The First Unity Society
The story behind Unity of Tampa is a solid foundation of dedication and commitment that began 80 years ago. Mrs. Ruby Wagner began studying Unity in 1928, was ordained in 1944, and then handed the leadership of what was then called, ‘The First Unity Society’. The initial 82 members were received into membership on October 27, 1946, when the Church was incorporated. At the time of incorporation, the church was in its third location having moved to 413 Grand Central Avenue, with services held in the Tampa Women’s Club on Hyde Park Avenue.
Young Women's Sunday School
According to Church historical data, it was April of 1946 when the ‘Young Women’s Sunday School’ class began holding monthly meetings, adopting the name, ‘Keepers of the Light’. One of the leaders of that group was a woman named Clara Belle Williams, who served the church for 42 years prior to her retirement in April of 1990.
Although there are signs of a YOU group organizing as early as 1946, the first ‘Youth of Unity’ group was activated in 1950, and in 1951 became affiliated with International YOU at Lee’s Summit, Missouri. The YOU has had a strong presence for almost 50 years now, and has played an active role in the success of Unity of Tampa.
Under Ruby Wagner’s strong leadership, the congregation moved into their newly built church home on October 30, 1948. Mrs. Wagner radiated spirituality and love, and emphasized prosperity and healing in her teachings. Her husband Karl was witty and down-to-earth, and was choir director for many years. Mr. Wagner was ordained as a Unity minister in 1958, and became associate minister before his passing in 1967. Mrs. Wagner retired in 1972 after 30 years of service, and passed away February 10, 1985.
Ross Goodman became the Minister of Unity of Tampa when Ruby retired. He faced some very difficult challenges when the church of 33 years sustained a fire on New Year’s Eve, 1981. The congregation was forced to meet in the auditorium of the Tampa Preparatory School during the ensuing months. In 1982, the congregation began holding services on Sundays at the First Seventh Day Adventist Church at 822 West Linebaugh Avenue. The current home of Unity of Tampa was purchased approximately one year later after a diligent search.
Ross Goodman and his wife Joan led the church for almost 25 years prior to his retirement in January of 1997. He had met his wife at a YOU function and they were married in October of 1951. They parented seven children and both Ross and Joan were active in civic affairs. The current courtyard of Unity of Tampa is the ‘Goodman Courtyard’, which was built as a remembrance of their dedication, love, energy and leadership.
In August of 1997, after a lengthy search and many hours of effort, the selection committee announced its choice of Reverend Allen Moss as the new Minister of Unity of Tampa. He and his wife Debbie, had lived in the Bay Area previously and were thrilled to be returning to Tampa.
Since their arrival, they have enthusiastically implemented a variety of new ideas at Unity of Tampa, including seminars, guest speakers, workshops, concerts, C.E.P. classes and retreats. Rev. Allen retired in March 2014 and Rev. Debbie now serves as Senior Minister.