An Interview with Rev Helice Greene by Rev Sandy Diamond
Rev Helice Greene was always drawn to “spiritual things” and “things of nature.” “I had a very mystical mother,” she said, as we began our interview time on that Spring day of 2017. I had asked when she remembered getting “the call” as my first question.
Later in life, while living in California—during the time her children were school age, she developed a debilitating condition. The doctors proposed an extreme surgical procedure. At that time she met with the Methodist minister who, upon hearing her diagnosis, said: “Sometimes what happens is God’s will,” to which she immediately replaced that thought with, “not the God I believe in.” Her soul did not respond or embrace that Methodist minister’s idea; in fact it signaled the falseness of the statement.
Soon after that some neighbors suggested a small church in the area called Santa Ana Unity for a spiritual healing. That’s where it all began, with the teachings of Myrtle Fillmore’s pamphlet How I Found Health.* She started with a health counseling session with Rev Hertha Tautland at the Unity church in Santa Ana and began working deeply with the contents of the pamphlet accompanied by her daily meditations.
When she returned to the medical doctors for a follow-up, they informed her that there must have been some misdiagnosis because “there is nothing there.” Rev. Helice Greene began her Unity journey then and there.
Once Again the Call
Her husband was transferred to Chicago and she began her licensed Unity teacher (LUT) studies at Unity of Oak Park, a southwest suburb of Chicago. She then attended ministerial school (2-year full-time seminary) and was ordained in 1982.
After her ordination she was hired at Unity of Fairfax, Virginia, as a temporary minister (3 months) and ended up staying 10 years. “I was there for ten years…. I said “yes” to God.”
A decade later, she got called back to Unity of Oak Park and has been ministering there the past twenty-five years, serving alongside the legendary Rev Richard Billings as co-minister and then taking the reins of senior minister some years ago. She has served our Unity movement all these years, including adjunct stints at Unity on the North Shore (Evanston, Ill.) and at various times assisting the congregants at Unity in Chicago. She has been steadily employed as a Unity minister for the past 35 years.
Rev Helice Greene is highly regarded and deeply respected in the Chicagoland area and within the Unity movement itself.
As we discussed the role of “female” clergy she reflected on some of the women ministers who had impacted or influenced her life … big names from the past such as: Myrtle Fillmore, Mildred Parks, Sue Sikking, May Rowland, Martha Guidici, Hypatia Hasbrouck, Martha Smock, Imelda Shanklin, Catherine Ponder (along with her son Peter), Mary Kupferle—just to name a few, who came to mind during our meeting. She paused and said, “Hmm, as we discuss this I realize there have been a lot of female ministers who have influenced my journey, going all the way back to my mystical mother.” There is a poignancy to looking back and scanning over one’s life.
I asked her about the difference between female and male clergy. As for there being a female in the pulpit instead of a male? There are a number of differences and certain nuances of differences. She noted that women get assessed more often by their attire as people often say, “Oh, what great shoes, or what a nice jacket, great jewelry, etc.,” she said. “They would never say that to a man.” As I reflected, I thought—that is so true.
In the ministry we get to learn on many levels about interpersonal relationships and what comes out of conflict. She looks at conflict now as a “higher way of perceiving.” Specifically, conflicts that arise in churches with a board, in a co-ministry, volunteers, congregants, and others. It is important “to hear” what people say and the validity of their thoughts and emotions. In order to resolve conflict, “it is important to hear people, whether you agree with them or not.”
The most joyous part of ministry has been sharing the paths of the people. Leading sacred ceremonies such as baptisms, marriages, memorial services—of course, seeing them on Sundays and watching them spiritually mature and develop. They know they are “here” because they are growing spiritually and “it has been my honor to witness that journey and growth.”
Ministry Teams Service
Rev Helice served the greater Unity movement by serving on the Eastern Region Board and serving on Licensing and Ordination (L&O) for 12 years. (“Oh? Do we still have that anymore? I feel a bit like a dinosaur,” she quipped. “We worked with the hidden curriculum in those days.”)
Unity of Oak Park is well-known for its many trips to other countries led by these ministers over the years. Since Unity of Oak Park was my first Unity church, I have traveled with them on several trips. Bali was one of them. Helice loved Bali especially because of how that culture integrates the spiritual into everyday living. She has traveled to many other countries and places but Bali spoke to her in particular.
Over the years she has earned my love, respect, and admiration for her quiet soulful leadership not fueled by a lot of drama. If you told her something “in confidence,” it remained there. She was and is one of our most dedicated trustworthy ministers within the movement.
As a congregant during the first part of her ministry at Unity of Oak Park, I recall a story she once told about traveling to Egypt and visiting the Valley of the Kings on the Nile River. It’s a desert area full of sand and wind, and as she looked across the desert, she saw on the dusty horizon Rev Stan Hampson coming towards her.
At first she thought perhaps it was a mirage. As he came closer she said, “Stan?” To which he responded: “Helice?” There they were at the same far away exotic place, not having known the other was planning to be there. It was a planetary moment of great synchronicity. I feel she belongs in the hallmark of Unity’s Valley of the Queens and Kings. She has been a great gift of dignity and grace to our Unity movement.
Not long ago I was at a luncheon in the Chicago area during which Rev Helice inquired about one of our ministers, and someone responded, “Oh, he’s retired,” to which she responded, “Yes, I know, but what is he doing now?” Although she is planning her retirement graciously and with dignity (August 2017), it will be wonderful to hear what she is doing…. I recommend we stay tuned.
Although I have known Helice for over twenty years, it was my honor, my privilege to sit down with her on that Spring 2017 day with the sunlight dancing through the stained glass windows of her office. It was a time of mystical moments, of memories, and a reflection of a minister’s life lived with dignity and grace.