Unity of Boulder: Tibetan singing bowls + meditation

The Unity tradition infused with Boulder

By Tatyana Sharpton Jan 9 2021

Boulder has over 70 churches, covering a wide range of religious denominations from Baptist and Catholic to Episcopal, Lutheran and Orthodox. A quick Google search of Boulder’s churches also indicates four nondenominational places of worship, which, we’ll define in this article as those with a Judeo-Christian lineage. (Many other places of worship exist, of course).

Jack Groverland

Unity of Boulder Church, located at 2855 Folsom Street, is one of these nondenominational churches in Boulder.

It is guided by Jack Groverland, Minister Emeritus since 1979, and his daughter Syntysche Groverland, who serves as the congregation’s spiritual leader. Unity offers three services weekly which members can also attend via the church’s livestream, one on Wednesday and two on Sunday.

Part of the Unity Movement, a newer religious movement launched in 1889 by a real estate agent and his wife in Kansas City, Missouri, Unity of Boulder got its start around 1960 when a couple of women interested in bringing Unity to Boulder began meeting in a record room rented from a local bank.

It took this small congregation 20 years to build the first church on Pearl Street, Jack tells BLDRfly, which at that point consisted of about 50 people seated on folding chairs.

This was the church Jack, an ordained minister as well as a professional writer, first saw when he and his wife moved to Boulder from the east coast. Jack soon became Unity’s minister and now has served in Boulder for over 40 years.

Boulder’s Unity congregations has over 3,500 people on its mailing list and around 400 active members each week between its two weekly Sunday services, according to Jack.

Unity’s Sunday services foster an open dialogue between different types of worship, from its 9 a.m. meditative service led by Jack, which includes call-and-response chants, Tibetan bowls and a talk, to the 11 a.m. service led by his daughter, Syntysche. This service looks like a more updated version of a Sunday church service, with upbeat music and a heart-centered message.

Unity of Boulder Church. Image: Unity of Boulder.

Unity + Trinity

Unity, not to be confused with Unitarianism, which rejects the traditional Christian Trinity (Father, Son and the Holy Ghost) in lieu of “one God,” embraces the Trinity alongside the belief in one power and presence, but often explores it in a more metaphysical trinity of Mind, Idea and Expression or Spirit, Soul and Body. All these ideas, of course, have complicated theological philosophies, which we won’t touch on here.

Rather than a closed dogma, Unity presents an open, growing experience, Jack told BLDRfly.

It views the divine intelligence, which it (and most churches) refer to as Christ, as something innately in every human’s true nature. It also teaches that everyone can access this core nature through spiritual practice, whether prayer or meditation or otherwise, and it tries to alleviate the self-imposed guilt and suffering which comes from being disconnected from that core nature.

[Boulder spiritual community adapting when 2020 delayed long-awaited building]

The Unity in Boulder looks a lot different than Unities in other more conservative places, just as Unities in the South look a lot different from Unities in the North. This partly roots in the fact that each Unity church operates as its own entity and those wanting to start their own must complete a course of study and get approved by the Association of Unity Churches.

“Every ministry is itself autonomous,” says Jack. “If a Unity exists in a particular location, it tends to take on the necessary character of that area… Unity of Boulder is so progressive because it’s Boulder.”

The churches have no mother church funding them; every church raises funding for itself through the volition of those who attend, which means in essence, speaking their language.

Part of Unity’s teachings and ministry practice involves embracing the world of technology, and it releases new videos and on its page frequently. To keep evolving with new modes of communication and outreach, Unity also attempts to expose its ministers and boards of directors and staff to media tools like Instagram, YouTube and TikTok.

Header Image: From Unity’s LGBTQ+ Resource Center: “Unity has a long history of performing commitment ceremonies, supported marriage equality, and immediately began performing legal ceremonies when marriage equality passed.” Image: Makayla Jade Photography.