No Price on Their Prayers
"They Made a Covenant"
FROM THE BEGINNING, the Fillmores had traveled the road of faith. In 1888, when the bottom fell out of the real-estate boom, Charles Fillmore was left not with assets, but with debts that he had to pay off. When he began the publication of his magazine, he had only a few hundred subscribers. After several years, this had grown to a few thousand, many of whom were careless about paying for their subscription.
The Fillmores had set a nominal price of one dollar a year for a subscription to Unity. This price is still charged. They had to set a fixed price on the magazine in order to conform to postal regulations.
In January 1891, an editorial in the magazine under the heading, "There Is Only God," explained the attitude of the Fillmores about charging for the magazine:
"This publication is turned over to and is now under the full and complete control of Principle. Personality has stepped aside in this, as it must in all matters connected with divine science.
"The nominal subscription price is $1 a year, but this is nominal only, as the value of Truth cannot be measured in dollars and cents, and no specific charge can be made for it. 'With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you,' is the law which is affirmed for this paper. It will trust that law, and go far and wide freely and generously to all who are seeking Truth.
"All matters of whatsoever nature pertaining to
this publication are referred to Principle, and no personality is responsible for any action which is taken in its conduct."
In April 1891, when the Society of Silent Unity began, it was decided to make no fixed charge for its services, but to conduct the Society on the freewill offering plan. When Myrtle Fillmore had been healed, people immediately began to come to her for healing for themselves. She prayed for them and worked with them spiritually with no thought of charging for her services. She was on fire with the idea that had come to her; she wanted to help everyone who needed help. It never occurred to her to set a price on her services. Later when more and more people were coming to the Fillmores and rooms were rented downtown to carry on the healing work and publish the magazine, the Fillmores still did not charge for their prayers and time although most of the metaphysical teachers and healers of the time did charge a fixed price for their services. Sometimes this price was very high, but from the beginning, the Fillmores were not led to follow such examples.
It is probable that at first they did not think of metaphysics as a way of earning a living, for Mr. Fillmore continued in the real-estate business as his means of livelihood. They began to help people because they wanted to help them. As they continued in the work, however, they found that it was taking more and more of their time. Finally the demands people were making on them became so great and so continuous that they had no time for anything except the spiritual work they were doing; then the Fillmores realized that they had to be recompensed for their services. It would have been easy at this point to set a fixed charge for these services, or, because the recompense was very small, to get out of the work. Charles Fillmore said:
"Encouraged by my wife, I persevered when almost at the point of failure; and if there comes any universal success out of this continuous effort, she should have the greater share of the credit. Had I been alone I would more than once have thrown the whole thing over and gone back to my real-estate business."
Little money came in. The Unity movement grew very slowly at first, and many who came for help had little to give. Mr. Fillmore has related that he was ready to relinquish the love offering idea. Mrs. Fillmore, however, prevailed on him to continue it. "This is the right way," she said, in effect, "and God will support us in it; He will carry us through to success if we will follow as He leads us." Jesus said: "He that followeth me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12).
Although they did charge a nominal price for their magazine in order to conform to postal regulations, they continued to set no price on the ministry of Silent Unity, nor did they set a fixed charge for personal consultation.
"The Spirit," they wrote, "moves members to contribute, and it is observed that those who manifest gratefulness either in money, in love, or in works, are helped more rapidly than those who are neglectful."
The practice of making no fixed charge for classes or prayers is rigidly followed today. Unity firmly believes that if it trusts God and gives good service its needs will be met and it will not constantly have to ask for money or to charge high prices. This faith has been justified. Today Unity sends out at nominal prices millions of attractive, well-printed magazines and books; gives away thousands more; carries on a correspondence with hundreds of thousands of persons; broadcasts programs from fifty radio stations; and to do all this trusts in God as the source of supply!
In the first few years of the Unity work, the Fillmores must have needed money desperately. In 1889, they had written in their magazine that they could not even afford to hire a stenographer although they were so busy that they could not answer all the letters that came to them.
There were six in the family and little money to meet their needs. The first Christmas after they started the magazine, for instance, looked as if it might turn out to be a bare occasion.
"I had about decided," wrote Mrs. Fillmore in a letter, "that we must go without buying the children Christmas presents when a neighbor we have been praying for walked in and gave me a check for five dollars and insisted upon my keeping it. I got Lowell a two-dollar tool chest, and Rick had commanded me to get him a drum and a gun. I got the drum, a sword, and a military hat, so he is fixed for marching. A friend gave each a book, so all fared well; and your box came Christmas Eve, and the boys were perfectly wild with delight. Lowell was very anxious to help be Santa Claus, so I let him get candy and help fill some little bags I made."
Charles Fillmore's mother was a tremendous asset during these lean years. Her ability with needle and thread kept them all in clothing. Often in these early years, Mr. Fillmore wore the clothing that people who came to his meetings gave him. One time, the boys wore suits that their grandmother had made for them out of old curtains.
Grandma Fillmore was a wonderful cook and could make the simplest foods taste delicious. Years later, when the Fillmores were more prosperous and entertained many friends who came to Unity headquarters, the letters from these visitors had as a recurring theme the excellence of Grandma's meals. Sometimes in the early days, she would buy a soupbone and beans and fix up a huge pot of soup.
This might be all they would have to eat for a whole week.
The Fillmores were not only hard pressed at home, but sometimes financial need visited the Unity rooms too. Once Charles Fillmore endorsed a note for a friend; the friend failed to meet the obligation, and Charles was asked to pay. The sheriff threatened to sell out the printing office, and for a time it looked as if the Unity work would come to a sudden end; but the Fillmores prayed and the threat was never carried out.
Another time, one of the men who had been associated with the Fillmores in the Unity work carried off most of the furniture from the rooms to start a work of his own. He claimed that this furniture was as much his as it was the Fillmores'. Instead of threatening him or suing to recover their possessions, the Fillmores went quietly on with their work, praying that they would have whatever they needed. They were able to carry on. In fact, when this man began a magazine of his own a few years later, the Fillmores had forgiven him — if they had ever had any anger against him — to such an extent that they ran a notice in Thought, praising him and telling about his new venture. Jesus said: "And whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile, go with him two" (Matt. 5:41). They were His disciples and they followed His instructions as well as they were able.
"We shall make this," they wrote in January 1892, a time when they must have needed money badly, "a grand co-operative brotherhood in which the severe chilling methods of the financial world will have no part. How glorious it will be when we can send our books and pamphlets to all freely and have just enough coming in without solicitation to meet the expense from day to day. This is to be a feature of the new — the old must surely pass out with its 'pound of flesh.'"
When someone asked Charles Fillmore, "Will you send me a paper and wait until I can pay for it?" he replied, "Certainly we will. We know that it will bring to you before the year is out that which will pay for it many times over. ... It will pay its own way. If you do not feel before the end of the year that it has much more than paid its own way, you need not send us a cent, and you will never be dunned. No bills are ever sent out from this office. If you do not pay your bill freely and gladly, it is evident that you have not had value received, hence you owe us nothing."
And a little later he wrote: "Many think that we are doing a work in which our compensation in some way comes out of the air. To dispossess this idea we find it necessary now and then to make very definite statements of our position on the compensation point, but we are striving to relieve this work of commercial bondage. We send no bills and hold no one in our debt. We only ask that the just and equitable law be established."
The entire Unity work has always been based on "the just and equitable law," "Give, and it shall be given unto you" (Luke 6:38). In the beginning, the Fillmores set the standard that Unity follows today; they decided that they and their movement were to be dedicated to the Spirit of Truth, that the object of their existence was to be the service of God, not personal reward.
In 1942, while looking through some old papers, the librarian at Unity uncovered among papers of Myrtle Fillmore's a document in Mr. Fillmore's handwriting that had remained a secret of Charles and Myrtle Fillmore's for fifty years. The document had remained a secret, but the spirit of this covenant — as it has become known in Unity since its discovery — had shown itself time and time again in the half-century that had passed since the Fillmores had signed it on December 7, 1892, for it is the spirit that motivated
their life and work. A facsimile of this covenant is given here:
The Fillmores held to their ideal. They were doing God's work. They were not doing it to enrich themselves; they were doing it because they believed in God and wanted to help others to find Him and His blessings. They wanted to do this work in a way that would enable them to help the
most people, to help people when they were in need. They did not see how they could set a price on their work, for that might result in the exclusion of some of those who needed help most of all; and it was not they, but God, who did the work. Then, how could they put a price on God's work? Jesus helped those who came to Him freely and with no thought of charge. They could do no less. If they put a price on their work, it might be that the very time someone needed help most would be the time when he could not afford it. At the beginning of their work, they established the principle of no fixed charge for their prayers.
"The work of this Society," they wrote of Silent Unity, "is wholly voluntary, and no fees or dues of any kind are imposed upon members. Those who have been helped through its ministrations, or those who feel that it is a worthy cause, contribute for its support as they are moved."
This principle has been adhered to in the Silent Unity work throughout its history.
In the early days, the financing of the Unity work was a continual struggle, but God could not have chosen people more ideally suited than the Fillmores to make that struggle. They believed what they taught. They believed that if they really sought the kingdom of God and His righteousness, the things they needed would be added to them. They did not doubt God s promises. When they made a covenant with Him, it was in complete expectation that the covenant would be fulfilled. They intended to do their part and they had perfect faith that God would do His.
The Fillmores taught that prosperity is governed by the same laws that govern physical health. They thought that if they could maintain themselves in a prosperity consciousness, an awareness of God as the source of their supply,
prosperity could not fail to be theirs. If the money did not come in, it was not because God had failed; it was only because they had not maintained a high enough consciousness of their supply in Him, and they redoubled their efforts in prayer. They felt that their supply depended on their maintaining the right consciousness. "Only be strong and very courageous, to observe to do according to all the law ... that thou mayest have good success" (Josh. 1:7).
The Unity work has always been conducted on this principle. For many years the workers in Silent Unity were compensated on a freewill offering basis. No fixed salaries were paid. It was up to each worker through prayer to maintain a consciousness of prosperity. Each one had his share in that responsibility. As the supply came in, it was divided among them accordingly.
The Fillmores were publishing a magazine for which they received only one dollar a year. Besides this, they were trying to issue a magazine for children that cost them much more to publish than they received from it. They were conducting meetings and holding private consultations with those who came to them personally. They were carrying on by means of letters a prayer service of silent communion that was being given to people all over this country and even in Europe. The only immediate source of their supply was voluntary contributions. Yet the Fillmores applied themselves to their ministry undaunted.
They promised, "We will send literature to anybody anywhere any time there is a possibility of benefit resulting to the recipient." That promise has been kept. With nothing but the freewill offerings of friends to support their efforts, the Fillmores began to send their publications out to everyone who wrote and asked for them. By November 1894, they were writing:
"We hope our good friends and helpers will appreciate our position as regards the many appeals for free literature, and be sparing in their requests for free yearly subscriptions for their acquaintances. Our free list now costs us over ten dollars per week, and is growing very fast. We are not backed by a rich Bible society, and please remember that the dimes count fast into dollars where so many are looking for aid."
In 1910, The Silent-70 was organized, and through it Unity literature was sent free of charge to everyone who asked for it, some of whom at the moment were not in a position to pay. Soon a stream of Unity literature was going without charge to individuals and into libraries, prisons, hospitals, and other public institutions.
Many times the Fillmores must have wondered about the direction from which funds would come to carry on their work, but they never wondered about the source — God. Always they prayed. Always prayer worked. Always, however impossible it might appear to be, the funds materialized. They moved out of the little office in the Journal Building into a larger office in the Deardorff Building and they moved from it into still more commodious quarters in the Hall Building. From there they were able to move into the house on McGee Street. Still the work continued to grow. Still it needed more space. In the early 1900's, the Fillmores decided that the Unity movement was prosperous enough to justify them in thinking about buying property and erecting a building in which to conduct the work.
This was a goal set for the Unity Society. The penny with which the building fund began had grown by 1905 only to $601. Nevertheless, the Fillmores did not relinquish their goal. At 913 Tracy Avenue, the building committee found a lot and an eight-room house that were for sale.
This seemed an ideal place to buy. But the money to buy was not forthcoming.
At a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Unity Society of Practical Christianity several men pledged a hundred dollars apiece toward the purchase of the lot and the erection of a building. This was still far from enough. The Fillmores prayed and prayed, yet enough money did not appear. Then one evening, one of the members of the Board arose and announced quietly that he had decided to mortgage everything that he owned in order to provide Unity with the funds needed to buy the lot and begin the erection of a building.
He was not a rich man and he had a wife and four little children to provide for, but he had been attending the meetings for several years, and the Fillmores had inspired in him the same kind of faith that they had. He believed in their ideas and felt that it was important that those ideas be carried to as many people as possible.
His business associates tried to dissuade him from taking the step. To them Unity was not a good risk. But he was not to be dissuaded. Through him, Unity obtained the money needed. The house and lot at 913 Tracy Avenue were purchased. The plans for the new building were pushed ahead.
The man who had mortgaged his property did not lose one cent because he had been willing to stand behind Unity in its need and in a short time he was the owner of a much more successful business than he had had before. "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over ... For with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again" (Luke 6:38).
In September 1905, the house was moved to the rear of the lot, and work was begun on a two-story brick building.
While Unity carried on its work from the house, the work on the building pressed forward. There were no funds on hand with which to complete it, but there was the faith of the Fillmores and of those who were associated with them.
By August 1906, over six thousand dollars had been received, and the rest of the money needed was contributed in the next few years.
On August 19, 1906, Unity students gathered from all over the country for a week of celebration, which was climaxed on Wednesday afternoon by the laying of the cornerstone of the new building. Several hundred persons, one of them from India, gathered to watch Mr. Fillmore lay the cornerstone, the inscription on which read:
"Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone."
There was a choir and several soloists. Charles Fillmore made a short talk. A copy of the first number of Thought, of Unity, and of Wee Wisdom, the August 1906 Unity and Wee Wisdom, a copy of the convention program, a copy of the "Kansas City Post" containing a write-up of the new building, and a list of the names of contributors were placed in the cornerstone. Jennie Croft (one of the most faithful and versatile of the early Unity workers) tossed in a rose, and Charles Fillmore took a bouquet from his buttonhole and added it to the contents.
After the ceremony was finished, most of the group ate in Unity Inn, a vegetarian cafeteria that Unity had started for its workers. The Inn at that time was located in the house that had been moved to the rear of the lot. Inside were signs: "All the expenses of this house are met by the freewill offerings of its guests. 'Freely ye received, freely give' (Matt. 10:8)." In keeping with Unity custom, the guests at that ded-
ication ceremony paid for the dinner by freewill offerings. On that August day in 1906, as Charles and Myrtle Fillmore stood in the new building, they must have felt that truly this was a reward of faith.
How ample the building must have looked to them then! It was forty by seventy feet, three stories high in front. The chapel would seat more than two hundred. The printing shop would handle the magazines. The reception room and offices were furnished in the latest style. There was a special healing room for the use of Silent Unity.
When the Fillmores had started the work seventeen years before, there was no beautiful new building to move into. There was a real-estate office in a downtown building — and their faith. They had started the work on faith; they had carried it on by faith. They had trusted in God as the source of their supply, and their trust had been justified. They had built this building and the work of which it was a physical representation, and except for the magazines, they had never made a fixed charge for the service they gave.
People had laughed at them; people had said it was impossible. Paying no attention, they had gone ahead — on faith. On this August day, they stood in the building faith had built, while around them milled a happy throng called together from all over the earth by the power of their faith.
They looked about them. They looked at the chapel, at their offices, at the printing shop, at the Silent Unity rooms and they knew that all this had been brought about because of their trust in God. As they stood there on that August day in 1906, it must have seemed to them like the culmination of their fondest dreams. Yet it was not a culmination. It was only a beginning.