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Spiritual center hosts open house, garden party

The UNITY Center recently completed a yearlong renovation


by: VERN UYETAKE - The community can hold weddings, special events and classes in the centers peace garden.Celebrating its recently completed renovation and highlighting opportunities for community involvement, the UNITY Center will host an open house and garden party on Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m.

Originally built in the 1930s as a Sears kit house, the family home that now holds the UNITY Center once sat on 20 acres of farmland, where its owners raised horses, cows and chickens. It has since seen several additions.

The UNITY Center purchased the now 2.5-acre property in 2008 and began renovation work last summer, transforming the home from top to bottom.

With a new roof and handicap bathrooms, the center's first floor and gardens are now handicap accessible. It contains a space for youth programs and fellowship and a gathering hall, transformed from a collapsing carport, that holds up to 155 people. This hall was designed based on the golden ratio - the mathematical proportion used to construct the pyramids. The home's second floor houses the center's offices.

'We tried to keep the character and style of home,' Rev. Victoria Etchemendy said.

She said special attention was also paid to sustainability, as environmentally friendly windows and ductless heating and cooling systems were installed. Wood was recycled wherever possible as well.

This focus on the environment also carried over into the center's gardens.

Etchemendy said the property collects a lot of water, and a rain garden now helps handle the stormwater runoff.

The UNITY Center began in 1990 with a handful of people meeting in the community room of the Lakewood Center for the Arts in Lake Oswego, and it later moved to downtown Lake Oswego as the Unity World Healing Center. It was renamed the UNITY Center when it moved to West Linn.

Taking an inclusive approach to faith, Etchemendy said the center, once described as a 'spiritual United Nations,' embraces all spiritual paths and works to bring people of all different faiths together under 'one spirit; one god.'

'(Religions) may have different politics, different (practices), but it's all prayer,' she said, pointing to the fact that all major world relations believe in some version of the Golden Rule. 'It's about finding common ground and sharing it.'

The UNITY Center also maintains a regular schedule of speakers and concerts that focus on many faiths, welcoming everyone to attend.

Etchemendy said UNITY, which was founded in the late 1800s by a husband and wife in Kansas City, Mo., has ministries worldwide and a 'very diverse' following. She said UNITY also maintains a 24-hour prayer hotline from its headquarters in Kansas City for people who do not have access to a center.

She said center also acts as a resource for the West Linn community as a whole, hosting classes for all ages, support groups, business meetings, tai chi and yoga classes and more. She said it also has plans to construct a 10-foot arbor in its peace garden for weddings and special events.

During its June 24 open house and garden party, the UNITY Center will open its doors to the public with food, music and family-friendly activities, highlighting the completed renovation with property tours.

'The original house is a landmark in West Linn,' Etchemendy said. 'People grew up driving by. They are glad the property has been saved.'

The UNITY Center is located at 20255 Willamette Drive. For more information, visit worldhealing.org.