By DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI
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“Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” is the theme for the 95th anniversary gala for Unity of Montclair Church to be held this Friday, March 29. The small church on Orange Road, which sits only 65 congregants, is taking its 95th anniversary to prepare for a new minister and its 100-year celebration.
The township honored the church with a proclamation during the March 19 council meeting, presented by Mayor Robert Jackson.
“The mayor, council and township of Montclair recognizes Unity of Montclair as a heart-centered spiritual community,” read Jackson.
Board trustee and Montclair resident Kristina Hinckson, the church historian, told the audience at the meeting, “We intend to do more because there ain’t no stopping us now.”
Ninety-five years of history for the church reflects some Montclair history as well. It has been in its current building at 84 Orange Road here. since 1962, when the church given the land at Myrtle Avenue and Orange Road, where it still stands, for $1 by Peter and Lilly M. Swenson of Montclair, members of the church, according to the church website, unityofmontclair.org. The congregation began meeting in December 1924 in a commercial building at 303 Claremont Ave. under the direction of M. Elizabeth Blackmore, Hinckson said. It was then a study group known as Unity Society. The congregants also met in private homes and at one point they met in the Women’s Club until 2015.
Charles Fillmore, along with his wife, Myrtle, the founders of Unity, commissioned the Rev. Ella Pomeroy to begin Unity Church in Montclair. She was the first person to lead the congregation.
Hinckson said the church’s cornerstone, dated 1962, has become their ceremonial stone. It houses prayers written from the beginning of the congregation. “Today, we literally stand on the prayers of the congregation of 1962. Their written prayers were put in the cornerstone and then the building was built,” Hinckson said.
Hinckson said the congregation continues to grow: “As we prepare for our 100th, efforts are in place to expand. The congregation has been campaigning for three or four years.”
Through the course of its 95 years the church has had 14 church leaders, licensed Unity teachers or senior ministers. The church is currently led by interim minister, the Rev. Toni Boehm, professional certified coach of Unity Worldwide Ministries. Boehm began in July, following a six-year term from the Rev. Elizabeth Mora.
The biggest changes Hinckson has seen in her church is watching its teachings become global. “We see ourselves as an instrument. We see these teachings have a positive impact on humanity,” she said. “In a climate where many houses of worship are dwindling, our unity movement is going strong.”
DIFFERENT FORMS OF PRAYER
Unity churches do not pray to Jesus, instead they pray to a Christ-consciousness, or the Christ within. “Everything for us is about consciousness,” Hinckson explained.
Many Unity churches including Montclair incorporate Buddhist and other Eastern teachings.
Unity churches are known for meditation, she said.
The church’s principles, created by the founders include metaphysics and the teachings of Jesus and of other spiritualists. Unity respects each person’s right to a spiritual path and honors the universal truths in all religions, she said. The church serves is a spiritual leader which promotes inclusivity and diversity.
Among its services to the congregation, the church holds a healing circle once a month. “Someone comes into the sacred space with concerns, or for mental or physical healing. It’s a sacred confidential space; people come for support or to be supportive. There is some prayer and meditation,” she said.
Prayer is “affirmative prayer,” or asserting positive beliefs for manifestation.
“Many come in like-mind of yoga mindfulness; vegetarian mindfulness; healthy eating. They are already attracted to the holistic health practices,” she said.
The church also offers a Burning Bowl Ceremony near the New Year where they hold a bonfire for the congregants to burn and release their past. They also hold a white stone rebirthing ceremony, usually the following week; the two ceremonies go hand and hand said Hinckson. The stone is from Jerusalem, and is known as a freedom stone. “The congregants get a new identity with the white stone; new name for the year. It sets the tone for how you will be and that name is written as a permanent engraving on the stone,” said Hinckson.
The church is part of the Montclair Clergy Association and also keeps 10 percent of their Sunday collections to give to a different organization in Montclair each month.
Unity of Montclair
84 Orange Road
Sunday Services,11 a.m.
Membership size: 60 to 80
95th Anniversary Gala:
Friday, March 29 at 7 p.m.
111 Prospect Ave., West Orange
Tickets are $125, at unityofmontclair.org