A Short History of Unity Center of Tulsa
Unity Center of Tulsa was founded by Rev. Grace Kehrer in 1938. The prayer group met in Mrs. Kehrer’s home and later moved to a store front on S. Boston Ave. The store became the home of Ike’s Chili Parlor… necessitating a move upstairs into the ballroom of the Masonic Temple at 7th and Boston. In 1945 they were incorporated by the State of Oklahoma as the Unity Center of Tulsa.
Circa 1953-54 they moved into the first stages of the church at 19th and Boston and the name was changed to Unity Temple of Tulsa. This stage of construction did not include the lobby or sanctuary as we know it today. The additional stages of the church, according to the plans drawn by Cecil Stanfield, were never built. Another rendering by architect Daniel Eichenfeld for church construction also was never adopted. Dissension developed during this period related to the discussions of the new building. A group left the church, chose Etta Martin as a leader, and stayed active until 1968.
Mrs. Kehrer retired from active ministry in 1956 and was succeeded by Rev. Norman B. Godfrey. He served as minister until 1977. Mr. John Clark succeeded Rev. Godfrey in 1977 and remained in that position until 1986.
Rev. Helen Calloway became minister and remained until 1998. Shortly after she became minister, the name was changed back to Unity Center of Tulsa. During her time, the beautiful wood wings at the front of the church were commissioned and donated by Vicki Madsen. It was also during this time that Bill Ferguson and George Matarazzo gave the Moffatt Memorial Garden in honor of Dorothy Moffatt, a longtime member. Steve Eberle, a landscape designer, created the design for the garden and took care of planting beautiful shrubs and flowers that would appeal to all people regardless of any disability.
In October of 1998, Rev. Dian Williams became Temporary Minister. She and her husband were installed as permanent ministers in July, 1999 and stayed until their resignation in March, 2003. During their tenure, the church remained vital and growing. Although possibilities for expansion of the physical facilities was investigated, no decisions were made at that point.
Ann Marie Davis came in June of 2004 and stayed for 10 years. During her tenure a large variety of classes, workshops, and events were offered. The church was vibrantly alive and hosted the Tibetan monks several times. The monks, who first visited the church in 1991 and have come several times since, are from the Drepung Monastery in Tibet and their visits are always an exciting event. This monastery provides education and health care to thousands of Tibetans every year.
(Monks from Drepung Monastery in Tibet creating a sand mandala at UCOT during their 2019 visit.)
After Ann Marie resigned for family and health reasons, Rev. Joy Walker was minister for a short time. Rick Belous led the church from 2016 to 2020. During his time here, his lovely wife Debbie, made her transition. He accepted an opportunity to move back east where his extended family resides and lead a Unity Church in Roanoke, Virginia with plans to create a retreat on their 26-acre campus.
Then the Covid Pandemic hit, and church members were not able to meet in person from March until October of 2020. Services were streamed and presently we are a hybrid church with in-person speakers as well as on Zoom.
Since Rev. Belous left, the Board determined that Unity Center of Tulsa would benefit from an interim minister. Rev. Joanne Burns has been working with the church community and board for a year to streamline administrative processes as well as transition to a more functional and vibrant internet presence.
Currently, UCOT is partnering with our sister church, Unity of Tulsa-Midtown, on community outreach as well as beginning our search for a minister.