A small group of earnest seekers of truth in Hawai’i found each other in 1930. They began to study together the teachings of Charles and Myrtle Fillmore and to incorporate their understanding of themselves as the “Image and Likeness of God” in their daily lives. They began to communicate with the leadership of the Headquarters of the Association of Unity Churches, located near Kansas City, Missouri at the Unity Village. This small group had a vision of having their own Unity branch church with their own ordained Unity minister.
The prayerful work of the faithful was answered in 1937 when Miss Marie Parker Handly heard the Call to Service, left her position at Unity School in Missouri, and made the pilgrimage to Honolulu to organize the Unity Chruch of Hawai’i. Reverend Marie’s first Church Service was held on Sunday morning, October 10, 1937, in the old Boston Building that was located on Fort Street. Reports indicate that 20 people were in attendance. They had gathered $400 to start the Church treasury. The Unity Chruch of Hawai’i officially became a reality. From 1937 through 1963 the church’s official name was: The Unity Church of Truth of Honolulu, Hawai’i.
Anticipating continued growth, the congregation followed Reverend Handly’s recommendation that they find a larger and more permanent location for their Chruch home, by moving their services to 240 Lewers Road in Waikiki in 1939. They soon purchased the property and entered into a period of sustained growth that continued during the 24 years of devoted leadership provided by Rev. Handly. She retired on May 1, 1961.
The Reverend Thomas Hopper served Unity Chuch of Hawai’i as Senior Minister from May 1, 1961, to July 1, 1962. On Nov 1, 1962, Reverend Phillip Pierson assumed the mantle of leadership as Senior Minister, and along with his wife Dorothy, provided leadership for the Church until January 1, 1967. Reverend Dorothy Pierson was officially hired as Co-Minister on July 1, 1963. When Reverends Phillip and Dorothy arrived, they were informed that the Honolulu Church had sold the property it owned on Lewers Road to Roy Kelly. It was sold with the understanding that Kelly would provide ground floor space for the Church in the hotel he would be building on that property. In the meantime, the Chruch had a tiny office in another of Kelly’s hotels (the Waikiki Surf Hotel) and held services there in an open courtyard area of that facility. There were then only about twenty people in regular attendance.
Rev. Phil soon realized that the facility being offered for services in the new Kelly hotel would forever limit the growth of the Chruch. The Church leadership began looking for property to buy. It would have to be in the Honolulu area, and be within the budgeted amount of approximately $250,000, the amount that Roy Kelly had paid for the old church property. They looked unsuccessfully for some time and finally told Kelly that they would be using his hotel space.
Then they received a call from a realtor saying he had heard the Church was looking for a property, He said he represented a woman (Mrs. Ronnie Thornally) who wanted to sell her island home at 3608 Diamond Head Circle. When Phillip and Dorothy first saw the property they said, “This is what Spirit has prepared for us!” The Church was able to purchase the property after meeting with all the neighbors in the Circle and telling them about the Church and gaining their approval. The purchase was made for the sum of $92,500.
On April 11, 1964, a groundbreaking ceremony was held on the Diamond Head site. Potter and Potter, local architects, put together the plans for a chapel that would seat 200 persons. The facility cost $70,000 to construct. A service to Consecrate Chapel was held on November 22, 1964, and Lowell Fillmore, son of Unity founders Myrtle and Charles Fillmore, was on had to represent the Unity School of Christianity. A special service was held in the new Sanctuary on Sunday, November 29, 1964, designated as “Lowell Fillmore Sunday”, with Tev Fillmore presenting a talk entitled “The Early Days of the Unity Movement”.
Rev. Phil and the leadership of the congregation knew they needed more property and began to envision the property adjoining as “already being ours.” It was. owned by a moan living on the Mainland. He had told his realtor that he would only sell for a large profit, which the Church was not in a position to pay. Holding to the assurance that “Spirit always provides,” Rev. Phip soon received a call from the realtor who said the owner had gotten into difficulty financially and needed immediate cash. He offered to sell his property for a fair price,, and the Chruch accepted it. The current Church facilities are located on these properties. While not wanting to leave Hawai’i, the Piersons were asked by Unity Headquarters to accept a new challenge in Sacrament, CA at the end of 1966.
V. Stanford Hampson became the Senior Minister on February 1, 1967, and served in that capacity until August 1, 1975. During his tenure, the church continued to grow and thrive. Under his direction, Unity Church of Hawai’i (Honolulu) reached out to Kauai, Maui, and the Big Island of Hawai’i to help develop congregations in those areas. The facilities on Diamond Head Circle continued to be developed.
On February 1, 1975, V Michael Murphy joined with the Unity Church of Hawai’i as its Senior Minister. On September 1,1980 Phillip Smedstad was hired to work with Rev. Michael as an Associate Minister. His particular assignment was to oversee the renovation of the Diamond Head Church. On May 1, 1982, Rev Phillip became the Senior Minister at the newly organized Windward Unity Chruch of Hawai’i. The Windward church evolved from the conscious efforts to expand Unity on the Island of Oahu. Rev. Michael had led a group of locals to the first service of the Windward Unity Church that resulted in 340 people participating at the event. He continued to serve as Senor Minister at Unity Church of Hawai’i until August 1, 1983.
Judith Childress was hired as and Associate Minister from July 1, 1982 to Novemeber 1, 1983.
On September 1, 1983, Reverend David McClure was hired to be Seniopr Minister. His wife, Donna McClure, was also hired on that date to be the Assistant to the Senior Minister. Both continued in those capacities until April 1, 1991.
While here, Rev. David and the Church tried a new fund raising event called The Talents Project. They gave away $20 bills to the congregation and told them to go, use their talents and increase the $20. It was based on Jesus’ Parable of the Talents. After eight weeks, the increase amounted to over $20,000. Teverend Carol Wright was the Associate Minister of Unity Church of Hawai’i from July 1, 1990 to October 1, 1992. She was a Licensed Unity Teacher and was Ordained as a Unity Minister in 1990.
Reverend Micholas Griffin served as Interim Minister from April 1, 1991 to October 1, 1991.
Reverend John Stickland became the Senior Minister on September 1, 1991 and continued in that post until March 1, 2001. He is particularly propd of the number of individuals who became Unity Ministers while he was at the helm of Unity Church of Hawai’i.
One of these Individuals was Suzanne Cameron Stover, the Education Director for the Church. She went through the “Field Licensing Program” of the Association of Unity Churches, was Ordained, and founded a Unity Church on the island of Kauai. Anohter individual, a Waikiki entertainer and soloist for the Church, named Patrick Dickson heard the Call, became Ordained and changed his name to Sky Liko St. John. Many Rev. Joun’s creations have touched and still touch the hears of many to this day. In addition to Unity Ministers and innovative programs, one of Rev. John’s creations is the “Handly-Pierson Stained Glass” window on the chancel that he’d commissioned Michel Caron to create. He also created a prayer room and asked Janet Starn to recreate the neural “Peace Be Still”, from Unity Village, on one of its walls.
Reverend Mari Gabbrielson was hired as the Associate Minister on Novemver 1, 1992 and held that post until April 1 ,2001 when she was elevated to position of Senor Minister. She was Senior Minsiter until February 1, 2003, Re.l Mari introduced the “Season for Peace and Non-Violence” to Oahu. The Chruch hosted Arun Gandhi (grandson of Mahatma Gandhi), and James Twyman (The Troubador of Peace).
On April 9, 2003, Reverend John Wingfield was hired as the Interim Senior Minister and worked in that capacity through May 1, 2005. On July 15,2005 Reverend Sky St. John was asked to be the Temporary Senior Minister at Unity Church of Hawai’i and he accepted. He was made the Senior Minister on February 27, 2006 and served in this capacity until he mad his transition on December 19, 2013. Rev. Sky had a wealth of ideas to grow Unity Church of Hawai’i and a seemingly equal amount of energy to accomplish all of it.