Around the Island

Traditions old and new at Union Chapel: Harvest Sunday celebrates Sylvester Manor

The Harvest Festival at Union Chapel in the Grove began around 1895, and has a colorful history, according to Stewart Herman’s book, “God’s Summer Cottage.”

It was like “a little country fair” with “fruits and vegetables lined up next to handicrafts, exhibits of amateur photography and historical souvenirs … The Harvest Festival was observed annually, disturbed only by the question as to whether chickens and pigeons could be displayed along with the more traditional items.”

Proceeds from the sixth service, held in 1900, were donated to the library.

One hundred and twenty-five years later, Harvest Sunday will take place outdoors in the Grove on Aug. 30 at 10:30 a.m. — without chickens or pigeons. The service celebrates Sylvester Manor Educational Farm. Rev. Galen Guengerich, senior minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in Manhattan, will preach about “Gratitude as a Way of Life.”

Katie Herbst will lead the Sylvester Manor farmers in song, continuing a tradition set by many farm crews before them.

According to their website, Sylvester Manor was a “Native American hunting, fishing and farming ground that, since 1652, has been home to 11 generations of its original European settler family.” 

Our guest preacher, Rev. Guengerich, also comes from a place of deep roots. As senior minister of All Souls Unitarian Church on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, he is the 10th person to hold this position in the congregation’s 200-year history. He has served as a minister of All Souls for 27 years, the last 13 as senior minister.

He was educated at Franklin and Marshall College (BA, 1982), Princeton Theological Seminary (MDiv, 1985) and the University of Chicago (PhD, 2004).

Rev. Guengerich is the author of “God Revised: How Religion Must Evolve in a Scientific Age” and “The Way of Gratitude: A New Spirituality for Today.” He writes a column, “The Search for Meaning,” for, and has written for Reuters, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, TIME magazine and Huffington Post. He also appeared on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.”

Rev. Guengerich is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and leads the “Humanities in a Conflict Zone” initiative at Tel Aviv University. He served for 12 years on the Board of Directors of Interfaith Alliance, and on the boards of “Dads and Daughters,” the New York City Audubon Society and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee — a human rights organization.

He lives in Manhattan and on Shelter Island with his wife, Holly G. Atkinson, MD, who is Clinical Medical Professor at the CUNY School of Medicine. They enjoy sailing out of Dering Harbor and hiking at Sylvester Manor and in Mashomack Preserve.

The interfaith service will be outdoors in the Grove, under the shade of the trees, as it has been all summer, to protect the health of the congregation. Social distancing and face coverings are required. This will be our last service of the summer.

Join us on Sunday, Aug. 30 at 10:30 a.m. for Harvest Sunday, celebrating Sylvester Manor Educational Farm.