Origins of Unity in Springfield, Missouri

In the beginning...

Unity of Springfield had its humble beginnings in 1933 with Marian Hoagland leading a small study group in her home, located at 449 E. Monroe. They called themselves the Springfield Unity Center. In 1940, the group was moved to a converted home at 224 W. State, and the name was changed to Springfield Unity Center of Practical Christianity. In 1943, Hoagland moved from the city, and for the next two years, services were conducted at the State street location by Rev. Fannie Baldwin from Unity Village in Lee's Summit, MO. In the fall of 1945, Polly Weeks became the full-time leader as the result of a special dispensation from the Unity Field Services Department. Weeks continued her personal studies and was ordained to the Unity ministry in 1954.

In October, 1949, the Center was moved to 213 E. Chestnut. This building had been built in the 1880's to serve a Swedish congregational denomination, and later became a Presbyterian mission known as Leard Chapel. It was located near City Hall, and in 1958, it was razed to make way for the new Chestnut Trafficway. At that time, a large home at 1300 E. Elm was purchased. Remodeling of that home included the addition of a peaked belfry to accommodate a large brass bell that had been moved from the Chestnut Street location, which had been acquired from the old Greenfield Academy. In 1960, Weeks took a leave of absence, and Rev. Robert Nutter became the minister. His wife, Roselle, was also an ordained minister. Nutter was succeeded by Howard Bradford in 1962. In 1965, Rev. Tom Newman assumed leadership. The following year, 1966, the name was changed again, this time to Christ Church Unity. In 1967, Rev. Ken Tiffany became the minister, and he passed the leadership torch to Rev. David Schumacher in March, 1968.

The merger of Brentwood Evangelical United Brethren Church with Schweitzer Methodist made the Brentwood property at 2214 E. Seminole available. In 1969, the property on East Elm was sold and Unity moved to its current location at the corner of Seminole and Luster. Rev. Schumacher instituted "Instant Inspiration" and "88-CHILD" (prerecorded telephone messages), as well as the Unity Art Gallery. David Schumacher was a dynamic leader in both the church and community for 14 years. Under Schumacher's leadership, satellite churches or study groups were begun in Joplin, Branson-Hollister, Shell Knob, Mountain Grove, and Buffalo.

 

Following Schumacher’s death in July, 1982, Rev. Paula McClellan from Unity Village accepted the position of Interim Minister. In November, 1982, she became the permanent minister, along with her husband, Foster, who was also an ordained Unity minister. Both had previously served at Unity Village for 15 years in the Retreat department.


Rev. Douglas Bottorff became the minister in 1983. During Bottorff’s tenure, Sue Baggett became the secretary and was soon given the title of Administrator. Bottorff accepted a position in Colorado in February, 1995, and the church operated with guest speakers until the hiring of Rev. Jacqueline Mace in August, 1997.

In April, 1999, the home next door to the church at 2302 S. Luster was purchased for $66,000, to be used as additional space for classes.

. In April, 2001, Mace relocated to North Carolina. In November, 2002, Rev. Dennis Young became the minister until September, 2003.

In 2005, Rev. Glen Mosely, President of the Association of Unity Churches, came to Springfield and offered Sue Baggett, then the acting Minister, the opportunity to become the Spiritual Leader of Christ Church Unity. The Board agreed and an offer was made and accepted. On January 1, 2006, Sue Baggett officially became the Spiritual Leader of Christ Church Unity. In early 2009, Baggett married Sean Spears, and became Sue Baggett-Spears, still retaining the title of Spiritual Leader to this day.

In August, 2009, the Luster house was redecorated and designated as the ‘Teen House,’ where the Uniteens and Youth of Unity continue to hold their meetings.

In order to comply with the branding research and packaging offered by Unity Worldwide Ministries (formerly called The Association of Unity Churches), Christ Church Unity became Christ Church Unity DBA [doing business as] Unity of Springfield, on July 6, 2011. In the latter part of 2011, the pews in the Sanctuary were sold and replaced by comfortable chairs, and the Sanctuary carpet was replaced. In June, 2012, a retractable screen was purchased for the Sanctuary. A new branded sign was also obtained in 2012.

2013 marked the 80th Anniversary of Unity in Springfield, Missouri! A celebration initially scheduled in December, 2013, had to be postponed because of hazardous weather conditions, but was held in April, 2014, with past and present members getting together for an evening of reminiscing and dancing to the music of the eight decades of Unity of Springfield’s existence.

At the present time, Unity of Springfield is served by the following Licensed Unity Teachers: Harry Sparks (retired), Kenneth Reitmeier, Dee Richardson, and Jeanette McKinney. The Minister, Sue Baggett-Spears, is also a Licensed Unity Teacher. There are twelve paid staff members (three full-time and 9 part-time), supported by a plethora of volunteers, without which the church could not function.

“Life is good, and it just keeps getting better!”