Leah Lebar is someone who does a myriad of interesting things. I sat down with her to discuss her involvement with the Unity Church, but had to try hard to rein in my curiosity as she mentioned her different activities and practices.
There is nothing in Unity, Lebar says, that contradicts what she believes. In contrast, some faith traditions include some aspects that resonate with you and others you recognize part of the tradition or ritual, but that are outside of your personal belief set. Oftentimes, to participate in that faith or congregation, you go along with those practices as opposed to having them be a true reflection of your personal views.
According to Lebar, Unity has an openness of interpretation that allows someone to decide what different aspects of faith mean to them. That doesn’t mean that other people won’t interpret faith in ways that are different from you, but that there is an openness that allows freedom in determining personal meaning without a sense that you must accept what others decide.
The Unity Church was founded in the late 1800s, after, the story goes, Myrtle Fillmore cured herself of tuberculosis through her belief in the power of prayer. She and her husband, Charles, never intended it to be a church and even now there is an outreach that transcends different faiths. For instance, Unity publishes the Daily Word, which provides an affirmative prayer for each day that aims to dispel negative thoughts and make a connection to God. My mother, a devout Lutheran, was never without her small monthly book and kept it on her bedside table.
The Unity Church is a non-denominational, non-dogmatic Christian-based belief. The practice focuses on a metaphysical interpretation rather than a literal translation of holy texts. The group is open to all faiths, whether they are Jewish or Hindu, Sikh, Christian, or from other faith traditions. There is a sense that we are all spiritual beings and that we should live by those spiritual practices.
Here in Juneau, the group is affiliated with Unity of Seattle. Because they are small and don’t have a church, they are considered a study group rather than a congregation. Although there is little interaction with this Washington congregation, they retain that tie to maintain nonprofit status.
Look up as you walk down Seward Street and you might see the Unity room with the sign and plants growing on the windowsill. This space is used by other groups, but Unity meets on Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. They focus on music and meditation, and listen to Unity podcasts together. If you remain quiet as you look toward their room, you might hear members strum guitars or ukuleles as they sing songs about surrendering oneself and putting aside one’s will.
• Corinne Conlon is a member of Juneau Interfaith Committee. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders.