BATAVIA – Although she had been attending a church for several years, Geneva resident Sharon Mays said she was feeling spiritually empty inside.
“My husband and I were going through the motions,” Mays said. “We did what we were told.”
Mays said that emptiness was filled when she started attending Unity of Fox Valley in Batavia 2½ years ago. Mays knows there are many questions about Unity because it does not adhere to mainstream Christian beliefs.
“We believe in a higher level of consciousness,” she said. “We believe whatever you put out in the universe comes back to you.”
The Unity movement was founded by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore in 1889 as a healing ministry based on the power of prayer and the prayer of one’s thoughts to create one’s own reality.
“We’re more spiritual rather than religious,” said the Rev. Jan Little, minister at Unity of Fox Valley. “We don’t have a lot of ritual here. It’s about a personal connection with a higher power.”
That’s not to say she has harsh feelings toward any religion.
“We believe that all paths are a path to God,” Little said. “The Catholic Church has done an amazing job of educating generations of young people.”
Unity’s beliefs stray from traditional Christian beliefs. While it uses the Bible as a spiritual resource, Unity does not subscribe to the notion that Jesus was the son of God.
“Unity believes we are all the begotten sons of God,” Little said. “We are a religion of Jesus, not about Jesus. Jesus was a master teacher. He was a prophet.”
Mays said Jesus “is not our savior in the conventional sense. He is our wayshower.”
Nor does Unity believe in heaven and hell as geographic places or the concept of a devil. Little said there is no reference to the devil in Hebrew Scriptures.
“You make bad decisions, and you have bad outcomes,” Little said. “There’s no ‘devil made you do it.’ ”
Other churches have beliefs that differ from Unity’s, such as Holy Cross Catholic Church in Batavia.
“The Catholic Church is 100 percent in favor of unity,” said the Rev. Keith Romke of Holy Cross Catholic Church. “Christ himself prayed that we might be one, just as he and the Father are one.”
At the same time, Romke said “we cannot simply come to compromise on what we believe for the sake of unity. We need to spend time trying to understand and to follow the specific truth of what it is that Christ taught.”
Romke refuted Unity’s belief that Jesus isn’t the son of God.
“Jesus is the son of God and has been since the beginning of time,” he said.
Quoting Scriptures, Romke said, “The Father then sent His son to redeem us from our sins so that through baptism God’s life might come to dwell in us so that we might become adopted sons and daughters of God.”
The Rev. David Newhouse, senior pastor at Batavia United Methodist Church, said his church has “tried to be very open to people’s questions of theological thought.”
“We want people to ask questions,” he said.
Newhouse noted no one “knows quite what heaven and hell is.”
“The qualities of heaven are to be in communion with God, and the qualities of hell are separation from God,” he said.
The Rev. Michael Rasicci of Calvary Episcopal Church in Batavia said he didn’t know a lot about Unity of Fox Valley’s beliefs.
“They seem to fill a need in a lot of people’s lives for spirituality,” he said. “I know in the past they’ve done a lot of work on healing of people, particularly those who are struggling with various addictions.”
Kathleen Fee, 50, of Batavia has been coming to Unity of Fox Valley for almost a year. She said she is a recovering alcoholic.
“This church has given me the courage to start my own business,” Fee said.
The business, GirliePower, which she founded with another woman, Mary MacDonald, sells products designed to empower woman.
Marge Orchard, who previously studied for five years to be a nun, said her life has improved immensely because of her involvement with Unity of Fox Valley. She has been part of Unity for 19 years and is a licensed Unity teacher.
“It is about being able to see that power of God in each one of us,” Orchard said.
For information, visit www.foxvalleyunity.org.