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New Unity garden honors peace

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VENICE — A new prayer garden is being dedicated to a former pastor at Unity Venice.

It was a concept she and her daughter had considered for years — and one she knew was coming to fruition in her final days.

The Rev. Patricia Reiter died in November 2020. She had suffered a stroke and never recovered.

“I was able to tell her in some of her last cohesive days,” the Rev. Robin Reiter said recently. “She was very happy — she lit up.”

Patricia Reiter was born in 1945 and moved to Venice as a teenager, marrying her high school sweetheart. She became a minister in the Unity church in 1991 and was the senior minister of Unity Venice starting in 2002.

She helped the congregation move into a new sanctuary in 2008 and, in 2015, she became the pastoral care minister in semi-retirement as Robin Reiter became senior minister.

The idea of a prayer garden was one the mother and daughter spoke of, but drainage issues prevented it, Robin Reiter explained. But as her mother was in her final days, Robin Reiter worked on the concept. The drainage issues were addressed and she told her mother it was going to become a reality.

And now, it is.

“I’m beyond thrilled,” Robin Reiter said. “It has all exceeded my expectations.”

Reverend Patricia Reiter Twelve Powers Prayer Garden will be dedicated at 11 a.m. June 5 at the church off Jackson Road and Venice Avenue.

“It’s our legacy together,” she said. “It’s a place of peace and beauty … It’s quite grand and extraordinary and she was extraordinary in her life.”

And it’s not just for congregants of Unity Venice.

It is already being using it as a place of mediation and relaxation.

“People from around the community — almost every day, they sit, they bring picnics. All sorts of people are coming to find peace … it’s unlike any place they’ve been,” she said. “Anyone who is in need of a moment of peace can come there and find that.”

She said a woman has been bringing a family member who has autism and found the Twelve Powers Prayer Garden to be a “safe space” for them.

The 12 powers words were created by Unity movement cofounder, Charles Fillmore, who decided on the dozen power words based on the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ and using them as a way of “soul growth,” according to the Unity website. The words include life, zeal, release, wisdom, love, strength, faith, imagination, order, understanding and will.

At the garden, the 12 words are featured spreading out from — or moving into — a water element that has 12 springs. The groundwork is completed by pavers. Twelve unique metal sculptures by Debbie Marucci showcase the words to finish the garden.

“I’ve been a minister for 18 years and it’s the thing I’m proudest of. I know it’s going to be a legacy and a huge blessing to the community,” Robin Reiter said.

She credited the designers and contributors with providing insight into the reality and helping with the funds. Julie Youso gave seed money through the memory of her husband, Don, who died in 2020. Robin Reiter said about 50 others also gave financially.

Chad Gugliuzza, with CMG Landscape Design created the design, she said.

“They made sure that this is place that everyone can enjoy and get around, and that is a great, great vision that I had not thought about,” she said.

And walking there at night gives a different sensation.

“Until I saw it lit up, I had no idea it could be that extraordinary,” she said.

The Venice Unity church was founded in 1968 by Mary Hinkle-Duffy with church offices originally on Miami Avenue. It moved out to the Jackson Road property in 1972, when it was just a gravel road, Robin Reiter recalls. She attended it as a child.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the garden will include Robin Reiter; Gugliuzz; the church’s Board of Trustees and Venice Mayor Ron Feinsod. The public is invited to the event.

“I feel like the 12 Powers Garden is going to be great … a beacon of peace and light,” Robin Reiter said. “It’s important for people to know that this is a place that is open to people of all faiths. Even if they don’t feel like they are ‘churchy’ people, this is a place where they could find inspiration.”


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