The small congregation of the Unity church on St. Croix has been meeting for 30 years, but only in the last 12 years have they gained national “church” status and now every Sunday, they meet at 10:30 a.m. for a unique musical and meditative reflection of God.
Roughly 30 people gathered for an hour in the small building on Hess Road Sunday to meditate, pray, and sing the Christian tunes that poured out of the small radio in the back of the room. The tight-knit group hugged and held hands at moments throughout the service, and nearly all of them wore broad smiles while they swayed to the rhythmic tunes.
Unity is a religious movement that falls under what are called “New Thought” teachings, which promote the idea that God is ubiquitous, spirit is the totality of real things, and true human selfhood is divine. According to the Unity website, “Unity is a positive, practical, progressive approach to Christianity based on the teachings of Jesus and the power of prayer.”
The Unity church on St. Croix is the only one in the territory, and currently, they are seeking a full-time minister, as the previous one is moving off-island. However, this is nothing new for the congregation – for almost its entire existence it has been without a full-time minister. Generally, congregants meet as a study group and they have various guest speakers fill the “spiritual leader” position.
In fact, according to Alice Wise, the board president, the group has only had a few full-time ministers and only one of them lasted for a full year. Wise said the congregation seems to have no issues with this because they all enjoy the interfaith coalition they’ve built, but they do hope to eventually fill the position with a dedicated minister.
The message at Unity revolves around the church’s five basic principles:
- God is absolute good, everywhere present.
- Human beings have a spark of divinity within them, the Christ spirit within. Their very essence is of God, and therefore they are also inherently good.
- Human beings create their experience by the activity of their thinking. Everything in the manifest realm has its beginning in thought.
- Prayer is creative thinking that heightens the connection with God-Mind and therefore brings forth wisdom, healing, prosperity, and everything good.
- Knowing and understanding the laws of life, also called Truth, are not enough. A person must also live the truth that he or she knows.
The movement started in 1889 and is now a worldwide spiritual movement that advocates keeping a positive approach on life, and celebrating the good within people.
The Rev. Dr. George Franklin, a Roman Catholic priest who lives in Frederiksted, was the guest speaker for the past two weeks, and his upbeat demeanor had a strong impact on congregants, who asked him to return.
“I take the church with me wherever I go – I just really like sharing the word of God with people,” Franklin said. “Once they start indoctrinating the Bible, it takes the meaning out.”
After Franklin gave the opening prayer, a visiting member led a ten-minute meditation session where congregants were asked to close their eyes and listen to prayer affirmations.
Franklin preached about the power of positive thinking, living life to the fullest, and the power of music.
“I often tell people of something I heard once about the power of song: Whenever you sing, you pray twice,” Franklin said. “There’s a song inside you and music to be sung, so sing it loud.”
As Franklin ended his sermon, he asked the audience to join him in singing one of his favorite songs, made famous by Louis Armstrong, “What a Wonderful World.” The crowd seemed happy to join in as they held their hands out in worship while they sang.
Unity is democratically run, and congregants vote to elect board members to serve in positions. Dee Petachenko, the board secretary, has been involved in Unity for more than 15 years; she moved to St. Croix full-time seven years ago and has loved being part of the congregation.
“I like what it teaches – the principles are all based on positive thinking,” Petachenko said.
“We are a loving group on a spiritual journey, to go within and to also without, and to go with the love of God,” Wise said. “I am just hoping we can touch everyone with the love of God.”