Hang in there. Don’t criticize or condemn. Keep an open mind. It will change. Keep in mind the purpose of the church: To show forth the unconditional Love of God in everybody.
~ Reverend John Webster
History of Unity
Unity in Dallas began in 1943, in a storefront building in downtown Dallas at 2020 Commerce Street. Led by Reverend Ruth Gillespie, the new Unity church consisted of one large room that could seat 100 with a small space partitioned off for the minister’s office. The congregation remained at that location until 1951 when the lease was not· renewed and the church only had a short amount of time to find a new facility. Reverend Gillespie found a building for sale at Greenville and McCommas in East Dallas. Originally a community church, then a day care center, required a $10,000 down payment. In just one Sunday service, this dedicated Unity group of 100 people raised the necessary funds.
The church, then called Unity Church of Practical Christianity, held its first service in the new building in September, 1951. The group was joined by an associate minister, the Reverend Cora Mae Crandall, who served alongside Reverend Gillespie for another 19 years until both of them retired. In August 1970, the Unity church merged with a local Religious Science group, and Dr. Curtis became the minister of the new church renamed The Unity Church of Dallas.
In a very short time the congregation outgrew this space, so plans were made to build a larger church. Land was purchased, about six acres, at the present location at 6525 Forest Lane, and the first phase of the present church was built. The first service was held October 14, 1973, in what is now Fellowship Hall. That remained the Sanctuary until 1986. In 1974, the congregation split with the departing members re-establishing Unity Church of Practical Christianity at its original Greenville and McCommas location.
As the congregation continued to grow, more parking was needed, so in March, 1977, 5-1/2 acres adjoining the original parking lot was acquired. That purchase included the White House which was used for weddings, receptions, and many other activities. In 1984, rapidly outgrowing the 350 seat sanctuary, Unity of Dallas began its “Build for Eternity” expansion program. In two years the present 1,000 seat Sanctuary, the Peace Chapel (renamed the John Webster Chapel in 2011), the Bookstore and Adult Classrooms were built. The first service in the present Sanctuary was August 24, 1986, with the official dedication service on October 12, 1986, just thirteen years after Unity began at this location.
In July 1992, Dr. Curtis decided to retire. The associate minister, the Rev. Ralph Lebkuecher, became the interim minister for 18 months. He was succeeded by the Rev. Marshall Norman for a period of eight months, after which the Rev. Debbie Tyson served as temporary minister. The Rev. Roy Healy was hired as senior minister in June 1995, but he also departed after a short tenure. Throughout these transitional years, John Webster, at the time a licensed Unity teacher, provided a steadying presence by conducting services whenever necessary and overseeing pastoral care. He was eventually ordained a Unity minister in 2001.
The Reverend David McClure became senior minister in May 1996 and served alongside his wife Donna until 2003. Donna entered a four-year ‘ ministerial program while working full-time at the church and was ordained by David at a celebration service in 2002. They brought in the Reverend Ellen Debenport as associate minister in 1999. She became senior minister in 2003 and served in that capacity until 2007. After extensive care for preserving architectural elements and decorative objects, The White House was demolished in 2007. Reverend Ed Townley served as interim senior minister for eight months in 2008. Reverend Karen Epps became senior minister in September, 2008. She departed in 2010. Reverend Anna Shouse, PhD served as transitional minister until February, 2013. The Reverends Aliza Bloom Robinson and Rob Robinson became senior ministers in May 2013 and served for two years. In May of 2016, we welcomed James Buchanan (LUT) as our Spiritual Leader. Onward and Upward!
John Webster has been called the spiritual rock of Unity of Dallas. He was certainly the heart of the church. An enthusiastic, early supporter of Unity of Dallas, John was a visionary who dedicated 30 years of love, light and life to the pastoral care and prayer ministry of our church. He was the calm voice and a true leader whenever the church needed guidance. John’s dedication to the Christ Spirit kept him in constant prayer for people in need. From lovingly holding prayers in the prayer box each Sunday literally, to visiting people in hospitals or sitting with someone personally, he knew the power of prayer. His favorite saying, when it didn’t seem like he was getting through to someone, was, “Let’s get you prayed up!” He also took his prayer ministry to every hospital in the city. He liked to bring a stuffed animal to all the patients he was visiting, no matter what their age. He knew that they needed to not only know someone cared, but to find hope in something tangible that they could hold on to.
Encouraged by Dr. Curtis, John began his illustrious career taking classes on a part-time basis and eventually became a licensed Unity teacher. When he retired from his job as Vice President of an insurance company, he opened his own agency and was very successful. He then sold his business and with the help of his wife Abbie, a Mary Kay Executive, John was financially able to devote all of his time to his pastoral and prayer ministry. He was ordained in 2001 after 30 years of love and prayer.
John was definitely a light for Unity and the world. A gentle soul who touched everyone he met. The greatest gift we can give to John’s memory is to strive to follow his example and let our own Christ Spirit shine through.
If you would like to honor John’s memory with a charitable donation, please contact the Unity of Dallas Endowment Fund for more information.
The Board of Directors is the team that guides the church spiritually and financially. While the work of the Board often involves budgets, personnel, and facilities; the board members also sign a pledge to support the church through their tithes, their prayers, and their commitment to apply Unity principles to any situation. If you wish to contact any board member, please send an email to the email under their name.