About James Trapp
Dr. James Trapp, former President and CEO of Unity Worldwide Ministries, currently serves as Senior Minister of Worship at the Spiritual Life Center, an Interfaith Unity Ministry, in Sacramento, California. He previously served as Senior Minister at Unity on the Bay, a dynamic and inclusive spiritual community in South Florida.
James Trapp exemplifies overcoming adversity. From an early age, he was well acquainted with difficulty and financial hardship. The oldest of eight children, he was abandoned by his birth mother during his formative years. Nevertheless, he attended Princeton University, earning a BA in Economics in 1974 with a minor in African-American studies. He then went on to pursue the study of law at the University of Florida.
After earning his law degree in 1978, James began his career as a criminal defense attorney in South Florida. He built a flourishing legal practice and enjoyed a successful 10-year career, representing clients across the nation in trial and appellate courts at the state and federal level. From 1986 to 1990, he managed the offices of Leno Realty Inc. and then worked for Miami’s DWG Corporation in 1990, where he supervised legal department personnel and worked with the senior corporate counsel in corporate and securities litigation.
In 1986, James began to explore his growing spirituality. During this time, he struggled with substance use and emotional turmoil. However, through perseverance, self-examination and the practice of spiritual principles, James transformed his life and began to flourish spiritually, mentally and personally.
In 1992, he devoted himself full time to pursuing a spiritual life and career. He became an ordained minister in 1994, the same year he came to Unity on the Bay (UOTB) in Miami. At the time, UOTB was generally perceived to be a failing church in a dangerous location. James (now Reverend Trapp) saw this as a challenge and dedicated his efforts to resurrect UOTB from a moribund institution into a vital spiritual entity where the vision of possibilities manifested itself seven days a week.
Under his leadership, UOTB flourished. Sunday attendance increased from 125 congregants in 1994 to more than 1300 in 2005. Dr. Trapp worked with his staff to implement programs that caused annual revenues to grow from $200,000 in 1994 to nearly $1.9 million in 2005. They developed an annual prayer training program that trained over 90 new prayer chaplains each year and an annual “Adventure in Faith” program that included 100 at-home study groups with approximately 500 participants. Under Dr. Trapp, UOTB’s choir began to attract attention as one of the most dynamic musical programs in South Florida and remains in demand to sing at events across the country.
Due to Dr. Trapp’s commitment to the richness and vibrancy of multicultural communities, the congregation grew increasingly diverse, reflective of the ethnic, racial, gender and cultural diversity of South Florida. UOTB also began a concerted effort to attract younger people, and by 2005, over 70 percent of the congregation was between ages 20 and 49. Dr. Trapp nurtured the development of a Spanish ministry with a choir, Spanish classes during the week, and Spanish-speaking chaplains.
Dr. Trapp has been a keynote speaker at an interfaith service for religious leaders, organizations and politicians who support equal treatment of all people. He believes that the truth principle of honoring the divinity of all people is the gateway to bringing cooperation, peace and compassion to our planet.
In addition, recognizing the importance of the role of sound organizational development principles, Dr. Trapp continuously oversaw, reviewed, modified and implemented Unity on the Bay’s strategic plan, which was developed through mutual cooperation and communication with UOTB’s members.
In 2005, Dr. Trapp became President and CEO of Unity Worldwide Ministries (UWM). When he took the position, he saw that UWM was an organization with many moving parts that could be brought together as a cohesive whole. To create a greater sense of cohesion and purpose, Reverend Trapp fostered the implementation of Identity Project (Branding) in conjunction with its partner, Unity School. A vital part of this project was the creation of the identity booklet, Unity: A Positive Path for Spiritual Living, a synthesis of key ideas and goals of UWM, developed with extensive feedback from and ultimate approval by constituents. The booklet continues to be in great demand by spiritual communities throughout UWM.
At the onset of his tenure at UWM, Dr. Trapp worked closely with his staff to develop a strategic five-year plan based on the synthesis of previous planning documents, goals and consulting reports and further input from UWM members. Under his guidance, the group decided that the top strategic priority ought to focus on Leadership and Ministry Development. In accordance with that priority, UWM developed a pilot program comprised of twelve ministries as part of an intense three-year program. Guiding the program were highly spiritual professional consultants using cutting-edge leadership and organizational development practices. The goal was to create healthy, abundant and vibrant spiritual communities. The most effective and best practices from that program are now being made available to all members of the organization.
In addition to working with Unity Worldwide Ministries congregations, Dr. Trapp has been an active participant in cultivating a global spiritual community. He has participated in the Parliament of the World’s Religions twice, in 2004 and 2009, held in Barcelona, Spain, and Melbourne, Australia, respectively. The Parliament’s aim, among other things, is to help foster mutual understanding and respect amongst the religions and spiritual traditions of the world. In 2004, he was one of a select number of spiritual leaders and representatives from various spiritual traditions who met in Montserrat, Spain, to develop and enact practical and transformative responses to critical world issues to help create peace on the planet.
As a consequence of his life experiences, Dr. Trapp has developed a deep sense of patience with and empathy for people. He has learned that the ability to listen is both undervalued and invaluable, a capacity that served him well when he acted as Vice President of Faith in the City, an ecumenical organization dedicated to creating interfaith programs and enhancing cooperation between various religious faiths in the downtown Miami area.
As a speaker and thought leader, Dr. Trapp shares his message of respect and appreciation of and harmony with others in the global community. He has been a keynote speaker at numerous conferences, meetings and events, including the And the Women Gather Conference in Coral Gables, Florida; the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Annual Recognition Dinner; and the ‘No’ to Discrimination Committee Mass Meeting in Miami, Florida. He gave a public lecture entitled “The Spiritual Path to Peace” in Lagos, Nigeria; was a presenter for the Association of Global New Thought at the Parliament of World Religions in Melbourne; and delivered the keynote address at Florida International University’s Annual Diversity Day in Miami, Florida.
Dr. Trapp has been awarded and acknowledged numerous times for his dedication to community, diversity and tolerance. In 2009, he received the Humanitarian Award from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. He has also been inducted into Morehouse College’s Martin Luther King, Jr. International Board of Preachers, received an Honorary Doctorate in Sacred Theology from South Florida Theological Seminary, and was awarded the Key to the City of Miami for his contributions to the community.
No stranger to the media, over the years, Dr. Trapp has given numerous interviews to august institutions such as USA Today, The Miami Herald, Self-Improvement for Life, National Public Radio, the Institute for Noetic Sciences, and the Sun Sentinel. He has appeared in two films, Globalized Soul and Liberate Your Spirit, and in 2010 co-hosted online radio program “Evolutionary Living.”
Ever eager to learn and grow, Dr. Trapp has continued his spiritual education throughout the years. He studied at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in Barre, Massachusetts, where he enhanced his proficiency for practicing and teaching Vipassana Meditation. He has also been a student of nonviolent communication and of the appreciative inquiry method for organizational change.
Despite his many accomplishments, Dr. Trapp is most gratified and humbled to know that many people were touched and had their lives spiritually transformed because of their interaction with the Unity and the organizations he has been a part of.