Unity Adapts its Mission for a New Era
Rev. Mark Lord
Southwest Floridians are blessed with three 21st-century spiritual community centers—Unity of Fort Myers, Unity of Naples and Unity of Bonita—where residents and visitors to the area can find spiritual refuge in a positive, practical progressive approach to Christianity based on the teachings of Jesus and the power of prayer. While feeling a sense of inspiration and serenity are natural occurrences on the Unity campuses set amidst the beauty of Florida’s natural landscapes, even more divine influence is provided by monthly classes and activities led by Unity ministers and teachers. Unity of Naples and Unity of Fort Myers both recently experienced a change in leadership, with new ministers striving to awaken the minds of aspiring souls to their own divinity and the unconditional love of God.
Unity of Naples
Reverend Mark Lord, the new Unity of Naples minister, is the founder of two spiritual centers in Chicago—the Bodhi Spiritual Center and the Cityside Spiritual Center, an Agape International Spiritual Center. “I was licensed as a Unity teacher in 1995. After I moved to Los Angeles and began experiencing Reverend Michael Beckwith’s new thought-ancient wisdom tradition of spirituality at his Agape International Spiritual Center, I enrolled in classes offered by Agape’s University of Transformational Studies and Leadership and began studying with Michael,” advises Lord.
Having studied Unity and the New Thought/ancient wisdom tradition, Lord is clear about the difference and explains, “They are complementary, but different. New-Thought is focused on healing the mind and the power of the I AM presence. New Thought philosophy is ‘change your thinking, change your life’. Unity is Christian-based, very heart-centered, more devotional and uses the Bible. What I like about both is that they are very much focused on affirmative prayer as a connection to god and they are guilt-free without condemnation,” says Lord.
Being away from the pulpit for four years brought about clarity in Lord. “It became clearer that I was being called to return to managing a church. Unity of Naples captured my heart. Not only were we a perfect match, Unity feels like a homecoming to where my spiritual life started at age 14,” notes Lord.
Lord’s vision for Unity of Naples includes offering online classes and training, which creates more accessibility and helps more people who are interested in spiritual growth and healing their relationship with God.
Unity of Fort MyersAfter closing his Chattanooga, Tennessee real estate business, Reverend Clive deLaporte moved to St. Petersburg with the intention of taking a year off to reflect upon what was important and discover what was next. “My first realization was that I wanted make a spiritual contribution to humanity. I’d been on a spiritual quest for 30 years and studied most of the spiritual texts. Even though it brought up more questions than answers, I was able to develop my own spiritual philosophy.”
He explains, “I decided I wanted to write a book and create seminars on my philosophy, but after two weeks of solitary writing, I got bored with my own company and went to First Unity’s Wings Bookstore for coffee. There, I saw books on the Unity philosophy and noticed that it matched 90 percent of mine. I jumped into the Unity education program and became a chaplain.”
As time progressed, deLaporte relates, “Mine has been an organic unfolding.; first as a prayer chaplain, a licensed unity teacher and in 2008, I became a licensed ordained minister and served as a Unity transitional consultant minister in Georgia and New Mexico before returning to Tampa, where I served for nearly two years at Unity of Tampa after their minister retired.”
A decision to stop flying all over the county to serve as a fill-in led deLaporte to send his resumé to three Unity churches looking for a new minister. The first to respond with an invitation was Fort Myers, where he has been building community since January. “In our challenging socio-political environment, we want to present ourselves as an open and welcoming spiritual center for all people. We invite everyone to come and enjoy spiritual insights and inspiration in our oasis of fellowship where we help them to discover and realize their spiritual potential,” advises deLaporte, whose busy spiritual campus hosts spiritual education and enrichment classes, as well as book study groups facilitated by licensed Unity teachers. On Tuesdays, deLaporte offers a one-hour meditation and group discussion of his Sunday 20-minute message. “This allows individuals to go more in-depth into my message and experience deeper spiritual insights,” he says.
Unity of Fort Myers, 11120 Ranchette Rd., Fort Myers. For more information, call 239-278-1511 or visit UnityOfFortMyers.org.
Unity of Naples, 2000 Unity Way (off Davis Blvd.), Naples. For more information, call 239-775-3009 or visit UnityOfNaples.org.