Unity of Garden Park stands today as a monument to what a small group of dedicated people can do when they persevere in their efforts to be of service though prayer.
It was on October 20, 1942 when a group of approximately 100 persons met at the office of Charles Lenhart, 125 E. McMicken Avenue. This group, which came out of the Cincinnati Unity Center on Sixth Street, wanted its own prayer group and leader. (There were two other Unity groups in Cincinnati at the time, one being the Oakley Unity Center and the other the Cincinnati Unity Center.)
Mr. Lenhart asked those he knew at the Cincinnati Club if they knew of a place the group could rent. He was informed that the Phoenix Building at 812 Race Street, owned by the Cincinnati Club, was available.
Thus, it was that the Truth Prayer Group held its first open meeting on November 1, 1942 at that location with Mr. Lenhart and Alice Grater holding the group together. Both continued to serve on the platform, with Alice Grater giving the lessons. When the Cincinnati Club decided it needed its rental space, the group looked for a home of its own.
During this period Millie Leslie was asked to conduct meetings and she accepted, teaching the first one in July of 1942. At various times during 1944 and 1945, efforts were made to secure recognition form Unity School of Christianity, and also an attempt was made to get a leader accredited by the School. Many encouraging letters were received and the group was advised to continue in the work it was doing.
In October of 1945 the name “Unity Temple of Truth Prayer Group” was adopted. On November 18, 1945 the Ninth Street property was purchased for $16,800. Mr. Lenhart, at this point, offered the title to his real estate as security for a loan of $13,000. Plans were suggested for remodeling, but it was decided to tear down the existing structure and build a new one instead. The new church building had to be 26 feet wide and 130 feet long, the same as the building they had torn down. The project, including the property, razing of the old building and construction of the new one-story edifice, represented an expenditure of $100,000. The building contained a sanctuary seating 120 persons, Sunday School rooms and office space. While the new building was being built, the group met in the Mayfair Room of the Sinton Hotel. Its stay there lasted for two and a half years.
In February of 1946 Rev. Ethel Higgins accepted the ministry, but stayed in Cincinnati for only four months, deciding she would prefer work in California. In May of 1946, the church name was changed again to “Unity Temple of Truth”.
On September 12, 1946 Dr. William Quinn came from Columbus, Ohio to work with Cincinnati Unity Center and a merger of these two groups was suggested by Unity School. A vote was taken on the matter. The Unity Temple members voted against the proposal 54 to 6, still wishing to keep their own group intact.
The Temple group, having repeatedly sought the cooperation of Unity School, without success, nevertheless persisted in its efforts to become recognized. A consecrated purpose and a definite consciousness of God’s guidance played an important part in this decision. These members loved Unity and worked for several years to qualify and attain church status.
In January of 1947 Millie Leslie was chosen as the leader and, on May 26, 1947, she became a licensed teacher. Mrs. Leslie, a quiet person whose life was dedicated to the ministry, found at this point, her own personal struggle for recognition from Unity School to be entwined with of the Temple’s same effort.
When Millie Leslie accepted the leadership position at the Temple, it was contrary to the rules of the Field Department of Unity School so her teacher’s license was revoked. However, despite the attitude of the Field Department, Mrs. Leslie decided to follow her chosen course and keep faith with the Unity Temple. She took up her task and worked faithfully and diligently for the good of the work.
On June 29, 1949 Mrs. Leslie was re-instated as a licensed Unity teacher by Unity School. This automatically brought official recognition of the church as an authorized Unity Center.
On January 21, 1950 Unity Temple of Truth was incorporated and, on June 20, 1950, Millie Leslie was ordained as a Unity minister.
The cornerstone laying ceremonies of the new church structure took place on April 8, 1951, led by Rev. Effie Smith, Dr. Erna E. Wissmann, Charles Lenhart, president of the Board, and Alice C. Grater, chairman of the cornerstone committee. December 23, 1951 was the date of the first service at the temple on Ninth Street. The church continued to prosper and the group rejoiced in its new quarters.
In March of 1975 Rev. Leslie retired, after serving for 26 years as minister and for a total of 33 years with the group. She made her transition on December 1, 1980.
As so often happens after the retirement of a beloved and strong leader, the church members then spent some years trying to find someone else who might carry on the work effectively. In April of 1975 Rev. Paul Stewart was minister, only to in his resignation after eight months. In March 1976 Rev. Robert Wesner took over the church leadership, but left in January of 1978.
In February of 1978 Rev. Frank Hanson came to the Temple from Louisville, Kentucky. Rev. Hanson was much beloved by both the congregation and other Unity groups outside his church. A congenial, sincere man, he had a way of making people feel welcome. During his ministry the property next door was purchased for future growth. However, Rev. Hanson made his transition in 1981, before the project could be started.
Rev. James Dawson came to the Temple in May 1982 and stayed until February 21, 1983. It was decided about this time to place the church property on the market because of its location and parking problems. It was felt that new property would encourage growth which had been declining.
On April 15, 1983, Rev. Rebecca Lynne began her service as minister of the church. Shortly after Rev. Lynn’s arrival, a seeming miracle happened…an offer was received and the decision was made to sell the property. A new location was found on the very next day at 3581 W. Galbraith Road. This beautiful property of five acres had been a nursery years ago and is filled with lovely trees, shrubs and a greenhouse. The closing date on the property was September 15, 1983. The price-$269,000 was paid in full, and the name of the church was changed to Garden Park Unity-Church of the Daily Word.
Plans began immediately for construction of a new church which would be attached to a house on the property. Construction began October of 1984, and was completed in June of 1985. Until the church was built our congregation held services at Colerain Senior High School for one and a half years.
The cost of the new sanctuary to approximately $500,000, making the total value of our property, to date, worth more than $1,000,000.
On September 22, 1985, the new sanctuary was dedicated. Rev. William L. Fischer from the world headquarters at Unity Village, Missouri spoke at the dedication. From humble beginnings the prayer group the ministry was now able to serve more people in a larger and more beautiful facility.
The Garden Park Unity Church membership continued to expand at its new location by drawing members from the north and west side of Cincinnati, and from southeast Indiana. New members also came Unity ministries that had closed their doors. These ministries include: Christ Unity Church of Fairfield (formerly of Hamilton), and Unity By the Side of the Road in Cincinnati.
Reverend Rebecca Lynne served as minister until September 1989. From October 1989 until February 1990 Reverend Daniel Douglas served as interim minister. From March 1990 until March 1991 Reverends Guy Lynch and Linda Dominick-Lynch served as co-ministers. From March to December 1991 Reverend Edd Dawson served as interim minister. From January 1992 until December 1994 Reverend Claudette Farone served as minister. From October 1994 to March 1995 Barbara Douthitt, licensed Unity teacher, served as spiritual leader. From March 1995 until March 2005 Reverend Alden Studebaker served as minister.
From March 2005 until November 2005 Reverend Steve Colladay served as interim minister, followed by Julie Keene until October 3, 2009.
Reverend Kathy Engelhardt, Licensed Unity Teacher, serves as spiritual leader since October 4, 2009. The church Board of Directors voted to join the Unity World Wide Ministries branding program in 2013. A DBA (Doing Business As) entity was created to add the new church name “Unity of Garden Park”.
In the 30 years that Garden Park has been in its present location, many improvements have been made to the property. The greenhouse and swimming pool were both removed since they were not serviceable for our needs. In 1994, a gazebo was erected. In 1996, a meditation garden was created on the former swimming pool. Many weddings are held in this idyllic garden/gazebo area.
In the Prayer Room, a painting of nature enhances the wall. It is of a waterfall, and creates a peaceful setting for those in meditation. This was painted by Nancy Rembold. She also has a painting in the Fireside Room by the hearth.
The beautiful stained glass window in the sanctuary: measuring 17x60 ft. depicting Jesus walking on the water was commissioned by David Duff, owner of Classical Stained Glass in Over the Rhine, Cincinnati. This window was donated by the Jasper family.
Garden Park Unity Church continues to be a place of spiritual support and teaching for the people of the greater Cincinnati area – fulfilling its mission of being a nurturing community, dedicated to our spiritual growth through learning and living the positive, practical teachings of Christianity – and stretching toward its vision of FINDING LIFE’S ANSWERS TOGETHER!
(original author unknown).