Rev. Richard Billings, 94, who served as minister of Unity of Oak Park for 50 years, died on Feb. 18, 2019. Born on Aug. 30, 1924 on a farm near Wyandot, Ohio, he completed grade school in a one-room school house and high school in the town of Bucyrus and was drafted out of Ohio State University in Columbus.
During his three years in military service in the Pacific, he was torpedoed and experienced other horrors of war. Discharged in January of 1946, he finished his degree in Fine Arts and Education while working as a waiter and then went to work in the fashion industry and became a high-fashion designer with a shop on Chicago’s Oak Street, a half block from the Drake Hotel. He later sold the shop and traveled to Unity Village in Missouri to train at the Unity School of Christianity where he became an ordained Unity minister. He served in Santa Monica and Detroit and Lansing, Michigan before ending up in Oak Park in the summer of 1967.
When he began, 35 people, all older than himself, had purchased an impractical fixer-upper mansion intended to be the church’s building at a controversial time in the history of Oak Park. By 1972, the building was paid for and improved upon, and regularly drew an attendance of 400-500 congregants, with a mailing list of 1,800.
Unity of Oak Park was a healing ministry using metaphysical Bible and Bible courses and attracting mostly those people who wanted to improve themselves and their understanding of life.
He took congregants on regular trips to at least 70 countries with the intent of expanding consciousness among many who would never have traveled on their own. He is also responsible for the existence of four other Unity Centers in the area and completed at least 50 liaison interventions all over the U.S., putting troubled centers back on course. Richard taught at Unity School and was a guest speaker for many centers — including at his good friend Johnnie Colman’s Center on the South Side and three times in Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center for a crowd of over 2,000, once with Maya Angelou.
Due to health problems, in the last several years of his life he scaled back his ministry to include counseling on Fridays and Saturdays. Rarely seen, he continued to raise nearly $60,000 to help the center using truth principles.
On Sept. 1, 2017, those in power, including the board of directors, decided to take the center in a different direction and ordered him out. In his biography, My Soul Remembers, he writes, “For some of us, the search goes on half-heartedly; for others, it is a serious business. We all have our moments.” We bless him on his continuing journey.
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