Introduction to Methods and Ideals for Conducting Centers and Study Groups
There is little doubt that the following words in Methods and Ideals for Conducting Centers and Study Classes, was penned by Charles Fillmore:
“the ministry of the center is not to build a new organization but to establish a center of vital spiritual service to a community. The work of the center or class is but supplementary to that of the churches; it will no doubt be only a short time until the churches recognize this fact, and admit the center or study class to the church.”
We now know that did not happen. We never got accepted into traditional Christianity.
So now what? Should we walk away from the mainstream churches? Or should we claim for ourselves and embrace our rightful place in the Christian tradition? Is it possible that what could not be achieved ninety years ago is now achievable? Can we finally get recognition among mainstream Christians that metaphysical Christianity is a valid expression of the faith of Jesus?
Here are ten reasons why it is now possible*:
- Church membership rate in the United States has been rising for over two hundred years, and has increased from 64% in 1990 to 69% in 2005 (p.12).
- Americans mostly change churches in search of a deeper, more compelling faith (p.21) and are attracted to spiritual communities that require a high degree of commitment (pp. 33-34).
- Prayer groups and Bible studies that are perceived as independent will attract 80% of people who regularly church, but less than 5% of people who rarely attend church (p.40).
- Religious and mystical experiences such as “I received a miraculous, physical healing” are reported by two out of three Americans and 45% have reported two or more (p.59).
- 70% of Americans believe in life after death. Although 67% believe that heaven exists few Americans think “heaven is very exclusive” or “restricted to Christians” (pp.72-73).
- 75% of Americans believe that human nature is not by nature evil and 89% believe that evil in the world is caused by human beings themselves (p.82).
- 74% of Americans claim to be religious, 57% claim to be both religious and spiritual. But only 10% claim to be spiritual, but not religious (pp. 88-89).
- Those who attend church most frequently are strongly turned off by occult and paranormal teachings (p.130).
- The New Age movement is sustained by those highly educated Americans who lack an anchorage in conventional faith (p. 140).
- Two-thirds of people who say they have no religion are unchurched, but they are not irreligious. They are unchurched, at least in part, because they hold religious notions that are not compatible with the organized faiths (p.145).
* What Americans Really Believe; Rodney Stark; 2008; Baylor University Press.
I believe that now is the time for metaphysical Christianity to attract large numbers of the unchurched, but spritual and religious. Such was the vision held by Charles Fillmore in 1924 when Unity published Methods and Ideals for Conducting Centers and Study Groups. Times have changed; the Unity movement is now a denomination, centers are now churches, and church leaders are now licensed and ordained. But the “methods and ideals” are still as valid as they were when Unity was in its heyday.
It is in that spirit that I have republished Methods and Ideals at: www.truthunity.net/methods-and-ideals
Here you will find the text of the document, PDF files of the original lessons, and, most important, a formatted and print-ready PDF for dissemination to church leadership and boards or, if you wish, an attractive, printed and bound copy. May we look to the same methods and ideals today that led Unity in its rapid era of growth in the 1920's.
How the document came to be written
Local centers began to be established in the early 1900's when Unity began to send out “field lecturers” to give talks and to establish study groups. From the start, each group was regarded as independent, due to Charles and Myrtle's trust in Spirit as the best guide and their belief in the wisdom of the individual. This strategy worked, and within twenty years hundreds of centers and study groups had been established throughout the country.
However, with independence came variation in what was taught. According to Neal Vahle, by the mid 1910's Charles Fillmore felt exasperated because of the "diluted teachings" of many Unity centers which used the Unity name to attract Unity students but then taught a mixed bag of metaphysical teachings. (The Unity Movement, pp 321-329). Vahle says the Fillmores expected centers which used the Unity name to confine their teachings to those of Unity. He highlights a 1916 commentary by Charles, who wrote,
"Coming to us from various quarters are letters telling of Unity centers that are not teaching the Unity doctrine. These letters ask how we can endorse these centers which take our name when they depart so radically from what is set forth in our literature. We do not endorse them."
Although Charles was exasperated with "center leaders whose teachings were at odds with those of Unity," by 1924 Charles had concluded that the best Unity headquarters could do would be to publish a document to guide "those who feel the urge of Spirit to take up this work." Charles Fillmore had concluded, said Vahle, that the centers "needed to be free to follow their own inner guidance."
After taking some time to assemble and develop the ideas, the document was published and announced in Weekly Unity on July 11, 1925. It was also incorporated into the Correspondence School course, thereby nudging field leaders to learn not only Unity metaphysical teachings, but to also learn and agree to Unity's principles regarding mission, leadership and professional ethics.
Here is my summary of this six-part document
The mission of a Unity center or study class is a fuller expression of Christian principles by helping others obtain a clearer realization of the working power of God within them.
- A desire for Truth
- Accumulating thoughts and ideas about Truth
- Gaining a clear realization of Truth in those ideas and the development of self-expression