History of the Unity Movement

The Unity spiritual Movement was founded in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1889 by a husband and wife, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore.  It grew out of the Transcendentalist social and philosophical movement of the mid-19th Century and ultimately became part of the greater New Thought Movement, which had its origins in the writings of Phineas Quimby.  The key factor of the Fillmores’ belief system – and of Unity’s teaching today – is the power within the individual to overcome the challenges of the human experience through the practice of affirmative prayer and meditation.

Myrtle Fillmore

Myrtle was the eighth child (of nine) born to an Ohio businessman-farmer.  Born Mary Caroline Page, on August 6, 1845, in Pagetown, Ohio (a small village community located approximately 35 miles north of downtown Columbus and founded by her father, Marcus Page) she adopted the name in early childhood and used it the rest of her life.  Her parents were strict Methodists, but Myrtle rejected their puritanical teachings.  She contracted tuberculosis at a young age and had been told it was hereditary.  At the age of 21, Myrtle enrolled in the Literary Course for Ladies at Oberlin College.  After graduating in 1867, she taught in Clinton, Missouri.  She spent the next 13 years there, with the exception of 1877-78, when she spent a year in Denison, Texas, hoping to recover from the debilitating effects of tuberculosis.

Charles Fillmore

Born in a log cabin on an Indian reservation in the wilderness territories near St. Cloud, Minnesota on August 22, 1854 (prior to the territory becoming a state), Charles Fillmore was the son of Henry Fillmore, a trader with the Chippewa tribe there, and Mary Georgiana Fillmore; he had one younger brother.  An ice-skating accident when he was 10 dislocated Fillmore’s hip and left him with longtime physical challenges, including a withered leg.  In his early years, despite little formal education, he studied Shakespeare, Tennyson, Emerson and Lowell as well as works on spiritualism, Eastern religions, and the occult.  He met his future wife, Myrtle Page, in Denison, Texas, in the mid-1870s.  After losing his job there, he moved to Gunnison, Colorado, where he worked at mining and real estate.  During this period, he wrote often to the red-haired schoolmistress he had met back in Texas, as they shared so many interests in common.

Introduction to New Thought

Charles married Myrtle in Clinton, Missouri, on March 29, 1881, and the newlyweds moved to Pueblo, Colorado, where Charles established a real estate business with the brother-in-law of Nona Lovell Brooks, who was later to found the Church of Divine Science.

After the births of their first two sons, Lowell Page and Waldo Rickert Fillmore, the family moved to Kansas City, Missouri. Two years later, in 1886, Charles and Myrtle attended classes in the growing New Thought spiritual movement.  One such outing the couple attended was a lecture held by a metaphysician named Dr. E. B. Weeks.  Myrtle came away from this experience with a startling new idea: I am a child of God, and therefore I do not inherit sickness.

Myrtle repeated this affirmative statement over and over; she spoke healing words, uplifting words to every part of her body, coming back to that statement, I am a child of God, and therefore I do not inherit sickness.  She subsequently recovered from chronic tuberculosis and attributed her recovery to her use of prayer and other methods learned in Weeks classes.  Later, upon witnessing this demonstration in his wife, Charles decided to practice the techniques Myrtle employed.  He began to heal from his childhood accident, a development that he, too, attributed to following this affirmative prayer and meditation practice.  Charles Fillmore became a devoted student of philosophy and religion.

A Growing Movement

In 1889, Charles left his business to focus entirely on publishing a new periodical, Modern Thought.  In 1890, Myrtle and Charles organized a prayer group that would later be called, and in the following year, the Fillmores’ magazine was retitled Unity Magazine; it remains in print today.

On December 7, 1892, Charles and Myrtle penned their Dedication and Covenant.

We, Charles Fillmore and Myrtle Fillmore, husband and wife, hereby dedicate ourselves, our time, our money, all we have and all we expect to have, to the Spirit of Truth, and through it, to the Society of Silent Unity.

It being understood and agreed that the said Spirit of Truth shall render unto us an equivalent for this dedication, in peace of mind, health of body, wisdom, understanding, love, life and an abundant supply of all things necessary to meet every want without our making any of these things the object of our existence.
In the presence of the Conscious Mind of Christ Jesus, this 7th day of December A.D. 1892.

Charles Fillmore
Myrtle Fillmore

Dr. H. Emilie Cady published a series titled Lessons in Truth in the new magazine.  This material later was compiled and published in a book by the same name, which served as a seminal work of the growing Unity Movement.  Although Charles had no intention of making Unity into a denomination, his students wanted a more organized group.  He and his wife founded The Unity Society of Practical Christianity, the first Unity ministry, in 1903.  (It exists today as Unity Temple on the Plaza.)  The Fillmores operated the Unity organization from a campus near downtown Kansas City.  They received ordination as the first Unity ministers in 1906 and ordained seven others at that time.  Teachers were later licensed to bring the Unity message in other areas of the country, including right here in Columbus.  Unity later began a formal program for training ministers in 1931.

Charles Fillmore became known as an American mystic for his intuitive guidance and his contributions to allegorical interpretations of Scripture.  He wrote several volumes that are still in print today, including Christian Healing, The Twelve Powers of Man, and Prosperity.  Myrtle Fillmore continued as director of Silent Unity and as the editor of Wee Wisdom magazine, a periodical for children, which she began in 1893; Wee Wisdom remained in print for 98 years – ceasing publication in 1991.  The devotional prayer magazine, Daily Word, began publication in 1924 and is currently printed in six languages (including Braille).  Distributed in over 100 countries, Daily Word has remained Unity’s most popular publication. In the last year of his life at age 93, Charles wrote an electrifying affirmation that remains a favorite among Unity Truth students:

I fairly sizzle with zeal and enthusiasm and I spring forth with a mighty faith to do the things that ought to be done by me. Myrtle Fillmore made her transition peacefully on October 6, 1931, at the age of 86 – over 45 years after she had been told she had six months to live.  Charles remarried in 1933 to Cora G. Dedrick, who was a collaborator on his later writings, such as Teach Us To Pray.  Charles Fillmore made his transition on July 5, 1948. In Mr. Fillmore’s own words: “Unity is a link in the great educational movement inaugurated by Jesus Christ; our objective is to discern the truth in Christianity and prove it.  The truth that we teach is not new; neither do we claim special revelations or discovery of new religious principles.  Our purpose is to help and teach mankind to use and prove the eternal Truth taught by the Master.”

History of Unity of Columbus

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 Coulson.  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 Coulson.  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 over 100-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!