When the position of spiritual director became available at Unity of Gainesville in 2011, the church knew it needed to take its time to find a new leader.
“When a minister who’s been with a church for a long time leaves, it’s been found that it’s really important not to just hire somebody real quick but to go through a transition process,” said Anne Hammer, president of the board of trustees of Unity of Gainesville.
The process involved calling on transitional experts within the worldwide Unity Church and the Rev. Terrence Padgett, southeast region church consultant. Padgett served as the church’s leader on a part-time basis until a more permanent leader could be found. Hammer said the process was “fabulous,” allowing the congregation to examine its 25-year history and update its mission as a spiritual center in Gainesville.
In December 2012, the church officially started its search for a new leader. One applicant, Clive deLaporte, stood out.
Hammer said when deLaporte met and spoke to the congregation for the first time, church members were asked to fill out an evaluation form.
“There were 46 evaluations and 43 of them were overwhelmingly positive,” Hammer said, laughing. “ Three of them just said ‘good’ instead of exceptional. I thought that was healthy.”
DeLaporte accepted the position and began leading the church in July. He said he’s excited about the opportunity to help the small church grow and make a difference in the community.
The licensed Unity teacher is studying to become an ordained Unity minister. He will complete his studies through the Urban Unity Ministerial School path in May 2014. His particular path of study focuses on community service and outreach.
As a native of South Africa, deLaporte said he came into the church and ultimately his new position “accidentally.” After working in business and starting his own company in South Africa, deLaporte said he felt unfulfilled. He sold his company in 1996 and used the money to travel the world.
He said he’s been interested in his spirituality for the past 25 years and used his travels as a “rediscovery process.” His travels brought him to Chatanooga, Tenn., in 1998 where he lived for several years. DeLaporte continued to travel around the country and decided to write a book which he hopes to release this year.
While visiting St. Petersburg, Fla., in 2008, deLaporte sought out a coffee shop to sit in while he wrote. The coffee shop was a bookstore for First Unity of St. Petersburg. He said he started reading the books and asking questions. The South African native realized the church’s beliefs were “95 percent” aligned with his own.
Unity seeks to apply spiritual principals taught by Jesus in the Bible through personal reflection, prayer and mediation. The church does not adhere to any dogma and is inclusive to people from all backgrounds and lifestyles.
“Where I’d arrived at on my own there was a whole organization with the same philosophy,” deLaporte said, smiling. “So I thought, rather than just reinvent the wheel let me get involved and that’s what I did.”
DeLaporte said his goal is to get the church more involved with community service projects and help individuals in the community deepen their spiritual experience.
“If you are spiritual but not religious, Unity of Gainesville would be a place for you to fellowship and to share in congregation and community,” he said. “We don’t have a code that you need to adhere to or subscribe to. ... We’re happy to allow each individual to explore (his or her) own understanding and experience of God. My job is then to help them deepen that experience with practices and tools.”