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Dr. Ruth Murphy and Dr. Ruth Ann Elmer

Dr. Ruth Murphy and Dr. Ruth Ann Elmer
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A Visit With Dr. Catherine Ponder about Dr. Ruth Murphy and her daughter, Dr. Ruth Ann Elmer

My first memory of Dr. Ruth Murphy and her daughter, Dr. Ruth Ann Elmer, working together, goes back to a regional Ministers' Conference held at an old Southern mansion located on the prestigious St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District of New Orleans, Louisiana, in the 1950s.

I was the newly appointed minister of Unity Church, Birmingham, Alabama, and my congregation found it amusing that I was going to New Orleans for a Ministers' Conference—of all things. Party, maybe. Conference, hardly. Yet it was a memorable experience with such well known Unity ministers as Dr. John (Jack) Baughman of Miami and Rev. Kathryn Jarvis of Shreveport in attendance. Rev. Carol Marie Guental, who had been considered "the Lessons in Truth teacher" at Unity School, was also on hand.

I had first met Ruth Ann Elmer when we both studied at Unity School earlier in the 1950s. And I remembered her beautiful mother, Dr. Ruth Murphy, sweeping through the Unity School Cafeteria in a lovely chiffon dress, smiling, shaking hands, and greeting people in such a loving, friendly way. At the time, she was serving as a board member of the Unity Ministers' Association, forerunner to the later Association of Unity Churches.

Later I lectured for Dr. Ruth Murphy and her daughter at Unity Temple on St. Charles Avenue after they had built the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired building, which had been the work of one of his students. Its rounded architecture, including interior design work, symbolized life without end. It continues to stand as one of the outstanding buildings in New Orleans today.

Over the years I was invited to speak at Unity Temple while serving Unity Church of Austin and the Unity Church of San Antonio, Texas. And in recent years, Dr. Ruth Murphy and her co-minister-daughter, Dr. Ruth Ann Elmer, helped me to celebrate my 40th Anniversary in the Unity Work. They graciously invited me to again speak at Unity Temple to a packed house, having flown in from my global ministry in Palm Springs, California.

I always looked forward to my trips to Unity Temple because the ministers always extended to me the Southern hospitality that is so well known and appreciated in lively New Orleans. They also provided me the best news coverage by newspaper stories and ads, television and radio interviews; and special church mail-outs, assuring a record attendance for my prosperity lectures. At one of those lectures my title was "You Can Have Everything," taken from my book, The Prosperity Secrets of the Ages. A businessman, arriving late, said as he rushed past an usher in the foyer, "I hope I'm not too late because I'm here to get everything."

Tribute to Ruth Murphy by Ruth Ann Elmer


Dr. Ruth, as she was lovingly known, was both of an ahead of her time. Born in 1898 in the heart of the South, her creativity and strength helped shape a new culture to meet the demands and opportunities of a rapidly changing world. For over 50 years in New Orleans this soft-spoken feminist made miracles happen. "Jesus was a feminist," she said. "He proved his respect for women by having them relay some of his most important messages, including that of the resurrection."

Many said Dr. Ruth's soothing voice in meditation would lower blood pressure. She fille hearts, lifted spirits, nourished souls and inspired an intense love of God. Unity teachings were her life and her true vocation.

Dr. Ruth wrote: "No matter what happens, I will not get upset, angry, impatient, disturbed or feel sorry for myself. I will develop a center of calmness, for only through that inner calmness can God's light of understanding or guidance come through."

Edited from the eulogy given by Ruth Ann Elmer, daughter and minister at Unity Temple, New Orleans.

Dr. Ruth Murphy had been born in New Orleans, and attended high school and college there — before discovering Daily Word magazine, at a time when she was prominent in business. Its inspirational ideas led her to Unity School, where she worked in Silent Unity, studied with Charles Fillmore, and trained for the ministry. After ordination she was asked to take over the Unity group of about thirty people meeting in rented quarters on Canal Street. Her prayer vision eventually expanded the group to the prestigious St. Charles Avenue location and new building. Unity Temple is now affiliated with Unity School of Christianity, the Association of Unity Churches, and the International New Thought Alliance.

Dr. Murphy had a sign in her office, which read, "I am so far behind, and I have so much to do that I don't have time to die." Thus she lived to be one hundred years of age. She was active in her ministry, participating in an advisory capacity, during her latter years. When people made various suggestions about what they thought she should or should not do, she had a standard answer: "This is the way Charles Fillmore did it, and this is how we do it." End of subject.

Her daughter is the widow of the late Joe Elmer, who had been head of the family-owned Elmer Candy Company. Dr. Elmer continues as minister of Unity Temple. Both she and her mother have been well known in New Orleans social circles. Ruth Ann reigned as Queen of Venus in connection with the famous Mardi Gras celebrations. Of Dr. Murphy, she says, "My mother worked very hard for Unity in this area. She was a great organizer and business woman, as well as minister. She could make money stretch farther than anybody I know."

Unity Temple is proof of that fact. These two highly regarded ministers have accomplished so much in a well-known French atmosphere and predominately Catholic community. They have proved the well-known adage: "Two agreed tune in on a Third Power." We could all take a lesson from their faith, stamina, and perseverance.

(Excerpt from New Thought Magazine - Autumn 2004)

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