Why Joan Gattuso Switched To Unity
Rev. Joan Gattuso is a Unity minister who was ordained in 1979. One year later, in November 1980, she gave a talk at Unity Church of Mont Chalet entitled "Why I Switched To Unity." It's a beautifully crafted message and I believe it will help us articulate why we have chosen the Unity church as our spiritual community. You can listen online, download the audio file and print this entire page which includes a transcript of her talk.
Sunday, August 20, 2023
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01 Why I Switched to Unity
My lesson today is rather a personal one that’s entitled Why I Switched To Unity. And it seems that after being with you for a year, it’s about time I told you why I’m here. Now, my experiences of coming into Unity were dramatic for me, but less dramatic than some of my friends. One of my dearest friends was from the Kansas City area and she tells a story that one time she was on this back highway that touches the property at the far end of Unity Village. And as she tells the story, her car just instantly made a right-hand turn, went down the road for one mile and made another right-hand turn. And there she was at what she thought was an old folks convalescent home. It was Unity Village, and now she’s the minister in New Orleans. So you can see what happens to us when we get this force that acts upon us almost or so it seems, and we have to make that switch.
02 Fear of the unknown
Now frequently I’m asked by so many people, what is Unity? Is that like the Unitarian Church? And oftentimes I suppose you’ve had that experience because people do think that the name, because of being similar, Unity must just be a different name for the Unitarian Church. But no, we’re really not like Unitarian Church. And today people frequently ask if we’re like the Unification Church, which I don’t mind being confused with the Unitarian Church, but Unification Church sometimes makes me a little bit nervous when I get a phone call and ask if I’ve seen Reverend Moon recently. Now we have nothing to do with the Unification Church either. We just both begin to spell our names the same way and that’s where the similarities end.
But it seems that if people don’t know what we are, who we are, they seem to be rather fearful of us. There’s this word that’s thrown around so much today, cult, and I really have become quite weary of that word. We are no more a cult than the Catholic Church is a cult, but according to the fundamentals, definitions, then we are both cults. But Unity, we know is not a cult. It is a way of life. It’s a philosophy that works, but it’s certainly not a cult. When people don’t know something, haven’t you found this to be true? Then they’re very fearful of it. If anything is strange, if something’s unknown and the walls go up, and this is something to fear, to have a lot of skepticism towards.
But as we come into Unity, we know that we don’t need to fear the unknown, that we become more open-minded and less judgmental. I like that, to be more open-minded and less judgmental. There was a point in my life where I was quite close-minded and quite judgmental, and I thought any church other than the traditional church in which I had been raised and had been very active was missing the mark, let’s say. Not that those people were doomed, they just were unaware people unless they went to this church that I had been raised in.
But even so, being closed-minded and quite judgmental, I still was searching for more. So I used to go to my clergyman and I had all kinds of questions and he gave me two answers. One, it was a mystery, so there was no answer. Or number two, I shouldn’t be thinking such thoughts, which just left me more puzzled and more questioning and quite dissatisfied. But still, I thought they might be right and if I left the church, I might instantly be in a car crash and die and go right to hell. So I wasn’t quite ready to make a switch. So I continued going to my traditional church. But the study of spirit had always been important to me. From my earliest memories I had always had a deep love for the spiritual life, not so much for the dogma of the church, but for the themes of spirit, which there’s quite a difference. But I didn’t really understand that difference until I did come into Unity.
03 Joan begins looking for a better way
The first steps I began to take were more like crawling because I began to truly search. I didn’t know what it was I was searching for, but my soul had a longing, a hungering that needed to be satisfied, that needed to be fulfilled. And I see so many people nodding in agreement or smiling. I know that a great many of you have had the same experience. The details may be different, but you have that longing to find a better way of life, to find a philosophy that really worked. Now, mine began in rather what I think is an interesting way, I used to live in Virginia Beach and they had a money talk show on, much like our Money Exchange here in Cleveland. And the guest was this woman that was a psychic. I didn’t even know what a psychic was supposed to do. I really wasn’t too aware of what was happening.
And she was talking about auras. Now, I did not know what an aura was. I’m sure if there’s anyone here that doesn’t know what an aura is, I’ll briefly explain, it’s an energy field that permeates from our bodies. And some can see an aura, some can feel, some can sense a person’s aura. But at that time, I didn’t know exactly what an aura was, but I knew it belonged to this realm that I was interested in. And so she was going to have a lecture that night at the Y. So off I went that night to the Y, and she gave an interesting lecture and had a follow-up the next night. So off I went back to the Y the next night, and then that second night the group broke up into small groups of about 10 or 12 people that were going to meet in individuals home.
Well, I’ve always been a volunteer, so you can come and me to my apartment, that’s fine. That would just be wonderful. Well, after about two weeks, I realized that I had some very unusual people coming to my apartment and I didn’t know how to get rid of them. And I was really quite perplexed. I say they’re unusual because what they laid out was if you pay $250, we’ll teach you this psychic ability. Or if you pay $500, we’ll teach you how to read auras. Or if you pay $300, we’ll teach you how to heal the sick. And I was awake enough to know that there was something wrong with this philosophy, but I didn’t know what to do about these people that were coming to my apartment once a week.
04 What Joan found in Unity that is different
So meanwhile, back in Ohio, my entire family had left our traditional church and had gone into Unity. Now, I was quite upset about this to say the least, quite upset, very distressed. But I talked and here I have these strange people coming in to my apartment. So I talked to my brother one night on the phone about it and he suggested I call the Unity minister. I really didn’t want to do that because I didn’t want to acknowledge that Unity could help me in any way, but I knew I couldn’t call my clergymen and say, “These strange people are coming to my apartment. I want to get rid of them.” So I called the Unity minister and it was a woman. Can you imagine a woman being a minister?
That was the first thing that threw me. I thought she was the secretary. It was the minister that I spoke with and she was so kind and loving and I explained to her my dilemma. Now I’m a total stranger to this person, a voice on the other end of the phone and yet she talked to me for 20 minutes. And in those 20 minutes she said more to me that made sense, that rang true, that sent those chills we get up and down our spines than anyone had said to me in my entire life, and I really do mean that. That 20 minutes turned my life around, that woman helped turn my life around.
She wasn’t pushy, not pushing me, and I’m about to come. But she just casually suggested that some Sunday I stop in and if I did come to please introduce myself because she would like to know what person this voice belonged to. So that following Sunday, I went to my traditional church and then I went down to the Y. Interesting that both of these meetings were at the Y. I went down to the Y and it was a new experience. First of all, the people were so friendly and I was quite skeptical of that. You were very friendly. Why would people be so friendly? You were all shaking my hand and saying, “Oh, I’m so glad you’re here.” And I’m thinking, don’t even know me. How can you be glad that I’m here? They were so friendly and the minister gave this fantastic message except there was one problem. I didn’t know what she was talking about. It was just up here and I was over here someplace, but I still knew that I had to go back. There was something in it for me.
So I met her afterwards and I went back the next Sunday. I need to continue this. I got hooked for life. But as I went back, I began to understand what she was talking about. She always was giving the metaphysical interpretations of scripture. I never understood scripture at all. So metaphysical interpretations just excited me to no end because for the first time the Bible came alive, the Bible made sense. There were actually lessons in the scripture. It wasn’t just some far fetched story I could never accept as being literally true.
05 Joan makes the switch to Unity
I went back that following Sunday, people were happy to see me return. They remembered that I had been there the prior Sunday and that I was back again. I thought, this is really amazing, and they did the strangest things. They hugged and kissed each other in church. That was really strange to me at first. It took me a long time to realize that these people genuinely feel this way towards each other, towards their minister, towards me, that there’s something happening in their lives that hadn’t been happening in mine before. And I learned what they had. And so yeah, I did become hooked and I’ve made the switch, it’s not been an easy switch for me. It took me a long time. For about six months, I went to the two churches, becoming increasingly more dissatisfied with the one and increasingly more satisfied with Unity.
But I had to do it when it was right, when I was ready, and that’s what I loved about Unity. There was no pressure that, well, if you come here, you can’t go to your other church or if you’re a member here, you can’t be a member of your other church. You can become a member of half a dozen churches, we’ve got a Bible to say it’s okay so it’s okay with us. There’s no dogma that I had to accept because there was a lot I didn’t understand. And what I understood was fine and what I couldn’t understand, which was beyond my present comprehension at that time, I was just told to let it rest, put it aside, and maybe someday you’ll go back to it. Of course, someday I did go back to it and someday I accepted it.
But it felt so good. It felt so wonderful. It certainly was different, but when it was time to make the switch, then it was easy to do that because it was such an uplifting experience, there was that acceptance of everyone, of seeing every person as a brother. Last night with friends we were having a discussion about Unity and how Unity is different. And it came up about that we hug each other and we touch each other. And someone said, “Well, I feel real uncomfortable with that. I don’t know how I feel comfortable in your church.” He said, “I don’t want somebody to touch me that I don’t know.” I said, “Well, see our philosophy’s quite a bit different because even though we don’t know someone’s personality or their name, we know that person because that person is the Christ.”
06 Why Unity is transformative
So you don’t need to know someone’s name to know a person. You don’t need to know someone’s name to reach out and touch them. That’s the son of God that you’re reaching out and touching, just as you are a son of God. And so you’re really brothers. So we don’t need to know someone’s name to reach out and touch, to be open, to get rid of those walls. So many people carry such a weight before them, walls that block them off from experiencing life. So we remove those here. Now we don’t force to remove them, but it slowly just happens, haven’t you noticed your life changing since you’ve come to Unity? That’s a real thrill for me. When someone will call and say, “My life has just dramatically changed since I’ve come to church”, because it will dramatically change.
And so some people will continue to go to their traditional church and Unity for a lifetime. Some it takes one time and they know they’re home and that’s it. But for myself, I was grateful that I had the background I had and thankful that I was able to make that change so smoothly and so easily because Unity was right for me, because it was the first place that offered an approach to life that worked. It was the first place that seemed scientifically sound. Metaphysics makes sense to me. To me, it’s the only way to go. It was psychologically healthy. What a wonderful, exciting moment it was when I realized that I was not created in sin and born in sin, but that mankind was inherently good instead of inherently evil. That was wonderful to think that I found this whole group of people that believed the same way I did, because we are inherently good. We’re not evil, we’re not sinners. We make mistakes. That could never take away from our inherent beauty, the splendor that’s within us.
So in the beginning, maybe you’ll move here and there’s much that’s taught that you don’t quite understand. That’s okay. If you feel comfortable, you’re welcome because Unity does acknowledge the freedom of each individual to grow at his or her own pace. There’s nothing set down that you must adhere to in order to come here on Sundays or Wednesdays, because we trust in the Christ within you, guiding you towards your rightful path and along your rightful path. Even just the Christ within me that’s doing the guiding, Christ within me can only guide me. But I know that the Christ within you is guiding you. Unity is called the common sense religion, Practical Christianity. That’s our official name.
The first name was Unity School of Practical Christianity, that’s still what Unity School goes by. Practical Christianity isn’t Christianity for one hour or a week. It’s Christianity for 24 hours of a day. The type of Christianity that’s not hypocritical because you don’t put it on once a week, but you allow it to express through you every moment. You don’t use it only when you’re in church, but you use it when you’re in the marketplace. Use it when you’re at home, use it on the highway, use it in the classroom, use it in the office, you use it every moment, and it changes your life and it makes such beautiful changes in life.
It really does work, but it takes that desire to change, that willingness to let go of the old, the known. For some of us that’s not very easy, but what lies ahead is so much more wondrous than what we had before. Charles Fillmore, co-founder of Unity, said that if he could rename Unity, he said this in his later years, he would name it Change because he never wanted Unity to be blocked in, to be bound by any dogma. And he was a little concerned that after he was gone that those that followed could possibly do that. And he always stressed that it be open-ended, always allowing the individual the freedom to express his Christ nature, her Christ nature.
07 Shallow enough for babies, deep enough for giants
I think Unity is rather a nice name though. I think a little more kacky than Change. I’d go to Change. But it was a good thought that Mr. Fillmore had behind that. We look for the similarities within each other, not the differences. We are open to all people. There’s no regard placed on race or creed or economic background, social background. I love what Marcus Bach wrote about Unity and he said that Unity is shallow enough for a baby to swim in and excuse me, I’m sorry. My great quote and I’m misquoting it. Unity is shallow enough for a baby to wade in and deep enough for a giant to swim in. And that’s what we have in Unity. We have some very (dare I use the word superficial?) teachings. Let’s see.
Daily Word‘s (magazine) which people carry around with them. There’s almost 3 million of these that go out every month. 3 million people don’t come to Unity on church on Sunday morning. Let me tell you that. If 3 million people came to church, we’d have to have 10 church services that would be filled right here in Chesterland. But 3 million people get this Daily Word. They estimate that two to three people read each Daily Word on the average. So that’s millions and millions of people. But that is surface level teaching. And we have that. There are those that come to Unity because they like the friendliness, they like the social hour afterwards and they never get the message. And that’s okay. That’s fine. We give them that freedom. And there are those that come to Unity that become spiritual giants that become, we always use the term leading lights, because they know that that is deep enough to swim and that there’s no higher philosophy.
There’s equally high philosophies, but I don’t think there’s any higher because when people say, “Well, I’ve grown beyond Unity, it’s not deep enough for me anymore.” That person doesn’t know yet about Unity. They truly don’t. Because Unity teaches that we can transcend, we can translate our physical bodies into pure energy as Jesus Christ did, that we can follow Jesus in the resurrection, not in crucifixion, but in the resurrection.
There’s a few that have done that, very few, but they’ve done it. And if one can do it, then we all can. And so yes, Unity is shallow for the baby, metaphysically speaking, and certainly deep enough for the giant, metaphysically speaking. So whether you want to come for 20 years because you enjoy our coffee and goodies afterwards, or you want to go on and attain complete union in Christ consciousness, it’s here in Unity. And I realized that when I realized that Unity offered me everything that I had been searching for when it was time to make the switch. And I’m still so thankful to God that I had within me that strength to let go of the past, to become open-minded, to let go of the judgment and switch to a way of life that really works, that sustains one during every moment during the good times and during the challenging times, because it is a way of life that works and it’s a beautiful way of life.
So that’s why I switched to Unity because I reached the point in my growth where I didn’t have any choice and I recognized that. Someday I’d like to hear why you made the switch to Unity. God bless you.
08 Offering meditation
Before we take our offering today, I’m going to go through what I’ll be calling our Unity Prayer Guide, and if the work that we will do, an inner work to establish that which we want to establish in the outer, which is our new church. And so we’ll do this every Sunday morning and soon we’ll be giving a copy of this prayer guide so that you can use it at home, various times during the day. When you think of it, perhaps you’ll carry it on your person so that we will be able to constantly be affirming that our church is growing and unfolding and doing the work in consciousness, because as we do the work first in consciousness, we know it is going to manifest in the outer. So whether you want to close your eyes as I read through our prayer guide, or you want to open your eyes and envision growth on the hillside, it’s up to you.
I am conscious of my oneness with God. I am conscious of my rich heritage. I am conscious of the truth that I am one with unlimited creative power. I now direct the powerful forces of my mind, heart and hands to the growth and expansion of the services offered to people through our Unity Church. God has brought me to this particular place and point in time to prayerfully unite with those of like mind in helping others to know him better and to enjoy a personal, meaningful relationship with him. There is one presence, one power, one activity, moving in and through our Unity Church. This spiritual organization is God directed, God inspired, God sustained. God is the unlimited, inexhaustible source of our supply. Therefore, we do not hesitate. We do not deal in trivialities, personalities or impossibilities.
We confidently forge ahead to build our church so that we can adequately serve God’s children who are hungry for the truth in a more meaningful, dynamic way. I have unquestioning faith that God has provided all that is needed inwardly and outwardly to fulfill his plan for our church. I praise and give thanks that unlimited quantities of his abundant goods now come to us in perfect ways. Unity Church of Mont Chalet is a healing, prospering, inspiring center of loving service. We give thanks that God has established it, is directing, housing, prospering and fulfilling it, and so it is.
If you would now prepare for our time of offering by taking your tithe or love offering between your hands, and I’ll affirm our offering first and then we’ll affirm it together.
Divine love through me, blesses and multiplies all that I am, all that I give and all that I receive.
Together. Divine love through me, blesses and multiplied all that I am, all that I give and all that I receive. Father, for this opportunity to share our substance with you as we see our church growing and unfolding, we give thanks for our special function in this activity of spirit. Amen.