Minister’s Message

Transforming Lives that Transform the World.

Rev. Paula Mekdeci

Message from the Minister

Hello, Friends!

Welcome to Unity Renaissance, where we hold the vision for “A spiritually awakened world, living in peace, love and joy.” Each week I share a brief online message to help us live into our vision, putting into practice the teachings of Jesus and other spiritual masters. If you’d like to join our email list to receive the weekly e-newsletter that includes my blog, please click here. Meanwhile, I hope you’ll explore the many opportunities and activities at Unity Renaissance, a spiritual community dedicated to inclusivity, acceptance, and loving support for each person on their spiritual path. I look forward to welcoming you!

Love,

Rev. Paula

Creating...and Resting

 

Dear Friends,

Last Sunday I shared Unity’s seven-step Creative Process, developed by Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore based on the first creation story in Genesis. We interpret the days of creation metaphysically, or symbolically, to discern the steps for manifesting what we most want in our lives. Here are the scripture verses and interpretations:

·Day One: “Then God said, ‘Let there be light.’” (Gen. 1:3) Light represents illumination, awareness, awakening. Interpretation: “Let there be Awareness.”

·Day Two: “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters. (Gen. 1:6) Firmament represents a foundation, a starting point, faith. Interpretation: “Let there be Faith.”

Day Three: “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together…and let the dry land appear.” (Gen. 1:9) Through imagination, we choose and arrange from the field of infinite possibilities. Interpretation: “Let there be Imagination.”

Day Four: “Let there be lights in the firmament of heaven to divide the day from the night…” (Gen. 1:14) We must focus and reflect our Divine Ideas through Will and Understanding. Interpretation: “Let there be Enlightened Action.”

Day Five: “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth.” (Gen 1:20) The creatures represent swarms of ideas, which require our judgment. Interpretation: “Let there be Discernment.”

Day Six: “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind…And God created humankind in his image.” (Gen. 1:24, 27) We apply love and wisdom to assure a balance of masculine and feminine. Interpretation: “Let there be Wholeness.” 

Day Seven: “God finished the work that He had done, and He rested…” (Gen. 2:2) Calls for rest and a return to the sacred. Interpretation: “Let there be Stillness.”

This Sunday, we’ll pick up where the creative process leaves off: With the Sabbath. Over the next five weeks, we’ll explore ideas, insights, and practices to help us restore balance, harmony, rest, renewal, and meaning in our lives. Each Sunday I’ll recommend a new Sabbath practice for the coming week; the following Sunday, you’ll have a chance to share your experiences with it.

I look forward to a renewing spiritual journey with you!

Much love,

Rev. Paula

 

Powerful, Creative You!

 

Dear Friends,

Often we think the word “creative” applies to some people but not others. In truth, we are all creative beings! Every day we create our reality through the thoughts we choose to think.

Our spiritual journey is about learning to create consciously vs. unconsciously. We have the power to turn our fondest dreams into reality. And we have a great guide for doing so: Genesis!

The first creation story in Genesis reveals how the creative process works, and how we can make it work for us. Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore once wrote, “What is true in the creation of the universe (as allegorically stated in Genesis) is equally true in the unfoldment of man’s mind and body” because, made in the image and likeness of God, we too are creators.

This Sunday, we’ll explore the seven steps of the Creative Process and how to use it to create the life we most want to live. (Hint: It always begins in chaos!)

And be sure to join us for a wonderful film Friday night, and a heartwarming Pet Blessing Saturday morning.

Much love,

Rev. Paula

P.S. This Sunday, we’ll kick off a new program for Unexpected Income. Get in the flow of giving and receiving and join us in tithing to Unity Renaissance 10 percent of any unexpected income from now till the end of the year. We’ve had an awesome year so far — Let’s finish strong. Thank you in advance for your participation and support!

Giving in Joy

Rev. Paula Mekdeci

 

Dear Friends,

A popular old song says:“The joy of living, living, living; It comes from giving, giving, giving.”

Often that truth becomes clearer to us as we age. We realize that the greatest gift in life is, well… giving! As we give, so we receive, and typically we receive more in return than we ever could have imagined.

This Sunday, our wonderful and inspiring Youth of Unity (Y.O.U.) will lead a special multi-generational service on “Giving in Joy.” They’ll share their own joy while also interpreting Shel Silverstein’s classic and moving book, The Giving Tree. People were blown away by our last Y.O.U. multi-generational service, and this one promises to be every bit as inspiring! Join us as we experience the insights, energy, and wisdom of our young people, who are truly our hope for the future.

Meanwhile: Prepare to be amazed when you see our property Sunday! Clearing is well underway to prepare for the construction of our new education wing, fellowship hall, expanded kitchen, bigger bathrooms and more. If ever there was a testament to the power of giving, this is it! Without you, this exciting project would not be happening. Because of you, our shared dream is coming true.

Thank you for your continued generosity in supporting Unity Renaissance and the expansion of our facilities and ministry. Your giving makes a difference! And I know you, in turn, are blessed with abundant love, prosperity, and fulfillment. That’s how the universe works!

Much love and gratitude,

Rev. Paula

Just Say Yes!

 

Dear Friends,

As I shared last Sunday, “no” can become our knee-jerk response to life. We may feel inadequate, unworthy, afraid, or unmotivated to engage more fully with life. But a steady diet of “no” crushes the human spirit. It is also a misuse of our innate power to create the life we imagine.

Unity minister Sue Sikking, author of God Always Says Yes, once wrote:

“If you believe and say, ‘I am lonely, unhappy, and poor’ or ‘I am rich, vital, and fulfilled,’ all power rushes to support your belief. All your fears are answered, but the longings of your heart are also answered. As you think, speak, and act, there is always this response…The law of life fulfills our desires, or it fulfills our worries and our fears. With God there is no distinction. The answer is always Yes. The choice is ours.”

In other words: Be mindful of what you think about, and where you place your focus. Because God’s going to say “Yes!” The Universe wants for you what you want for yourself.

So expect the best! Say “yes” to new possibilities. Say “yes” to your fondest dreams. Say “yes” to what speaks to your heart. As Jesus said, “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Step out in faith, and discover the power of Yes!

Much love,

Rev. Paula

Stretch Yourself!

 

Dear Friends,

Charles Fillmore described Unity as “a continuation of the great educational movement inaugurated by Jesus Christ.” Spiritual growth and education have always been at the heart of Unity.

Our Spiritual Education and Enrichment (S.E.E.) Week at Unity Renaissance is all about seeking, learning, and questioning. It is one of the most stimulating weeks of the year for our spiritual community as we stretch ourselves to expand our thinking and deepen our spirituality.

I hope you’ll find a way to take advantage of one or more of our classes at S.E.E. Week next week. The classes are:

·     Meditation Practices, with Rev. Elizabeth Mora, describing various methods of meditation and how to overcome obstacles in your meditation practice.

·     Unity Prayer, with Rev. Richard Mekdeci, explaining the empowering form of prayer in Unity called “affirmative prayer,” which emphasizes the presence of God in and as us;

·     Metaphysics 2, with Rev. Ogun Holder, exploring such spiritual concepts as Oneness, the Trinity, Evil, Sin, the Devil, the Threefold Nature of Humankind, Jesus/Christ/Jesus Christ/Christ Jesus and more.

·     The Gnostic Gospels, with Rev. Elizabeth Mora, an inspiring look at the provocative gospel writings omitted from the Bible;

·     The Gospel of the Beloved Companion: The Complete Gospel of Mary Magdalene, led by me, an in-depth look at what I believe is the most readable and understandable gospel of all (also available online); and

·     Bible Interpretation: Acts-Revelation, with Rev. Ogun Holder, which considers the scriptures through a metaphysical or symbolic lens (also available online).

You may sign up at church or online. More information and registration here. We do have a few scholarships available for those who are financially challenged.

Looking forward to a fabulous S.E.E. Week!

Much love,

Rev. Paula

We Need Each Other

Dear Friends,

One of my two-year-old granddaughter’s new sentences is: “Need help!” She has learned how to ask for the help she needs when she is reaching for something beyond her grasp, climbing stairs, or attempting other activities beyond her ability.

We all need help now and then. We need each other. I am reminded of that as people help and support one another in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, and as the storm heads our way.

I am also reminded of that as I reflect on the strength of our spiritual community, and the ways we show up for each other at Unity Renaissance. Every week I hear beautiful stories about congregants reaching out to help others who are ill, grieving, or struggling in some way. It is inspiring to witness that kind of open-hearted caring, so generously shared.

Unity cofounders Charles and Myrtle Fillmore wanted Unity to be just that loving, and just that empowering. This Sunday I’ll talk about the legacy they left us in creating a movement where everyone belongs, and everyone matters. I like to call it “inclusive Christianity” — a spiritual movement that welcomes and accepts all people for who they are, as they are. I think it is just the kind of ministry Jesus had in mind.

I look forward to seeing you Sunday. Till then — Be safe and smart as you ride out the storm!

Much love,

Rev. Paula

      Fancy Dive

Ann DeMichael

 

This past Sunday I shared a poem by Shel Silverstein entitled “Fancy Dive”. The poem spoke about the fancy diving techniques of Melissa of Coconut Grove, as she flew through the air, back flipped and spun, and found herself diving into an empty pool. Yikes!

Melissa had forgotten to check to ensure water was in the pool. How many times have we attempted something new, unfamiliar, daring, etc., only to realize that an essential element was missing?

As we release old ideas and attitudes and open up to new ones, we may find it challenging at first to dive in. We must create a new opening. As we do, we create a space for Spirit to be fully activated in our lives.

Once we have created these openings, Spirit expresses through us in ways that uplift, inspire, and renew us. We realize that everything we seek is already within us. The pool is never empty.

Matthew 7:7 says “knock and the door shall be opened for you”.  It doesn’t say, pound on the door, or you need a hammer to open the door, just knock. Spirit is knocking at our door wanting a greater participation in our lives.

Have a great week and remember…

The fanciest dive that ever was dove,

Was dove by you on your spiritual road.

You’ll bounce on the board and fly into the air

Always supported by God’s loving care.

Go on in, the waters fine,

You’ve got a swim date with the divine!

With love and blessings,

Ann DeMichael

Prayer and Pastoral Director

Ease and Grace

Ed Rosequist
In April of 2015, Unity Renaissance started down the road of facility improvement. At that time, it was all about a leaky roof and aging air/heating units. As our vision grew, we started asking “what was ours to do” in making the Renaissance a more conducive spiritual home.
Reverand Judi Meyer established Unity Renaissance on Eden Way North by committing to her vision. She asked for support, not only from the congregation in tithes and “faith bonds”, but from the original property owners, Dominion Power, architects and contractors. She would walk the property and focus on the blessings that were coming into manifestation. The 7000 square foot facility was completed and consecrated. In some difficult financial times, Judi would just keep praying to “keep the doors open and the lights on”.
Now, we are adding to the Unity Renaissance facility, constructing an additional 5100 square feet and modifying 1600 within the current facility. We have finished the roof and the air/heating systems, along with updating the sanctuary and a new sound system. It has been through our dedication and commitment, much like Judi in walking the property, that has gotten us this far. The next six months will be more challenging, as the construction team will be laying the new foundation, raising the walls and impacting the existing facility’s kitchen and bathrooms.  It will be important during construction for us to “keep the doors open and the lights on”, not only for our spiritual home but also in our consciousness as we gather each week to celebrate the goodness of God’s world.
Thank you for your time, talent and treasure to make Unity Renaissance a welcoming place for everyone to find their spiritual connection. Please keep praying for the “ease and grace” we will see in our construction, while blessing each person that helps in building out this vision. “Wherever we are, God is and all is well”.
Best wishes,
Ed Rosequist

Remember to Enjoy Life

Dear Friends,
Often we get so busy managing our lives that we forget to enjoy them. Only when we slow down, become present, and take in a wider view can we truly appreciate the abundant blessings of everyday life.
Having completed our Sunday series on The Zen Commandments, we can apply Dean Sluyter’s “10 Suggestions for a Life of Inner Freedom” to make our lives as rich and meaningful as possible. Those suggestions are:
  • Rest in Openness – Awareness is everything! Stay open and aware.
  • Act with Kindness – Kindness blesses us as well as others.
  • Notice the Moment – Be mindful of your inner and outer world.
  • Recognize Teachers – And everything is your teacher!
  • Keep It Simple – Maintain outer and inner simplicity.
  • Be Devoted – Dedicate yourself to that which you love.
  • No Appointment, No Disappointment – Let go of expectations.
  • Bless Everyone – Especially those who have withheld or withdrawn love from you.
  • Disconnect the Dots – Deconstruct your solidified ideas and stories.
  • Be a Mensch and Enjoy the Joke – Be an honest, reliable, trustworthy person who serves others and makes the most of life while remembering that everything is temporary.
Life is full of ups and downs — but with a little mindfulness, we can remember to enjoy the ride!
Much love,
Rev. Paula

How To Simplify Your Relationships

Dear Friends,

Last Sunday, I shared one key way to simplify our lives from Dean Sluyter’s book The Zen Commandments: Ten Suggestions for a Life of Inner Freedom: Be kind to others. Sluyter writes, “One of the many rewards of acting with kindness is that it helps keep life simple; one of the many punishments of cruelty and thoughtlessness is that they make life incredibly complicated.”

Here are his suggestions for how to create and maintain healthy and simple relationships:

• Take care of one another.
• Be as kind as you can.
• Do your share of finding new sources of fun.
• Quietly pass up opportunities to score points or be a wise guy.
• Give the benefit of the doubt.
• Try to make things less insane rather than more insane.
• If you think the other person is off the program, address the situation gently and with respect. But since the problem is often in your own perception, wait a little while first to see if your perception changes.

Much love,

Rev. Paula

Practicing 'Guru Yoga'

Dear Friends,
Last Sunday, we considered how everything in life is our teacher – everything! Our friends, enemies, partners, strangers, animals, rocks, trees, jobs, situations, illnesses, chance encounters, mistakes, setbacks, hardships and more.
In his book The Zen Commandments, author Dean Sluyter suggests a way to discern the lessons presented to us every day. He calls it “guru yoga.” To practice it, as we go through our day, we recognize everyone and everything as our teacher. In any situation, we ask ourselves, “What is my teacher teaching me?” If something or someone upsets us, if we are facing a difficulty or challenge, we ask: What am I to learn from this? This is the quickest way to shift our perspective.
When we recognize people, experiences, and situations as our teachers, we become more attentive students. This Sunday, we’ll talk about two other ways to deepen our spiritual practice: By simplifying our lives and discovering the art of devotion.
See you then!
Much love,
Rev. Paula

Beginner's Mind, Many Teachers

 

Dear Friends,

Zen Buddhism teaches “shoshin,” or “beginner’s mind” – the spiritual practice of being open and receptive to what is before us, without preconceived notions. In this state of awareness, our minds are like a clean slate, and we are like beginners, wide open to learning and growing.

Beginner’s mind helps us pay attention. It also reminds us that we are students of life, and that everything is our teacher. Everything! The good times, the hard times, the people we love, the people we avoid. If you believe, as we do in Unity, that we are each on a spiritual journey, every twist and turn on the path, every encounter and experience, is for our highest good, leading us to greater wisdom and wholeness.

The next two suggestions in “The Zen Commandments,” by Dean Sluyter, which we are studying for five Sundays, arise from this state of beginner’s mind. They are: “Notice the Moment” and “Recognize Teachers.” This Sunday we’ll particularly look at how to recognize, appreciate, forgive, and embrace the special individuals in our lives who have earned the distinction of being called “my teacher.”

Much love,

Rev. Paula

What's Zen Got to Do With It?

Dear Friends,
When people become disillusioned with traditional Christianity, they sometimes turn to Eastern religions for spiritual nourishment. Buddhism, Hinduism, Vedanta, and other Eastern paths seem to offer more mysticism and less dogma. They also offer practical tools and insights for raising one’s consciousness, and living a more loving and fulfilling life.
But then, so did Jesus. Jesus was most interested in changing our perspective, waking us up to the truth that the kingdom of heaven is “at hand.” The key to perceiving it is our inner awareness; our consciousness. Many of Jesus’s teachings are similar to what we find in Eastern spirituality. We might say Jesus was a Zen master in his own right!
That’s why I’m excited to kick off a new five-part series this Sunday on “The Zen Commandments,” based on the book by Dean Sluyter. The series will explore the wisdom we find in Jesus’s teachings and the Bible, as well as in Zen philosophy, popular culture, and daily life. From being open and aware, to recognizing our teachers and enjoying the journey, we’ll discover spiritual practices that can shift our awareness and raise us to a whole new level of being.
As we celebrate our nation’s freedom today, let us also move forward on our spiritual path to claim our inner freedom. Happy Fourth of July!
Much love,
Rev. Paula

VB + UR Strong

Dear Friends,
This Sunday promises to be an extra special day at Unity Renaissance: It will be our “Virginia Beach Strong Day,” as we show support for our community in the wake of the May 31 mass shooting in Virginia Beach; it will also be a Multigenerational Service Sunday.
Being strong and standing together for Virginia Beach and the entire Hampton Roads area means we expand our hearts to care about others; we extend ourselves to support those who are hurting and vulnerable; and we remember that no matter how different or separate from each other we may seem, in truth, we are one.
These ways of being together are evident every week at Unity Renaissance. Our calling now is to express them more fully in the world.
This Sunday’s multigenerational service will be an inspiring example of the strength that comes from diversity; the love that bridges outer differences; and the power we tap into when we dare to dream together. Join us as we come together to heal, to celebrate, and to hold high the vision for “a spiritually awakened world, living in peace, love, and joy.”
Much love,

Our Blossoming Unity Movement

Dear Friends,
I’m back from a joyful week at the annual Unity People’s Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, sponsored by Unity Worldwide Ministries. So many wonderful things are happening in our Unity movement! Here are some of the themes and trends that stood out for me:
  • Unity has greatly expanded its online classes, with myriad timely, accessible, and high-quality courses available to the general public. Click here to learn more.
  • The movement is expanding its emphasis on diversity to focus on inclusiveness. This means not only increasing the representation of people of varying ages, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, national origin, etc., but also fostering their increased participation and engagement.
  • Unity is growing internationally, with expanding programs, churches, and education. This week, a new Unity in Africa region was approved.
  • A strong environmental consciousness is evident in large-scale activities such as the new Unity EarthCare program sponsored by Unity Worldwide Ministries, as well as day-to-day practices. This year our conference bags included bamboo straws and other items to encourage us to reduce, reuse, and recycle.
  • New programs and partnerships have been formed to encourage “engaged spirituality.” The Association for Global New Thought,which includes Unity, has launched Social Uplift Ministries to provide curricula that “approach the issues of the day with a spiritual focus” (and yes, I’ll be looking into these for those who may be interested!).
  • Unity Village is thriving, and has never looked more beautiful.The former cafeteria has been remodeled into a beautiful ballroom for major events, and the bookstore will soon become a bistro that offers food service throughout the week, as well as books and gifts.
  • Of course, the highlight of my week was seeing my wonderful husband Richard cross the stage and receive his licensing and ordination as a Unity minister at this year’s ordination ceremonies! We’ll be celebrating Rev. Richard at church on Sunday, June 30.
I look forward to sharing more with you at our Community Forum this Sunday. See you then!

We're Sooo Close!

Dear Friends,
If all goes as planned, we now expect to break ground on our TURNING POINT! project — including a new education wing, kitchen, bathrooms and fellowship hall — in just a few weeks.
Over the past several days, we have signed the contract with our builders; the bank has finished its appraisal of our land and buildings to clear the way for our loan; and our civil engineer has submitted the revised site plan to the City of Chesapeake. All we need now is site plan approval from the city to move full steam ahead. If we receive that by the end of June as expected, we should be able to break ground in the first or second week of July. Planning is already underway for a festive groundbreaking celebration. Stay tuned!
Meanwhile:
  • Thank you to all of you who have given, and continue to give, so generously of your support and resources to make this dream reality. It couldn’t happen without you!
  • Thank you to our amazing Facilities Improvement Committee, chaired by Ed Rosequist, which has poured over every detail of the plans to make sure we make the right decisions on EVERYTHING.
  • Thank you to our dedicated and visionary Board of Trustees for their support and leadership, and to our talented and committed staff and volunteers.
  • And thank you to Rev. Judi Meyer, who seeded the consciousness and community that became Unity Renaissance — and birthed this dream 30 years ago.
I’m sure you have questions about what’s ahead. Be sure to join us at the Board of Trustees’ Community Forum on June 23 to get the latest update and ask your questions. We’ll also have some updated drawings to share.
What a glorious time for Unity Renaissance! Thank you for helping to make it so.
Much love,
Rev. Paula
P.S. After my talk last Sunday, many of you asked for additional resources to learn more about Mary Magdalene and the Cathars. I recommend: The Gospel of the Beloved Companion: The Complete Gospel of Mary Magdalene, translation and commentary by Jehanne de Quillan, available in our bookstore; The Cathars: Their History and Myths Revealed, by Sean Martin; and God’s Heretics: The Albigensian Crusade, by Aubrey Burl.

My Travels with Mary Magdalene

Dear Friends,
It is great to be back after a momentous trip to southern France, where Richard and I were part of an 8-day tour organized by Jehanne de Quillan tracing the ministry and legacy of Myriam the Migdalah (whom we know as Mary Magdalene).
People have been asking me all week, “How was your trip?” My summation would be: Inspiring, educational, disturbing, and enlightening. It touched me deeply and renewed my sense of mission and purpose for all of us in Unity. It is clear to me that we are part of a golden thread of truth that traces directly back to Yeshua (Jesus) and his beloved companion, Myriam. Much of this truth is reflected in the groundbreaking book, The Gospel of the Beloved Companion: The Complete Gospel of Mary Magdalene, translated and published by Jehanne de Quillan and available in our bookstore. But much more became clear to me through our exploration, experience, and insights in southern France.
I am excited to share with you Sunday what I have learned and why it matters. For me, the pieces have all come together, and the lessons are compelling.

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The Clear, Compelling Testimony of Mary Magdalene

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“Spirit is Doing A Mighty Work Through Us!”

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The Simple Practice That Changes Every

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All Together Now

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The Lord’s Prayer

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“Let It Go”

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