Paradoxically, in what seems both like only yesterday and a lifetime ago, Rev. Joanne Rowden visited Unity Spiritual Center, Westlake in the summer of 2014 as a candidate for the position of Senior Minister. On that day, she presented a lesson entitled, Seeing Through the Eyes of Love. Today, on her final Sunday as Senior Minister, she once again gives a talk with the same title.
Last week, Rev. Joanne mentioned that over her twenty plus years as a minister leading spiritual communities, the talks she has given have had many varied themes - from any of the Twelve Powers to Unity’s Five Principles, to Earthcare topics or traditional Easter or Christmas messages. But through it all, she tells us, the one element that is always present is the power of love.
Although this week’s talk is not the same as her talk seven years ago, the heart of the message is the same – love. She reminds us that one of the things that makes Unity what it is, is the idea that Jesus and his life are our great example, not the exception which we could never attain. For some people this idea is too far outside of what they have been taught in other spiritual traditions that they are not comfortable in pursuing further study of Unity ideas. But for others, this is a primary attraction to the teachings of Unity.
For those for whom this idea and other Unity teachings do resonate, becoming an active congregant, and ultimately a member of Unity Spiritual Center, naturally follow. Individuals who go through the process of becoming members will take Unity based spiritual education classes. Among the first things we learn are The Five Principles:
- God is all good and active in everything, everywhere.
- I am naturally good because God's Divinity is in me as it is in everyone.
- I create my experiences by what I choose to think, feel and believe.
- Through affirmative prayer and meditation, I become aware of God and bring out the good in my life.
- I do and give my best by living the Truth I know; I make a difference.
The Fifth Principle, Rev. Joanne reminds us, is absolutely essential to our spiritual growth and making a positive difference in the world. For the seven years she has been our Senior Minister, and for many years prior to her arrival at Unity Spiritual Center, each week she has formulated a Spiritual Practice based on the topic of that week’s talk. For me, I may not remember the words of any given talk, but being able to refer to a weekly Spiritual Practice, gives me a center point around which I can focus my spiritual attention.
When congregants become members, we agree to abide by our Membership Covenant to the best of our abilities.
Unity Spiritual Center, Westlake, Membership Covenant
- I understand and align with the basic teachings of Unity. I understand that Unity Spiritual Center is based on the life and teachings of Jesus and expressed through the indwelling Spirit of Christ.
- I make my spiritual unfoldment and relationship with God a priority in my life.
- I do my part to support this center’s mission to empower all to embrace and express the Divine as we contribute our unique gifts in an evolving world. I do my part to support the center’s vision of being love in action, honoring the Divine within all.
- I join my community in participating in the creation of a loving, accepting atmosphere.
- I extend myself with love and warmth to newcomers, to my church home and to those people attending whom I do not know. I include the center in my daily prayer life.
- I include the center in my financial planning, establishing systematic giving extended joyfully and lovingly.
- I serve as a sacred server thereby demonstrating the value of selfless service to others.
- I speak with constructive purpose about the center and my fellow congregants. If I experience personal upset with the center or a congregant, I seek guidance from Spirit, then speak with and resolve any upset with the persons involved.
- I recognize that my presence and participation at the center’s services and activities is a contribution and gift that enhances the experience for all. As a member, I make attendance a priority.
- Together with my community, I commit to co-creating with God the ongoing dynamic life of Unity Spiritual Center Westlake. I recognize that we help the center to expand its programs and services. As our community thrives, it blesses and serves thousands of others like myself. I join my community in honoring the Spirit in me and the Spirit at work through our congregation.
All of these tenets are based on love. If we remember to first see through the eyes of love, living into these ideas becomes natural, almost reflexive. Today, Rev. Joanne honors eight congregants into membership (see video for more on those individuals).
Distilling the idea of seeing things through the eyes of love to three points, Rev. Joanne tells us that we will know if we are living into these principles if we aware of the following:
1. Ask yourself, what does love look like in this situation?
For me, this means not reacting in an unkind, selfish, or apathetic way. It is helpful to consider how I might feel in a situation if I were to find myself in another’s place.
2. Am I willing to stretch through the uncomfortable?
Rev. Joanne reminds us that seeing through the eyes of love can be uncomfortable. For me, when that feeling arises, it is an indicator that I need to be consciously aware of what I say and do. Care taken not because I fear a misstep, but because I wish to have empathy for another.
3. Now Go and Be the Light.
This statement is emblazoned on a sign on the Unity Spiritual Center grounds that everyone sees as they exit our parking lot. It has also been the post script to my blog entries for nearly a year. It is our reminder that we are the Light. We are born of Spirit, and at all times have the ability to not just reflect that divine birth, but to exemplify it in our lives.
I made my first blog entry for Unity Spiritual Center, Westlake on Tuesday, June 18, 2019. Today is my one hundred eleventh and final entry. I have very much enjoyed creating these summaries and commentaries. Reviewing and writing about the Sunday talks each week has helped me to better understand and more deeply integrate the lessons given. After much thought, meditation and prayer, I have come to know that now is the time for me to release this Sacred Service and move forward with another writing project that I have been postponing for far too long.
I am pleased to say that the weekly blog will continue. Beginning next week, Terri Brewer will be sharing her thoughts about the Sunday lessons and how they move her in spirit.
Thanks to all of you who have read my blogs these past one hundred eleven weeks. I encourage you to continue supporting the Unity Spiritual Center blog by reading Terri’s thoughts each week.
Since becoming our Senior Minister in November of 2014, Rev. Joanne has given hundreds of Sunday talks. I have been present for and listened carefully to all of them. The things I have learned from her during that time are too many to number. There are some spiritual teachings she has provided that are in my conscious awareness. I use them to help me navigate my way through the sometimes confusing maze we call life. I know, however, that this number is much smaller than the spiritual teachings I have learned from her that are in my subconscious, living there in my psyche, ready to be accessed when circumstances require them. They are like an iceberg, ninety percent of them are invisible, below the waterline, but every bit as real and every bit as vital.
Thank you Rev. Joanne – my friend Joanne. I wish you all the best in all that you choose to do in life. Guided by spirit, you will bless the world and make it a better place by your very presence. You are loved, and you will be missed.
Now Go and Be the Light.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Seeing through the eyes of love invite us to drop our defenses, open our hearts and minds, and see one another from an awareness of the Divine at work within us all. How is the Divine inviting you to love more deeply? What defenses have you been invited to release? How can you open your heart and mind to someone this week? What way will you lovingly engage in our beloved community moving forward through this time of transition? Together, we create a world that works for all when we choose to be love.