History of Unity in Columbus, Ohio
Unity of Columbus traces its beginnings to the early 1900’s; it originated as a small prayer and study group, meeting in the home of Mrs. Lora Garnes (671 Dennison Avenue) in 1910. The Unity group experienced thirteen moves before purchasing a permanent place on 5th Avenue. Its early leaders were Emma Harrison (the first teacher certified by Unity Headquarters) and Louise Tahse, who came from Cincinnati to hold classes here in 1912. The Unity group joined with another local New Thought group and was then called “Unity New Thought.”
The work was turned over to Earl B. Anthony in 1920 and was moved to the rooms of the Baker Art Gallery, at the intersection of Rich Street and High Street in downtown Columbus. It then moved to the Majestic Building. In 1926, Mr. Anthony moved to Pittsburgh, PA, and the reins of leadership were taken by Beatrice Whipps and Anna Howick. Mrs. Whipps gave the Sunday lectures, and Mrs. Howick handled the executive work and taught classes. The Columbus ministry was re-christened as “Unity Church of Christ” during this time.
In 1930, a gentleman named Garnet January came from Pittsburgh to be the Ordained Center Minister. During his ten-year stay, the group bought property at 80 West Starr Avenue. Rev. January’s successor in 1940 was John Colson. The Starr Ave. property was sold, and the group moved to the University Club, the Virginia Hotel, then to the Fort Hayes Hotel.
In 1942, William Quinn succeeded John Colson. Two years later, a property at 50 West 5th Avenue was purchased. The Rev. and Mrs. Dale Newsum became our spiritual leaders in 1946, succeeding William Quinn. In 1952, Dale and Donna Newsum were replaced by Rev. A. Joseph Jones.
On May 1, 1955, the name of the group of Unity practitioners in Columbus was changed to “Unity Church of Christianity.” By June 17, 1955, arrangements were made for the purchase of 9 ½ acres of property at 3568 Olentangy River Road, for $21,000. In March 1957, final payment was made, and a ground-breaking ceremony was held. On November 2, 1958, the congregation was installed in its new building and soon entered into a period of expansion. On July 1, 1959, Rev. Curtis Wilson and his wife, Rev. Gladys Wilson, became the spiritual leaders of Unity Church of Christianity.
The ministry continued to grow throughout the 1960s under the leadership of the Wilsons. In October of 1973, the City of Columbus purchased the Olentangy River Road property for the new routing of Highway 315. The property at 4211 Maize Road was purchased in January 1974. Construction of a new building, attached to an already-existing home, began that year. A dedication ceremony for the building was held in July of 1976. Special guests included then-Silent Unity director James Dillet Freeman, known throughout the world as the “Poet Laureate To the Moon,” Sig and Jane Paulson, and Rosemary Fillmore Rhea, the granddaughter of our Unity co-founders.
Curtis and Gladys Wilson “retired” to Georgia in October 1976, and Rev. Charles Korfhage served as spiritual leader from 1977 until October 1980. Rev. Sidney Ryman became the minister of Unity Church of Christianity in December of 1980. She was joined by her husband, Mel Ryman, in June of 1981, following the completion of his studies at the Unity School of Christianity and his ordination. They served until late 1989. (Mel Ryman later went on to found Unity East Church.)
Rev. Edd Dawson and his wife, Julie Dawson, served as Interim Ministers for eight months. In Fall 1990, Wayne Manning and Janet Bowser Manning became co-ministers; during this time, the church experienced another period of expansion and growth. In 1993, the congregation approved the funding for a major renovation and modernization of the portion of the Maize Road property affectionately referred to as the “old house,” containing the Myrtle Fillmore Chapel and Children’s Church. The Mannings resigned their positions and relocated to northern California in Spring 1995 for pre-retirement and to be closer with family. Rev. Alfreda St. Tours served as Interim Minister until September of that year, when Rev. Debra Carter Williams became the Senior Minister.
During Rev. Williams’s tenure at Unity Church of Christianity, the congregation participated in the building of a home on Avalon Place in East Columbus for Habitat for Humanity. National speakers, such as Dr. Wayne Dyer, shared spiritual wisdom during this period, as well. Rev. Patrick McAndrew served as Associate Minister from 1998 until 1999. Rev. Williams was succeeded in 1999 by Rev. Robert Wasner, who served as Interim Minister. In October 2000, Rev. Sandra Weisner was hired as Senior Minister, and she served until 2002.
After a period of change and transition for the Columbus ministry, and the return of Rev. Robert Wasner as Interim Minister, Rev. Linda Poole Kennedy served as spiritual leader from 2004 to 2007. A weekly television program was produced at the church during her time as Minister. Finally, Rev. Ted Schneider became the Senior Minister in 2009 and served until Spring 2016. Under his leadership, in January 2012, the spiritual community of Unity Truth students re-christened its ministry once more, returning to its original name: Unity of Columbus.
Unity is a journey on the path of freedom and spiritual expression. Our ministry has seen many changes in its 105-year history, but one thing has remained: We keep the vision and message of our co-founders, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, alive; we encourage all who grace our ministry and serve our spiritual community to seek and express the Kingdom of God in everyday life and to see the Christ in all persons. This is the path of Unity. It is a path that calls us to recognize our divine inheritance and to celebrate that spiritual heritage!
You are blessed!