Saturday, March 03, 2007

TU Article on local Unity Church pastor

"Meaning of Life" research:


Minister incorporates techniques of Eastern religions into services

First published: Saturday, March 3, 2007

Rev. James Fuller: Minister at Unity Church in Albany. Background: Born in Oakland, Calif., and raised "all over the country." He graduated from University of North Carolina, at the Greensboro and Charlotte campuses, with degrees in art and psychology. He worked with developmentally disabled adults. Fuller attended Unity's Ministry School of Christianity in Kansas City, Mo. He and his wife, Kay, live in Delmar. They have four adult children.

You've been in your first pulpit for four years. What made you become a minister?

Kay and I have been on a spiritual quest since the late 1980s. In 1997 at a retreat in Roanoke, Va., we were singing sacred songs of many traditions and I was inspired to go into ministry. Many of the things I had learned in my first career were helpful in the ministry.

What can you tell us about the history of Unity Church?

Unity started off in the late 1880s as a Saturday Bible group and prayers. There was a lot of freedom in thinking in those days.

Unity is eclectic. By faith tradition, we use the Bible. We see Jesus as a great prophet, healer, a man who is literally alive with the spirit of God.

We look at the teachings in light of a broader spectrum. We go back to the transcendentalists of the late 1880s, like Emerson and William James. These people were looking at Christianity and also at Eastern teachings. We take prayer techniques from some of the Eastern religions and incorporate contemplation and periods of silence. We try to connect with the inner spark of divinity.

I recently created a 10-week series of classes using "The Secret," an Australian film, to teach about the law of attraction, how we hold thoughts in our minds and how that can cause things to show up in our lives. The film attempts to help people become aware of these thoughts to attract the things they would like to have in their lives, for instance, prayers, opportunities for service and career.

How big is your church?

Nationally, there are about 700 Unity churches and worldwide about 1,000. Membership here is 250. We have a wonderful community. We tend to attract an older congregation. We are working on expanding our music program and on attracting the younger ones.

How do you reach out to the community?

We try to pair up with other local groups. We donate food and supplies to the Center City Parish Ministry and recently had a drive for diapers.

We sponsor concerts, talent shows and movies. Six 12-step groups meet at our church. Philosophically, our teachings work similar to theirs.

We have a business fair on Sunday from 12:30 to 3 p.m. for people in the church and community to showcase their small or home-based businesses.

How do you connect with people beyond the local community?

We have a church member who is in the Peace Corps in Mali. The people there requested English-language Bibles, which we were able to send there.

One member is a filmmaker who is making a documentary about her work with the Fresh Water Project in Malawi. We have raised money for wells there.

-- Azra Haqqie