History of Unity of Harrisburg
Unity in the Harrisburg area began as an idea in the minds of a handful of Daily Word readers, one of whom was Joann Eichler. Our first meeting for organization of a Unity center in Harrisburg was September 13, 1981, at 11:00 am in The Office restaurant. Joann invited us to use her restaurant free of charge until we could get a group together.
Joann traveled to Unity Village and invited Rev. Audrey McGinnis to come to Harrisburg and lead us. At 60, Rev. Audrey was the oldest graduate at the time to complete the ministerial program. We incorporated October 1982 as Unity Church of Harrisburg with 40 charter members. One of those charter members, Helen King, is still active and attending.
Within a year, the church had grown to 80 members. Throughout the next four years, Unity met in a number of locations: hotels, senior citizen centers, and a store front on Bridge Street in New Cumberland. We grew to about 100 active participants and had two licensed Unity teachers: Ken Sauser and Alice Ann Miller from Allentown, PA, working with Audrey.
In June 1986, Rev. Audrey decided to move on. Rev. Claudell (Heffner) County was the first guest speaker hired in Audrey‘s absence, while the search for a new minister commenced. We hired Rev. Ron Field in November 1986, but Rev. Ron took another Unity position and left in November 1987.
Rev. Claudell came to candidate for the ministerial position and was hired in August 1988. Under Claudell’s influence, our church experienced a return to 100 congregants by December of that year. At that time we were holding services in the Holiday Inn in New Cumberland. We continued to grow with the addition of mid-week services, classes three times a week, and once-a-month workshops.
From January to March of 1990, over $50,000 was raised to purchase the first structure we could call our own, at a cost of $215,000. On April 1, 1990, we moved into the building at 4695 Charles road, Mechanicsburg. In January 1993, Kate McCutchan was hired as Music Director, a position in which she continues today. At the time of our 15th anniversary in 1997, we had an average attendance of 165 people per Sunday. In addition to the services, classes, and workshops, we helped two refugee families, one from the Ukraine and one from Bosnia, to relocate and get on their feet.
Rev. Claudell was blessed in December 1998 to take a position at Unity Village, Missouri, where she served until her retirement in 2016. Stephanie Seigh was church administrator form January to June 1999. Sharon Marquart, Licensed Unity Teacher, had been assistant to the minister under Rev. Claudell from October 1992 to October 1995. Sharon took over the management of the church from June 1999 until August 2000.
During this time, we created a “Buy a Brick” fundraising program to pay off our mortgage. The program spanned two years, and we paid off the mortgage the end of January 2002. Rev. Erica Trantham, a new graduate for Unity Village, became our minister in August 2000. With Erica’s enthusiasm and the guidance of our board of trustees, we purchased our current property at 927 Wertzviille Rd, Enola, on April 1, 2002.
We created the Capital Campaign in February 2002, with a goal of raising $125,000 by September of that year for all the renovation projects envisioned for the new church. Our congregation gave $139,000 to make our dreams become the reality we all share today.
August 2004, Erica decided to move on. Sharon Hillman, Licensed Unity Teacher, became Spiritual Leader while we searched for a minister. Rev. Richard Stone filled the position as our minister from June 2005 through January 2007. Sharon Hillman served as Assistant to the Minister during this time and remained as Spiritual Leader for the remainder of the year after Rev. Richard left. During this time, the wonderful labyrinth was built on our property.
After Sharon Hillman left in January 2008 to begin her own ministry, Unity of Harrisburg relied on a variety of guest speakers for the first ten months of the year. In October 2008, Sharon Marquart, LUT, became the interim spiritual leader for the next eight months until Rev. Linda Dominik was hired in June 2009. It was during Rev. Linda’s tenure that former Unity of Harrisburg minister, Rev. Erica Trantham, passed away. It was through Rev. Erica’s inspiration that our Peace Chapel was created.
When Rev. Linda resigned in December 2011, the board of trustees asked Dr. Terry Drew Karanen, pastor of Center for Spiritual Living Cumberland Valley to assist with the Sunday services, the upcoming holidays and provide some continuity through January 2012. During this time board and congregation pondered how to proceed. Dr. Terry continued on as guest speaker for the next two months and on Easter Sunday 2012, he became the new senior minister for our congregation. He served our congregation until July 2013.
From July 2013 until August 2017 Unity of Harrisburg was without a minister. During this time we were served well by a talented group of guest speakers while we interviewed and searched for a new minister. In addition, our congregation supported several fund raisers, designed to pay down our mortgage, set aside money for a minister’s salary, and pay for repairs to our HVAC system.
As we moved toward our 35th anniversary, our patience and persistence were rewarded by the appearance of Reverend Dan Landis. Rev. Dan joined our congregation on August 1, 2017, and under his guidancen we continue to be a prosperous, thriving community, extending love and light into the world.