The Rev. Ruth M. Elmer is a second-generation minister. Her mother, the first Unity minister, built the magnificent church on St. Charles Avenue and Peniston Street 50 years ago.
The Rev. Ruth Childress Murphy, her mother, became leader of the Unity Society of Practical Christianity in 1947. At that time, the New Thought group met in a room above Rapp's Luggage at 604 Canal St.
Childress Murphy decided the group must have a church and began the process without knowing how they would raise the funds to build it. Unity teaches prosperity principles.
Unity Temple was designed by architect Leonard R. Spangenberg, Jr., a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright, who promoted organic, "Prairie" style architecture that reflected the natural surroundings. Giant globes hang from the ceiling, adding electric light to the natural sunlight pouring through windows and domed skylight. Childress Murphy told Spangenberg to build "something round," symbolizing God and eternal love - and he did.
The current Rev. Ruth brings profound, philosophical insight to her Sunday lessons before a diverse congregation. With her white, bouffant hairstyle and colorful, stylish dress, she cuts a handsome and powerful figure at the pulpit. Even at 87, she's sharp as a tack and can crack a joke that takes her audience by surprise.
Rev. Ruth told a story last month about two cannibals conversing while dining on a tasty casserole. One looked the other in the eye and confessed, "You know, I really hate my my mother-in-law." His dinner companion replied, "Okay, then just eat the noodles!"
The point she went on to make was that as a nation we spend an enormous amount of time fuming over "indigestible" morsels of information about people and events that are completely without nourishment. We think, talk, weep and wail over distasteful ideas that don't enrich our lives.
We're not dealing WITH our problems, but IN our problems, through gratuitous discussion of unsuccessful relationships, medical issues, business difficulties and emotional problems - that were not thought to be socially acceptable topics of conversation at cocktail parties 25 years ago.
"We've come to the idea that we make things better by talking about them over and over," she said. But we don't.
We must face our problems, she explained, but what does that mean? It means facing them, not throwing them in somebody else's face! We should not perpetuate problems by giving them the Power of our Attention, which is our key power, she said. This is a central principle of Unity.
The solution, instead, is to view problems clearly, define them correctly and then accept responsibility for them, which also means keeping them to yourself. Then take your attention off them.
"We are not on earth to struggle along, using every ounce of our time and energy, just trying to maintain some kind of precarious balance." We are not like Alice in Wonderland, running as fast as we can, just to keep from falling down, she said. How many of us feel just like that? But it is merely an illusion because we are always taken care of. This is another Unity principle. God is always there, supporting, protecting and providing.
She said a lot more that day - and much more every week. But what would our 24/7 news and entertainment culture do without regurgitating all those indigestible morsels? They might have to give us real insight and culture!