Early Unity on the Space Coast History
In 1971 Audrey Harness moved to Titusville from Detroit, Michigan, where she had been attending the Unity Temple in Hamtramck. As she became settled in her new community, she began to meet others who believed in and practiced Unity principles. Soon a small group began meeting in Audrey’s home. They studied many new thought books with such teachers as Dr. Mary Horgan and Rev. Betty Zimmerman.
Audrey flew to Unity Village for a retreat and to meet with Bill Fisher to see if a Unity minister could be sent here. Audrey was told that a ministerial student from Melbourne, Florida, Gladys Morris, was about to graduate. Rev. Morris was blind; and in spite of this, or perhaps because of this, she felt a strong desire to live an independent life. At that time, Great Falls, Montana, offered her a better opportunity to fulfill this desire, so the Titusville Unity group had to wait two more years for her to come to Titusville.
By September of 1976, Rev. Morris was back in Brevard County to perform the very first Unity service. Just by word-of-mouth and an ad in the paper, 40 people attended that first service, which was held at 4460 South Washington Avenue. Rev. Morris did not stay long, however, as her husband wanted her to return to Melbourne. Getting a new church started involved a great deal, and Rev. Morris and her husband felt she could not develop both the independent lifestyle she wanted and meet the new church needs.
After Rev. Morris left, Rev. Myrtle Ridgeway filled in for a short while. The church had moved to the Buena Vista Building, but people complained about the upstairs location, so a move was made to a vacant building at 3580 South Park Avenue (currently occupied by the Abundant Life Fellowship). When the rains fell, the members ran around with buckets. Another problem was that children persisted in skating on the roof. It was here that Walt Runge, a layperson, took over as the leader for a short time.
In 1985 Unity finally got their own minister, who was just back from two years in Australia. Katherine Geddes was originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and had been a teacher of the physically handicapped before becoming a Unity minister. After her arrival, the church location was given up because of a leaking roof and other problems. A former dentist office building on Highway 50 became the new location. The congregation and the many church-related activities quickly outgrew this building.
In 1990 a member of the church offered to donate acreage on South Street to build a Unity church. A group was formed that met often to discuss the feasibility of this goal. Eventually, plans were drawn up. A mortgage held by members of the congregation was put together. After months of planning, meetings with the city, the state, St. John’s Water Management district, the builder, plumbers, electricians, inspectors, roofers, etc., the new church building became a reality in 1994.
Written by Phyllis (Hudson) Strauss
In 1957 my parents, Kenneth and Lillien Hudson moved from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Indian River City, Florida. Indian River City was a suburb of Titusville, Florida. They lived on Jepson Street. They began going to a Unity church on Merritt Island; they called it a Garden Chapel. My husband, Roger, and I, Phyllis, began coming to Florida with our two children in 1958 to visit my parents.
In 1985, Ken and Lillien had switched to Unity on the Space Coast, which was meeting in a building on Hiway 50. The first day they went there was the day Rev. Katherine Geddes came for her first interview to become the new minister. After 1985, Roger and I attended several Unity picnics in Sandpoint Park with my parents. We met Rev. Geddes; friends Rose and Stan Young; Rose’s mother, Theresa; and Audrey Harness, the founder of that church. We also met Joe and Gil Calderwood, and their mother Elsa. They all became close friends with my parents.
Roger retired in 1987, and we began spending winters in Titusville. We bought a lot at the newly opened Great Outdoors RV Resort, on the first street, Sunset Drive. We put a Park Home on the lot, for our winter home. In May 1991, my parents bought a lot at the Great Outdoors, two doors from us, and put a Park Home there for their year-round home. It would be good living close for six months of the year. In August 1991, my Dad, Ken, passed away. Roger and I came from Michigan, and Rev. Geddes give his funeral service.
My mother, Lillien continued to attend the church. The new church building was in the planning stages. Charlie and Barbara Mars donated land on Highway 405, and the new church building was completed; the first service held there March 14, 1993.
When the church was completed, my mother, Lillien, purchased a silk tree for the altar in memory of her husband, Kenneth. My husband, Roger, and myself, Phyllis Strauss, bought a little smaller tree for the other side of the altar in memory of my Dad, Ken. Those two trees are still on the altar in 2016.
Rev. Geddes left the church and moved to the town of Steward in 1995. My mother continued going to the church as long as she was able. Lillien passed away on March 12, 1997. Roger and I were in Florida at the time. We called Rev. Geddes, and she came to Titusville and gave the funeral service for my Mom. Lillien and Kenneth Hudson are buried in Woodlawn cemetery on Garden Street.
Roger and I continued to spend winters at the Great Outdoors. When we arrived in 2005, we read in the paper that Rev. Katherine Geddes would be speaking at Unity on the Space Coast the following Sunday. We went to see and hear her. It was good to reminisce. We met Rev. Pat Wareham. We liked her and went to church the following Sunday. We joined the church that year.
We enjoyed the church each winter season we were here. We liked the large choir we had in 2006. Francis Reilly, who lived at the Great Outdoors, sang in the choir. Pinky Young played the keyboard. We liked her singing, too. Liz Mikitarian sang in the choir; she was very active in the church. Her husband George came, too, and we watched their son, Mickey, grow up. We had many friends in those winter months: Camille Goethe, Jeany Gonzalez, Ruby Kinch, and Mary Ellen and Joe O’Doherty. Joe always had a joke to tell us. Dede and Stan were good friends, too. Dennis and Dianne were good workers at the church and arranged the 2007 directory before they moved to California.
We especially liked the Easter season at the church. On Palm Sunday, each person was given a long, slim palm leaf when they entered the church. I suggested the children bring large, fan shaped palms into the sanctuary, in a procession, before the service began.
I had a lace tablecloth that had a picture of The Last Supper on it. I loaned it, and Rev. Pat used it for her special Tenabrae Service on Good Friday each year. Twelve candles were lighted, one for each Disciple, after a description of each was given. Each member of the congregation was given a small candle, and we lined up to light our candle from one of the 12 lighted candles, depending on which disciple we identified with. We have never seen a service like this at any other church. We had a sunrise service on Easter morning for several years. Two of the ladies at the church, Carol Taplin and Daurena Harrison, lived in a mobile home park on the Indian River, and it was a perfect place for a sunrise service. Rev. Pat made it special, and Barbara McGillicuddy added her wonderful voice for a very moving service. We went home for a quick nap before the Easter morning service at eleven a.m.
I started another event when I suggested ladies wear hats to our Easter service. I brought an assortment of hats from my Tea Hat Collection for our ladies who needed a hat to wear. We took pictures each year of the ladies in “Easter Bonnets.”