Church Hopping #14
Unity on Greenville Avenue in Dallas
It’s the gorgeous little domed, buttercream chapel you’ve driven by a million times on Lower Greenville that has the weekly inspirational phrases on the sign. Luckily, my little ones (ages 2 & 4) and I arrived early because there is NO parking lot and everyone parks along the surrounding streets. We only parked a block away on one of the quaint, heavily tree’d streets. With acorns, and leaves and puppies on leashes, it felt like it took us 3 hours to walk all the way to the children’s section (yay, they have a children’s section!) We eventually made it and were greeted by friendly faces everywhere. I felt comfortable leaving them both in the nursery room even though Nikko was still crying.
I wove through the hallways past the gorgeous inner courtyard (photo doesn’t do it justice!) and through the metaphysical bookstore (everyone said hello) and was given a bulletin as I entered the sanctuary. It was a large cream room with intricate WHITE CROWNED MOLDING PIPED LIKE A WEDDING CAKE and an exquisite crystal chandelier in the center. The side walls were Illuminated by colorful stained glass windows with inspirational bible verses on them (see photo.) This building must have once housed a different kind of church but from speaking with parishenors, it’d been Unity since at least the 50’s. I found my seat in the middle of one of the smooth mahogany wooden pews.
The “Prayer Chaplain” greeted everyone and we began singing along to the song “One Heart, One Life, We are Family” about how we are all equal. It was uplifting. Next, we were all lead through a visualization meditation about the stillness of Nature. My mind drifted to my boys and I wondered if Nikko was okay but the meditation seemed to ground everyone, bringing them into this sacred space. They ended it by saying: “And so it is”, which is a “Unity” thing passed down from their founders.
A handsome, white linen clad African-American singer began John Lennon’s “Imagine”, accompanied by a very pale and enthusiastic keyboardist. I couldn’t help but sway and sing along.
Then the female “Celebration Assistant” shared their mission and values- ACCEPTANCE AND INCLUSION. It was at this point I remembered the original mission of our church hopping excursions: to seek churches or spiritual communities that were diverse and who used inclusive language. Looking around, about half of the congregation (80 or so) were middle aged and Anglo but the other half were African-American, Hispanic and Asian from what I could tell, and of all ages. There was also a healthy sprinkling of homosexual women and men.
We went right into singing “Woke Up this Morning with my Mind Set on Spirit” set to the catchy gospel tune and the congregation really got into it, laughing and smiling.
After that was my LEAST favorite part, I used to think of it as the “PEACE BE WITH YOU” part where everyone goes around greeting everyone else. They, however, did it differently. They all HUGGED one another and said “NAMASTE”, as shy as I am it was quiet enjoyable.
Next we discussed the meaning of their word of the day “Grace”. This was followed by another song, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going on”, sung by the same velvety voiced singer from before. It was REALLY GOOD. I thought that people should just come here for FREE LIVE MUSIC ON SUNDAYS.
Next up was their adorable pastor, Reverend Karen Romestan. It’s probably rude to refer to her as “adorable” but she was fun and reminded me of actresses from the 80’s, like MEG RYAN, now. (Of course, I was super stoked that she was female!)
The first few minutes of her sermon, I heard the words “God” and “Lord”. I rolled my eyes thinking there’d be NO inclusive language once again but Rev. Romestan soon said that: “Lord was referring to your own divine nature”.
Her sermon was about WALKING HUMBLY. SHE DISCUSSED THE GOOD SAMARITAN and mercy. She then quoted Thich Nhat Hanh: “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” Saying that MOTHER EARTH IS SACRED and “we touch Her with every step.” I’d never thought of it that way! WE ARE ALL WALKING ON A SACRED SANCTUARY. It was inspiring.
Following this was the Offering, which they also did differently. It began with us all reciting affirmations about abundance on the big screen followed by a procession of the congregation to the front altar basket to drop off our tithing envelopes. This was fun, it wasn’t uncomfortable or awkward for once.
Then to my surprise the CHILDREN and youth paraded in and stood at the front. I cried. I think we applauded them. Nikko and Zayden were PUMPED. The congregation did a blessing to the children and then they all blessed us. It was incredibly sweet.
The singer and keyboardist returned to lead us through an original song “Never Give Up” written by their singer to his 4 sons. We all held hands as we ended.
Several people came up and chatted with me, including a new friend. The boys were pleased as punch when I went to retrieve them.
The long walk back to the car was different now, as I took two or three of my steps KISSING THE EARTH.