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

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  • Bless Everyone – Especially those who have withheld or withdrawn love from you.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 Purpose of Hard Times”

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“Let Your Heart Be Light”

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“Had Enough of Your Stuff?”

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“No Mud, No Lotus”

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“I Am Overflowing with Gratitude”

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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

Here is the interpretation of the Lord's Prayer based on the Aramaic translation: Father/Mother presence who loves us and whose divinity is...

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“Let It Go”

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