The History of Unity Spiritual Centre of Windsor
A letter written by Arlene Boudreau, LUT
As we celebrate our 35th anniversary of being in Windsor, Reverend David asked if I could write a personal letter of the history of Unity in Windsor. Just to give you a sense of how far we have all come on this spiritual journey together.
I have to begin with my own personal spiritual journey as it is really intertwined with how Unity in Windsor started.
As a young adult I started to question some teachings that were being taught in the church I was attending.
My husband David who was raised Roman Catholic was also searching for something else. We tried several traditional churches but none seemed to fit so we stopped going to church altogether.
One Christmas, in the late 1960's, we were out visiting friends when my husband started reading a little pamphlet on their table called "Joy to the World" that was printed by an organization called Unity.
As our friends had no use for it they told him to take it. On the way home he said "This is what I have been looking for."
He wrote to Unity and found they put out a magazine called "Unity". He subscribed to it and started reading all about it. We also listened at 6:00 a.m. to a short program on the radio every morning given by Rev. David Williamson from the Unity Temple Church in Detroit.
In 1974 we started attending "Unity of the Infinite Presence" where Rev. Jack Boland was Minister in Detroit.
We were living in Belle River at the time and it was a 100 mile round trip. We would also go on Wednesday evening for classes and on Sunday night went to a Unity class in Chatham where we would discuss these principles that were all so new. It was an exciting time of uncovering the Truth within us.
After five years of making those trips to Detroit our three children were very tired of spending our whole day Sunday travelling so we stopped going.
We moved into Windsor and for the next five years I started my search for something in Windsor that I could relate to.
I went to Unitarian Universalists, Emissaries of Divine Light, Self-Realization, Inner Peace Movement, Christian Science - anything that was not a traditional church. But Unity had spoiled me - nothing seemed to fit me.
I would keep repeating "I wish there was a Unity Church in Windsor." I got tired of saying it and I know my family was tired of hearing it.
Then David and I were attending a gathering on New Years Eve in 1983. There was a man speaking on stage and he told a joke.
He said there was a man who kept saying "I wish I could win the lottery, I wish I could win the lottery." A booming voice said "Why don't you try buying a ticket."
Everyone around me was laughing but there was this voice inside me that was very CLEAR saying:
"Why don't you try buying a ticket - you've never bought a ticket."
Even more strange, I knew exactly what it meant - "Why don't you try starting a Unity group - You've never tried starting a group."
It had a profound effect on me. God will speak to us if we just leave a crack open - at those times when we least expect it.
On the way home that night I said to David "I think I was told to start a Unity Group in Windsor."
At that time in my life I felt extremely insecure and very inadequate to start anything. I didn't want to start a group - I wanted someone else to start a group - I don't think God heard me right.
But the message was clear and my desire to learn more about God was stronger than my fear.
So, the next day I sat down and wrote to Rev. David Williamson - there were no computers then - as I felt he would be the most responsive to helping us get started.
I went over to see him and he said yes, he had a Licensed Teacher that would be willing to come over and lead a study group.
So, on February 29th, 1984 David Williamson and the Licensed Teacher Dennis Judson, along with a few other people met at my home.
There were six people at that meeting that gave so much in the beginning to this Windsor movement that have all made their transitions: Sasha Ball, Barbara Eagen, Muriel Neville, Margaret Graham, Euwarda Yapp and Ken Bragg. They so believed in Unity and that this Centre should be here.
There were two Unity groups that tried to start in Windsor before us - one in 1950's and another in the early 1970's.
The group that formed in the 1950's I had found some old correspondence from. They were apparently having some problems within their group and wrote to Rev. Eric Butterworth who was Minister at the Temple in Detroit at that time.
He wrote to them asking if they would like him to come over and meet with them and they said NO thank you. We are probably the only City in the entire Unity movement that turned down Eric Butterworth and then that group disbanded.
Some Unity students tried again in the early 1970's but it closed as well.
We stand on their shoulders as they provided the foundation for us to start in Windsor in the 1980's.
Our first service was March 28, 1984 and David Williamson came over and did the talk for us. We had a large crowd as David had announced he was speaking in Windsor on his radio program.
He helped us with so many things. I was going to have the study group in my home and he said no - it is essential that you meet on common ground.
He came over in the beginning for our Steering Committee meetings. We did not have a Board of Directors as we were not incorporated and I remember him saying "I can see you as a church some day."
He really held that vision for us when we could not see it for ourselves.
He had a congregation at the time I believe between 1500 - 2000 so he had a lot on his plate already. His picture is hanging on the wall outside the Minister’s office .
In April we rented a room at the Cencourse Building downtown. We had no storage space, so we hauled boxes up the stairs every week and then hauled them back down again. Doing church in a box.
The people who were early members who started at Cencourse and have all made there transitions were Anne Gubinski, Edyth Harris, Irene Cudney from Chatham and Norma Shimizu from Wallaceburg who became our first Licensed Unity Teacher a few years later.
We just started our meetings when Dennis Judson, our leader, was accepted into ministerial school in Missouri and so we hired a new leader who was Bernida Hamilton. She was there until December when we decided to go back to just having guest speakers.
It was easy for us to get Unity speakers as the Urban Ministerial School in Detroit had several ministerial students who were anxious to speak.
After being at Cencourse for 9 months in January of 1985 we moved to Riverside Presbyterian Church. Barbara Eagen knew a Board Member at that church and they said we could rent from them and they gave us a space for storage.
My husband David and Ken Bragg hauled a large cabinet up to the second floor where we met. It was liberating not to haul those boxes. We still have that metal cabinet in the Secretary's office.
The people who started there are Kathy Vendrasco, Jessie Jennings, Lois Colbert and Sue Jeanette. Claire McFarlane and Norma Hays who have made their transitions started at that time as well.
In the fall of 1986 Dennis Judson returned from Ministerial School and we hired him as our leader.
In Feb. of 1987 we applied to become incorporated and in November of 1987 we received our incorporation which meant we could issue income tax receipts.
Up to that time we were sending all our information to the Unity Church in Toronto and they were issuing our receipts as we operated under their church. It was the closest Canadian Unity church at that time as there was no church in London or Mississauga.
In 1988 Dennis Judson left. We were down to between 6-10 people on a Sunday. We were back to guest speakers.
I remember being at Barbara Eagen's kitchen table and her and I going through the whole list of names of anyone that attended Unity and sending out a letter telling them we were going back to guest speakers. Everything was done with snail mail because at the time there were no computers.
Gradually we started growing again and we had enough to pay our bills.
Then in June 1989 after being at Riverside Presbyterian for four years they asked us to leave. Apparently the people at Riverside Presbyterian had been told by the Presbyterian movement that they were to give us notice.
Someone higher up had heard they were renting to a Unity Church and we had to go.
I really believe this was harder on the people there then it was on us. They knew us - we had a face. I told everyone that we should all be grateful that we belonged to an organization that would never do that. There was no one that was going to tell us not to rent to someone.
So, I wrote to several churches in Windsor asking if we could rent from them. Only two answered and they said no. We were all looking for some place to go. Then Jessie Jennings knew the organist at Chalmers United and he spoke with the minister there and he was very willing to meet with us and to have us rent from them.
Beginning in July 1989 we moved to Chalmers United.
Corner stone "First Presbyterian Church."
The people who started at Chalmers United was Jim Kainz, Jenny English.
In the Fall of 1990 for about six months we had a Licensed Teacher, Helen Bryan leading us and then she decided to leave and we again went with guest speakers.
In the Fall of 1993 we hired Lila Hancock. She found the Adie Knox Building for us and we moved there in the beginning of November. Reverend David Williamson gave the first service there.
He was on sabbatical at the time and he said I'm not accepting any speaking engagements except this one in Windsor. I think he really had a heart connection with us in Windsor.
Lila was with us for around seven years when she became very ill and made her transition on July 8, 2000. There was a grieving process that the whole church went through. Going through the healing of that loss.
We had guest speakers from July to November of that year when Reverend LaRae Davis was hired. LaRae was with us for four years when she decided to leave.
Usually through all those years when a leader left, I stepped up and along with the Board of Directors made decisions for the Church.
This time LaRae installed four of us, along with the Board of Directors, to make decisions for the Church. Those four were Liz Sinnott, Lillian Kosty, Sharlaine Reid and myself. After a short time Liz stepped off the Committee after giving a tremendous amount of support to our whole church and Denise Best stepped up and took her place.
We had guest speakers again from 2004-2007.
I finally felt qualified to become Spiritual Leader and I applied and was hired in March of 2008. Two months later on Saturday, May 24 we moved to Maryvale after being at Adie Knox for almost 15 years.
I left in 2012 due to family commitments and Reverend Rosalind Mariconda became Spiritual Leader from 2012-2016 when she left.
Reverend David Old became Spiritual Leader in November, 2017 which brings us to today.
I wanted to give you a sense through this history that things do not always run smoothly. But I absolutely know that if we are still enough and listen to that guidance and have the strength to follow it - it all works out exactly as it should.
I remember talking to David Williamson years later when he said Arlene - Unity of Windsor is like the Phoenix - it just keeps rising from the ashes.
We are meant to be here. To give others the opportunity to experience the teachings of Unity and apply them to their lives. To experience that Holy Presence that lives within each of us.
I am so grateful to have known all those from the past, whose shoulders we stand on and all of you who are the present and future of this Centre. I am blessed by each one of you. Thank you for being a part of my life.