Unity of Bonita Springs was born in the summer of 1994 when newly ordained Reverend Sandra Lockey was encouraged by Unity of Naples to establish a Unity Center in Bonita Springs. The first Steering Committee meeting was held September 9, 1994 with the goal to begin Sunday services in November in a 1500 sq. ft. space leased in Springs Plaza.
Some temporary locations met the need until regular services were possible at the Springs Plaza location. Unity of Naples provided start-up funding and initial support for the fledgling church that was guided by a Steering Committee.
A Unity message, beautiful music, socialization among members after-church, and a loving atmosphere were original goals that continue. Jerry Stawski has provided the music since the first Sunday service.
Twenty-seven persons were received as members at the first Membership Sunday in March, 1995 in the presence of honorary guest, Charles R. Fillmore, for both the service and the following lunch.
Articles of Incorporation for Unity of Bonita Springs Christian Church, Inc.were officially filed with the State of Florida, in February 1997, and the first congregational meeting was held in March of 1997 to elect the first board of trustees and disband the Steering Committee. The search for a permanent location began.
By November, 1998, Unity of Bonita Springs was deeded its current five plus acres of natural Florida habitat and the land blessing was held on the property in April of 1999, the event covered by the Ft. Myers News Press. Planning and building construction followed leading to the Grand Opening Service for the newly built church building on the last Sunday in May, 2005, officiated by Rev. Sandra Lockey.
above: Rev. Sandra Lockey presiding
at the first Service, 11/94
below: Rev. Phil Schlaefer leading a
prayer in the Memorial Garden, 2018
Rev. Phil Schlaefer was hired as the minister, beginning in June of 2005. He and wife Jo, a Licensed Unity Teacher, served until their retirement in 2020.
Rev. Phil was happy to serve in the brand new church building. In addition to the Sunday Services, classes, workshops and spiritually-based activities, additions were made. An all-important sign was placed near Imperial Parkway, to let passers-by know that we are here. A porch was added, connected to the existing lanai; people can enjoy sitting outside. Next came a refrigerator and cabinets for the lanai. These enabled us to better enjoy social time with food; on good-weather days, classes and meetings are held on the lanai.
Inspired by Mary Ellen Rand, a walking path through the back of the 5-acre property was added. It is designated "Peace Path", with 12 stone benches, each representing one of our 12 spiritual powers. Connected to the Peace Path, a Memorial Garden was placed, for people to put the ashes of their deceased loved ones.
In 2013, we doubled the size of the parking lot. Because of a generous gift from Maxine Carter, one of the founders, a Minister's Study was added to the building in 2016. A Memorial Garden in her honor was placed next to the study. The most recent addition was a storage shed, mundane but necessary. Every one of these additions is paid for. We are debt-free!
We continue to be blessed by wonderful people as we carry on the Unity message of positive thinking, the Kingdom of God within us, and our oneness with each other and with God. Special thanks go to Rev. Sandra Lockey for paving the way, and to all the great volunteers who helped along the way. We look forward to serving as a spiritual family.
Following Rev. Phil Schlaefer’s retirement at the close of 2020, Unity of Bonita continued searching for a new Spiritual Leader. Rev. Alden Studebaker was hired in May 2021. He began serving as the new senior minister on July 15, 2021.