The History of Unity on Maui
Unity Church of Maui began as a divine idea in the heart and mind of Gaye Fleming, a Unity student and a Maui resident. In the mid-1960s Reverend Dorothy Pierson, co-minister (with her husband Reverend Phil Pierson) of the Unity Ministry in Honolulu, responded to the urgings of Gaye and agreed to meet monthly with a group of Unity students at a hotel in Wailuku. A few of those in attendance at the group’s first meetings were Gaye Fleming, Barbara Fisher, Marie Johns, and Kay Schulenberg. In 1967 when the Pierson's moved on, Reverend Stan Hampson, the Unity Ministry in Honolulu’s new minister, continued meeting with the Maui Study group.
In 1976 Unity Church of Maui hired its first full time “official” minister, Reverend Susan Colombero. Services were held at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Kahului. There was also a bookstore and prayer room on Market Street in Wailuku, as well as an active youth program.
Reverend Diane Sickler was Unity Church of Maui’s next minister and Sunday services were moved to the Maui Beach Hotel. It was in 1979, during Reverend Sickler’s ministry, that Unity Church of Maui was incorporated.
Reverends Dorothy and Phil Pierson returned to Maui and began their television program, The Best is Yet to Be, in late 1979. Reverend Dorothy also held church services on the west side in Lahaina at the Royal Lahaina Hotel, and in Wailuku at Ka’ahumanu Church. Reverend Dorothy was assisted by Reverends Mary Stovin and Mary Lee Douglass and Licensed Unity Teacher Frances Oja.
Reverend Elizabeth Smith became the next minister of Unity Church of Maui in 1987. For the next 12 years, Sunday services, the bookstore, and classes were held in the little storefront the church rented in Waikapu. Counseling services were also offered there. It was during this time that such notables as Willie Nelson, James Dillet Freeman, and Wayne Dyer, Ph.D. made guest appearances at Unity Church of Maui.
Barbara Fisher recounts that “in 1990 we were blessed with the wonderful interim ministers Reverends Thora and Weaver Hess.”
In 1991 Reverend Judith Grimes became minister. Under her nine-year leadership, the church grew, and purchased the property on High Street. In 2000, as the renovations on the High Street property got underway, Reverend Judy resigned as the minister, and Reverend Mary Omwake became the new Spiritual Leader of Unity Church of Maui.
Under Reverend Mary’s leadership the renovations on the High Street location were completed, but the building was outgrown very quickly. After meeting for a short time at the Maui Lu in Kihei, the church moved to the Maui Tropical Plantation, once again meeting in Waikapu. During this time the church grew rapidly, and was so successful that Easter and Christmas Eve services were held in the Castle Theater at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center. After a change in ownership at the Maui Tropical Plantation forced another move, the church found a new home back at the Seventh Day Adventist Church. In early 2007 Reverend Mary announced to the Board that she would be retiring as of July.
After several months at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, due to pending construction there, the congregation of Unity Church of Maui took to the road, meeting in a variety of locations, including the Stepping Stone Theater, as well as those already mentioned. It became a good natured joke and test of faith in the Unity community – “Where’s Unity meeting this week?”
In March 2008, Reverend Darlene Strickland became Unity Church of Maui’s minister, and in late 2008 Unity Church of Maui was led to the Binhi At Ani Community Center in Kahului. A spacious, bright meeting space with a kitchen. Just the place for a joy-filled band of Unity students to learn, pray and play together.
In mid-2009, Reverend Darlene announced that Spirit told her that what she had come to Maui to do was finished. Cynthia Wilson, a Licensed Unity Teacher who Reverend Darlene had invited to help out just weeks before, was asked to be the interim Spiritual Leader. She held that position until late summer 2010, when she felt called to move to Unity’s ministry in Australia.
In January 2011, the Board decided to move services back to the church’s home on High Street. But because the Special Use Permit specifically prohibited Sunday services, the services were moved to Saturday. After a little more than a year, the church successfully petitioned the Planning Commission to let services be held on Sunday again, pointing to the year of Saturday services that had not generated any complaints from neighbors.
For almost two years after Cynthia Wilson left, the church had a series of guest speakers for Sunday services, and no single spiritual leader. In early 2012, the Board decided that it was time to invite a new minister to lead the church once more, and chose Reverend Blaine Tinsley. He gave his first message on Easter Sunday in 2012, and continues to lead with loving humor and passionate spirituality.
The Board and congregation of Unity Church of Maui, always willing to be Spirit-led, continues to listen to God’s vision for Unity Church of Maui fully embracing the Robert Browning quote employed by Charles Fillmore and Phil and Dorothy Pierson, “The best is yet to be!”
The Unity Church of Maui history was compiled and edited by Marika Breckenridge, Denni Grace, and Michael Rodby, from the writings of Reverends Dorothy and Phil Pearson, Barbara Fisher, and John Tyler.