Around the Island

Union Chapel celebrates its 140th year on Island

SUSANNE PAUL COURTESY PHOTO | The Summer Choir at Union Chapel’s August 5 service.

Sublime music and inspiring words echoed throughout the Grove in the Heights on Sunday, August 5 as the annual Summer Choir and soloist Nell MacDonald performed under the direction of chapel organist Linda Shelton Betjeman. The Reverend Dr. Katharine Henderson, president of Auburn Seminary and prominent religious leader in multi-faith programs, delivered a rousing sermon entitled “Our Feet Were Singing” as she addressed the congregation on a sultry summer morning. Reverend Henderson and the Summer Choir were part of Union Chapel’s 140th anniversary year program and the chapel was nearly full to capacity.

Auburn is a “seminary of the future,” a think-act tank committed to building a new, progressive multi-faith movement for justice. Auburn works through its movement-building initiative, Groundswell, as well as its programmatic areas of education, research and media.

Reverend Henderson was raised in Louisville, Kentucky; she earned her Master of Divinity degree at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and her doctorate at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and is the author of “God’s Troublemakers: How Women of Faith are Changing the World” (2006). She is an internationally-known religious leader who has been featured in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Crain’s New York Business, MSNBC’s The Melissa Harris-Perry Show and NPR’s On the Media.

Under the direction of Ms. Betjeman, the annual Summer Choir (which rehearses the Saturday morning before the service) performed the “Gloria in Excelsis” by Antonio Vivaldi, as their 30 voices strong made the hymns echo throughout the Heights. Ms. MacDonald, mezzo soprano and the guest soloist, is the director of the Youth and Children’s Choir at the Reformed Church in Bronxville. She is also the artistic director of the “Sing We Enchanted” ensemble, an a cappella vocal group in Westchester County.

Union Chapel in the Grove’s programs of non-denominational Christian worship are renowned for their guest preachers and wonderful musicians, drawn from the Island, the eastern Long Island community, greater New York City and beyond.

This year, the Chapel celebrates its 140th anniversary, holding Sunday services in the wooden church built in 1872 and lovingly maintained by Heights volunteer trustees and donations from the community, New York City and beyond.