Brief History of Unity in New York City
Justin Epstein became Minister of The Unity Center in November, 2011. He also served as Associate Minister at The Center from 1999 to 2004, and had the rare opportunity of working with Eric and having many private conversations with him on a variety of topics…including golf! During that time, Justin led Sunday Services in Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center and conducted Tuesday Lecture Series and Workshops at The Center. He also had a cable television show, “Practical Spirituality,” which aired weekly in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. And, he graduated from the American Comedy Institute and performed in comedy clubs throughout the City.
In 2004, Justin became the Senior minister of the Unity Church of Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, where he served for seven years. While in Hilton Head Island, Justin wrote a bi-monthly column “Practical Spirituality” for the local newspaper reaching thousands of people.
Raised Jewish, Justin attended Hebrew School through the sixth grade and received Bar Mitzvah in an orthodox temple, Though many seeds for the spiritual journey were planted growing up, it was as a freshman at James Madison University that he began to read and attend lectures by such people as Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Robert Schuller, Swami Satchidananda, Dr. Maxwell Maltz, Wayne Dyer, Brian Tracy, Anthony Robbins, Unity authors, and others. Fascinated with the spiritual journey and having natural talent in communication, Justin graduated Magna Cum Laude in Interpersonal Communications and Religion-Philosophy. He also received the Religion Award and Warren Hobbie scholarship as “The Person Most Likely to Make a Difference Through Organized Religion.”
In 1993, Justin became one of the youngest ordained ministers in the history of Unity. He served as assistant minister at Christ Church Unity in Kansas City and Unity Church of Tidewater in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Inspired by the teachings of revered yogi sage Paramahansa Yogananda, author of the spiritual classic Autobiography of a Yogi, Justin lived, worked and studied for three years at Ananda Village, one of the most successful yoga/meditation retreats and spiritual communities in the world. There, he became a licensed Ananda Yoga instructor and also began speaking in Unity, Religious Science, and other New Thought Churches throughout Northern California. Justin’s background of Judaism, Christianity, Yoga philosophy, and personal development studies are evident in his Sunday messages and weekly workshops.
Justin is the author of the CD program, “The Enlightened Golfer: Merging Mind, Body, & Spirit Through the Game,” which he has taught to hundreds of golfers. And…Justin’s book SUPER YOU: The 7 Steps to Profound Peace & Personal Power will be published in the Spring of 2012. “Super You is a wonderful book that shows you how to tap into your amazing powers for success, happiness and inner peace.” – Brian Tracy, author of “No Excuses!”
Justin’s Vision of the Unity Ministry:
“A ministry exists as a community, a body of people who have
come together to support one another in spiritual growth.
As a minister, I can share with people Spiritual and Personal
Growth Principles to enable them to express their potential
as an individualized expression of God.”
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The Unity Center of Practical Christianity in New York City was founded by Georgiana Tree West in 1936. She authored many popular articles and books for Unity expressing the teachings in a clear and practical way. Georgiana was the Minister at The Center until 1959, when she was succeeded by another well-known Unity Minister: popular author and poet, J. Sig Paulson, from 1959 to 1961. One other distinguished Unity Minister who served in New York City was Richard Lynch, who wrote many best-selling books on Unity Metaphysics.
Eric Butterworth served as Minister of the Unity Center of Practical Christianity from 1961 to 2003. Eric’s daily radio programs and books have inspired millions, helping people live more God-centered, richer lives. His books, Discover the Power within You, Spiritual Economics, and The Universe is Calling, have been used as part of the curriculum for Unity ministerial training. Under Eric’s leadership, Sunday Creative “Worth-ship” Services were held in Carnegie Hall, Town Hall, and Avery Fisher Hall. Eric’s ministry is most strongly associated with Avery Fisher Hall, where he held Services from 1976 until his transition in 2003. Through his daily and weekly radio broadcasts, Eric was a source of inspiration to countless thousands of people, and greatly expanded the ministry of The Unity Center. His ministry continues through his writings and recorded talks, which are available at our bookstore, “The Discovery Room.” You can listen to a different inspirational message by Eric (from the archives of his radio broadcasts) every day on his website, www.EricButterworth.Org, the official website of the Eric Butterworth Foundation.
Eric Butterworth was succeeded, in 2004, by Jim Gaither, who served until November, 2011. Jim was ordained in 1979 and has an M.A. in philosophy from the University of Kansas, where he also did doctoral work. He served as Minister in Collinsville, Illinois for five years before joining the faculty of the Unity Ministerial Program. In his 20 years at Unity Institute of Christianity, he served as Chairperson of Historical Studies and Chairperson of Metaphysical Studies. In 2003, the Association of Unity Churches presented Jim with “The Charles Fillmore Award for Visionary Leadership.” He has published many articles in Unity Magazine since 1981 and had had a regular column there called “Metaphysical Musings” for over 10 years. He also edited and wrote commentary for the book, The Essential Charles Fillmore: Collected Writings of a Missouri Mystic, published by Unity Books. That work is part of the “Charles Fillmore Reference Library.”
Through the years of Jim’s tenure at The Unity Center, he demonstrated consistently and thoroughly the Truth and Principles that makes us Unity. For seven years, Jim was our leader, mentor, friend, and most importantly, our teacher. As a great teacher, Jim has shown us the path to True Enlightenment by practicing the Truths that can only lead to higher consciousness and purity of thought. These ideas were not only verbalized to us, but demonstrated by his daily behavior and made even clearer by his obviously Divine Intentions to help each and every one of us to continue on our own spiritual paths. Having never judged any student on their quest, he allowed each of us to grow according to our own speed and ability to comprehend and practice, daily, those Truths and Principles that are so naturally engrained within his Spirit. Always one to find the Light in any situation or person, Jim left behind a legacy of Love which is still felt by all. We bless Jim on his continuing journey to Enlightenment, one we are all sure he will reach with ease. We also bless Jim’s loving wife, dear Christine, who consistently shared her warmth and love with everyone through her natural flare for baking sweets and cookies.