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Catherine Ponder's Ponderings: Larry and Mary Ellen Swartz

Larry and Mary Ellen Swartz
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A Visit With Dr. Catherine Ponder about Larry and Mary Ellen Swartz

Larry and Mary Ellen Swartz
Revs. Larry and
Mary Ellen Swartz

I recall the excitement that was felt throughout the New Thought Movement when Larry and Mary Ellen Swartz, soon after taking their first ministry, built the first church building for Unity in Tucson, Arizona. The famed Dr. Ernest Wilson dedicated that facility in 1969. Over the years they added three additions to that facility These included a youth education wing, which they called their "bio-feedback wing", as well as a three-story circular tower. The top floor served as their Prayer Ministry, with a 24/7 staff to receive the many prayer requests that came in. Jim Freeman, a well-known and popular official from Unity School dedicated that Prayer Tower Ministry. This was particularly appropriate, since Jim and his wife were in charge of the famed Silent Unity Ministry at Unity School.

Later they sold that church and relocated to an 18-acte site in the lower foothills of Tucson where in 1986 they built their present church. This one was dedicated by Rev. Connie Fillmore, a member of the founding family of the Unity Movement and President of Unity School. Additions have since been made to that building, with plans for further expansion in the future. The year 2006 represents two anniversaries: Unity of Tucson's 50th year, and the Swartz's 40th year as ministers of that church. They have said, "Never in our wildest dreams did we realize this 40th anniversary could happen in our very first ministry." Larry became an ordained Unity minister in 1966, and Mary Ellen was ordained in 1971. They have now expanded to having an Associate Minister and several Licensed Teachers to help them carry forth the Unity message.

Tucson has been one of my favorite vacation spots. Over the years, since coming to California to live and minister for Unity, I have vacationed a number of times at the famed Arizona Inn in Tucson. This is the same place that the Rockefellers used to winter. The rumor is that the swimming pool at the Arizona Inn was built so that the Rockefeller boys — Nelson and his brothers — could frolic there when in residence with their parents.

Not only does one feel the history of the Old West there, but also it is a city filled with native arts and crafts: Native American, Hispanic, and those artifacts symbolic of "cowboy country" and the Old West. Many winter visitors stay in Tucson in order to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere it exudes with its Mexican food, music, and atmosphere as well as its mild climate.

Larry and Mary Ellen have not only been busy during these 40 years serving and constantly expanding Unity of Tucson, but they have been equally busy taking care of family ties. Mary Ellen's mother shared their home almost all of their married life. I recall her helping out in the book room during my seminar stay there. Larry has said he was fortunate to have had two mothers, actually living with Mary Ellen's mother longer than he lived with his own mother. Later, after the passing of Larry's mother, his father spent the last years of his life in Tucson. But their contribution to family did not end there:

Between the years of 1973 and 1976, they adopted three children: two came from Vietnam, and the third was born of mixed ethnicity in Tucson. All are now grown and have done well. The first is married, lived in Manhattan and is a Web producer for "This Old House," while his wife serves as fashion designer. The second child lives in Las Vegas and holds a very exciting and responsible position as an Administrative Assistant. The third child will soon have a Master's degree in child psychology, while serving as a full-time special education teacher in Tucson.

As for their service to the New Thought movement in an over-all way, Larry has served as President of the Association of Unity Churches and has served on the Executive Board of the International New Thought Alliance. Mary Ellen serves as Treasurer of the Southwest Unity region.

In spite of all their many spiritual and family contributions, perhaps one of their greatest contributions has been a financial one to the International New Thought Alliance. They have been one of the few New Thought groups to tithe consistently to INTA, through the lows and highs of its history.

When we realize all the thousands of people, study groups, and churches that have been helped by the historic New Thought movement—which began about 1890, was incorporated about 1914, and continues into the 21st Century—INTA could have its own equivalent to the Rockefeller Foundation, if we but practiced the spiritual laws of prosperity, as found in the Bible, and as taught in the New Thought movement.

Obviously Larry and Mary Ellen have learned, taught, and practiced these abundance laws consistently. They proved that "sharing is the beginning of financial increase" and that "giving is the first step in receiving." Regardless of their reasons for their overall success over the years, this prosperity principal and practice would doubtless head their success list. As a friend of mine says to me when she is trying to get a point across: "Food for thought."

(Excerpt from New Thought Magazine - Winter 2008)

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