History of Unity of Ocala

1975 – Sunday, September 7th, Unity of Ocala Study Group kicks off with 14 attendees. First meeting held at the Holiday Inn West in Ocala with Rev. Paul Funk at the helm.

1976 – Unity of Ocala moves services to the old Marion Hotel, In 1977 to the Wedding Chapel at First Christian Church. Services officiated by visiting ministers.

1979 – Unity of Ocala becomes incorporated on April 27th.

1980 – Unity of Ocala moves to the Wayne Bruce Funeral Home on Maricamp Road. Rev. Marlowe Kline is hired as senior minister and Unity of Ocala takes in 53 charter members and becomes a full-fledged church.

1987 – Unity of Ocala moves to the Magnolia Shopping Center. Three ministers serve through 2000: Rev. Richard Stone, Rev. Scott Thornton and Rev. Eve Powers.

1995 – A “New Church” search committee formed to find a permanent location for services.

1996 – Sunday, September 1st, first service held at 101 Cedar Road, under the leadership of senior minister, Rev. Scott Thornton.

2000 – Rev. Judith Crooks hired as senior minister serving through 2002. Children’s ministry begins to grow.

2002 – First non-volunteer administrative assistant hired. Church runs for 10 months with guest ministers and guest musicians, under the direction of the Board of Trustees and Church Admin.

2003 – Rev. Bill Dodd begins ministry at Unity of Ocala on August 10. Hired following his ordination as a Unity Minister.

2004 – Membership growing quickly; votes to expand or relocate. Land found and approved on CR 475; bid to purchase contested by residents. Unity of Ocala withdrew from further negotiations.

2006 – Purchased Youth and Education Building at 2 Cedar Course in Silver Springs Shores (Adjacent to Church Building) from members of the church. Moved to two Sunday services to accommodate growth in attendance.

2008 – Church Property at 101 Cedar Road paid in full. Capital Campaign started to secure funding for relocation.

2008 – January – March  negotiations re: Shiloh on 301 in Belleview. Financing not available. Shiloh back on the market March 28th, 2008. Sold to El Faro in April 2008.

2009 – March Rev. Bill Dodd resigns.

2009 – April thru October 2010 – Church run by Church Admin – Jeanne Joiner. Guest ministers were contracted for Sunday Services.

2010 – October, Rev Marylou Palmer hired as senior minister.

2012 – March, Rev Marylou Palmer ended her ministry at Unity of Ocala. She resigned in January and left in March.

2012 – From March 2012-December 2013, church ran without a minister. Utilized guest ministers and musicians on Sundays and church run by volunteer Board President, Jeanne Joiner.

2014 – January – Rev. Prentiss John Davis is hired and begins as senior minister. He retired on April 29th 2019.  We were so blessed by his leadership, both in spirit and in business.

2019 – Unity House – Youth Education Building was sold. Decision endorsed by vote of the membership.  Mortgage paid in full with some left over for future use.

2020 – April – Rev. Lauri Gist starts as the new senior minister at Unity of Ocala.  She comes to us with many years of service in the Unity Movement and was the Senior minister at Unity of Citrus County, one of our sister churches here in North Central Florida. 

At the same time that Unity of Ocala hired Rev. Gist, we had to close our doors due to the restrictions caused by COVID-19.  Our last in-person service was held on March 15th 2020.  We remained closed from March 15th through October 18th 2020.  When we reopened our doors we changed our service format and opted to hold two Sacred Small Gatherings, one at 9:30 am and a second at 11:00 am.  Each gathering is limited to 16 participants. Seating is spread out to observe CDC recommended social distancing. Masks are also required. 

2021 Services have changed since October 2020.  We are now back to one service at 10 am, followed by Unity Conversations at 11 am.  Rev. Lauri Gist remains our senior minister on a part-time basis.  We have also lifted the mask requirement in November of 2021 based on the rapid decline of positive cases in the Marion County area.  Beginning November 7th, masks are only required for non-vaccinated guests.  While conducting in-person services, we also continue to produce recordings for our virtual subscribers. 


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