The Unitarian Church in Summit was founded in 1908 by area residents who wanted a church that would be less doctrinaire than other religious institutions. Today, we continue to be a congregation that welcomes people of varied beliefs and backgrounds — who come together to worship, to wonder, to share the joys and sorrows of life, and to try to better the world around us. We are a regional congregation of about 500 adult members and 250 children who live in Summit and some 50 other area communities.
In 2006 we launched a challenge to one another to “Live Boldly” and the results have been exciting. We now have a partnership with the city of Irvington that entails supporting the Mayor of that city in his efforts to revitalize it and an active partnership with the Chancellor Avenue Elementary School in Irvington, where we have started a tutoring program, landscaped the grounds, run stress-reduction workshops for the staff (all in response to their requests for such). We have also raised $15,000 for two years in a row to support a year of interim housing for a homeless family as an extension of our long-term partnership with HomeFirst (formerly, the Interfaith Council for the Homeless). In the fall of 2007 our congregation, for the first time in its history, also passed a resolution of witness by congregational vote to urge our leaders to end the war in Iraq, and have begun programs of advocacy and education to that end (see the article). These are just a few of the new initiatives that complement our longstanding programs of education, advocacy, and witness in a community that is growing in the depths of its commitments to the best in this world and to one another.
Our sanctuary, completed in 1913,
is recognized as a beautiful example of Colonial “meeting house” architecture. In 2002, we completed a major renovation and expansion, which added office space, classrooms and large meeting spaces under a single roof.
The Unitarian Church in Summit is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association, a coalition of more than 1,000 Unitarian-Universalist congregations in North America. Our church is self-governing: members elect a Board of Trustees and vote on major matters including the calling of ministers and the annual budget.
You can read a brief history of the Unitarian Church in Summit.
The community is blessed with a fabulous staff.
Vanessa Rush Southern
Vanessa Rush Southern is our Parish Minister. She has been with the congregation since the summer of 2001. A more complete biography of Vanessa appears here.
Tuli Patel is our Director of Religious Education, responsible for programming for children in grades preK-8 as well as adults.
Tuli began her work with the church in 2004. As a professional religious educator, Tuli has a commitment to nurturing and deepening children’s spiritual exploration. Under her leadership the program has grown significantly. Tuli and the committee she works closely with, the Children’s Religious Education Committee, have also begun to innovate the way we educate our children around issues of values and religion. A recent experiment with putting values into action has resulted in a unique program, Principles Power. Children in grades K-5 meet for five weeks in January and in May to consider and implement their ideas for making an impact on the world, moving it to be a more just and equitable place for all. To learn more about the Children’s Programs, click here.
Adult Programs are centered around questions of Spiritual Maturity and Deepening. To learn more about Adult Programs, click here.
Tuli is married and has two boys both of whom attend The Unitarian Church in Summit.
Emilie is our Assistant Minister for Youth and works with our Youth Group and Coming of Age class. She began her role with the congregation in September 2005.
Emilie is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister. She graduated from Meadville Lombard Theological School (a UU seminary in Chicago) in June 2005. She previously worked as a Americorps*VISTA volunteer at Habitat for Humanity. Emilie has worked with youth groups since graduating from Furman University in Greenville, SC
Emilie is married and has two young daughters.
Kim is our Assistant Minister for Congregational Life, focusing on Membership, Pastoral Care, Volunteer Recruitment and Small Group Ministries. She joined the UCS community in August of 2011.
Mitch has been music director since 1999. He performs Sunday mornings, and often brings in wonderful singers and instrumentalists. Mitchell directs the adult choir, and also invites many of our talented lay members to perform. He is artistic director of Afternoon Music, which presents four concerts a year in our sanctuary. Mitchell has a Masters Degree in piano from the Eastman School of Music, and performs throughout New York and Europe as a soloist and collaborative pianist.
Mitchell is music director and choir director of The Unitarian Church in Summit. He is also the artistic director of Afternoon Music, a concert series held in our elegant sanctuary.
Mitchell’s active performing career has taken him to Europe, South America, Asia and throughout the United States. He frequently performs with such groups as the Riverside Piano Trio, CantaLyrica, and the Viva Voce Ensemble, as well as piano 4-hands with Paul Zeigler. He has performed extensively with Bernard Goldberg, former principal flutist of the Pittsburgh Symphony.
His teaching experience includes positions with the Aspen Music Festival, Mannes School of Music, Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music and the Harlem School of the Arts. He is a music director for theater, opera and cabaret.
Mitchell can be heard on the CD “American Music for Trumpet and Piano” on Capstone Records, and he is featured on a CD of vocal chamber music by North German composers on the Syrinx label. Recent recordings include a CD of compositions by Paul Zeigler and a recital with Japanese soprano Selena Miyazaki.
A native of Portland, Oregon, Mitchell holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Portland State University and a Master of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music.
Dee, our Congregational Administrator, has a professional background in human resources and sales operations management in the private and non-profit sectors as well as extensive volunteer experience with faith-based and school organizations. In her role as congregational administrator, Dee will serve the UCS community by managing office operations, facilities and providing support to the program staff and members.
Susan is our Bookkeeper/Office Assistant. She has been on staff since September 2007. After graduating from Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business, Susan pursued a career as a bank officer. She left her position to raise her two children, Alyssa and Scott. When the need for a bookkeeper on staff became apparent, she was a natural fit. Susan’s duties include recording deposits and payments; processing reimbursements; recording pledges and other gifts; and preparing monthly pledge statements for members.
Jamaine is our Religious Education Assistant. She assumed this role in May 2012 but her work with Children’s RE began much earlier. Jamaine has been an RE Teacher and volunteer at UCS since 2007.
Jamaine spent many years in the entertainment industry as an Assistant Director for film, television and commercials. After growing tired of the commute and 16+ hour workdays, she decided to change careers for something more family-friendly. Currently, she is pursuing NJ Teaching Certification through the State’s Alternate Route Program and learning to speak Spanish in hopes of teaching bi-lingual elementary students in Newark.
A military brat “from everywhere & nowhere”, Jamaine now considers Maplewood, New Jersey her home, a place where she’s content caring for her husband, Rick, their daughter, Alice, and their horribly spoiled “fur babies”, Spike and Fiona. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Film Production from the University of Central Florida (GO KNIGHTS!) and a MBA in Media Management from the Metropolitan College of New York (unfortunately, they don’t have a football team).
Photography by Andrew White.