the end of the year, each Canadian congregation will have signed the EarthCare Covenant – a simple yet powerful act that expresses our conscious awareness of our oneness with creation, plus a commitment to care for the Earth.
 
We can do this!  Start by letting us know about your current knoweldge and your potential interest in Unity’s EarthCare program by responding to these 2 questions.
 
And I’ll see you next month with more information.
 
Yavhel Velasquez
Unity Canada Member at Large
 

July 2020

Thomas DeSchutter | Ministerial Student

Altar boy, self-indulgence, personal addictions and a Star Wars mentality. Who would think of these as a backdrop to becoming a Unity ministerial student?  And yet they were for Thomas DeSchutter.
 
Thomas is well underway with his Masters of Divinity.  He credits Rev Patricia Zogar and his home church, Unity Centre of Nanaimo, as the wind beneath his wings as he learns to fly as a fully-fledged Minister.  His hoped-for launch is the Fall of 2022.
 
The path enroute is anything but easy.  But once you’ve heard ‘the call’, Thomas says, there’s no turning back.
 
For Thomas that call came when his wife, Leslie, brought home a Course in Miracles, the Helen Schucman book she was studying at Unity Centre of Nanaimo.  “She just left it on the coffee table, and it slowly made its way toward me.  One day I opened it.  By the time I was on page 4 I realized that the spiritual teachings of Jesus and the dogma of organized religion were not the same thing.  I had collapsed them into one and made them both wrong.  I had chosen instead to live life guided by the good force and dark force of Star Wars.”
 
Suddenly, Thomas couldn’t stop reading and learning.  He attended Unity Centre of Nanaimo for six months – “I always sat in the front row. I wanted to take it all in.”
 
Then came his pivotal moment, first on the inside to himself – “I think I want to do that.” – and then on the outside to Rev Patricia – “I want to be a minister.”
 
In hindsight, Thomas thinks this calling was always within him.  “There was something there when I was a teenage altar boy but I just ran away from it because the punitive loving God concept just never made sense to me.”  As Thomas allowed himself to explore a deeper way of connecting with people, “it felt like there was just something more for me to do.”
 
He entered his first of the 18 required SEE (Spiritual Education & Enrichment) Classes for ministry school. Every semester he chose to take as many classes as he could.  In June of 2019, he was accepted into ministry school and into admissions in August of 2019.
 
“This was the start of the most intense personal exploration I’ve ever experienced.  I shed a lot of tears.  But that’s an important part of the process:  as a minister you need to be able to look within, take care of your own ‘stuff’ first so that you don’t project it onto others.  Without that, you can’t do your best work as a minister.”
 
Now entering his 4th semester of a Masters of Divinity, Thomas chosen to carry a course load of 3 classes rather than 4 as his twin girls plus his own business (Bloom Strategies) also keep him busy.  His plan is to be finished classes the summer of 2022, followed by an internship with an active spiritual community.
 
So, how’s the learning to fly going so far for Thomas?  
 
“Rev Patricia has been a huge support to me.  I’m doing a daily morning meditation on the Unity Centre of Nanaimo Facebook page, plus I’m grateful for the opportunity she’s given me to hone my speaking skills at our spiritual community twice a month, also available on Facebook.
 
“Watching other leading-edge Unity ministers is another way I learn.  Unity Houston, Unity Minneapolis and Unity Florida are a few I’m following.  They’re all using high tech.  I believe that’s going to be the new model for Sunday services – yes, we want people to come to us and we also want to be able to go out to them.
 
“I’m a ‘big vision’ person – I want to reach thousands with the Unity teachings – and I’m looking forward to being a part of that future!”