Around the Island

Harvest Sunday at Union Chapel

Last Sunday’s Tropical Storm Henri washed out Poetry Sunday at Union Chapel in the Grove. This Sunday, Aug. 29, we’re hoping for better weather for Harvest Sunday, celebrating Sylvester Manor Educational Farm.

Reverend Galen Guengerich, of All Souls Unitarian Church in Manhattan, will preach. His sermon is titled “Surprised by Joy.” Alex Kuchta and Delaney Sondag will lead the Sylvester Manor farmers in song, continuing a tradition set by many farm crews before them. Evan Feliciano, Eva Nelson, Alex Joins, Delaney Sondag and Alex Kuchta will sing tunes they learned while working in the fields.

Sylvester Manor, which once encompassed all of Shelter Island, was a Native American hunting, fishing and farming ground. From 1652 to 2006, it was home to 11 generations of its original European settler family. The Sylvesters acquired the property to be a provisioning plantation for the family’s sugar interests in Barbados. Enslaved Africans and their descendants worked the property, along with indentured Native Americans, according to the Manor’s website.

It’s fitting that Reverend Guengerich will preach on a Sunday dedicated to the earth, since his sermons often include contemplations on thanksgiving and the harvest. The pandemic clarified ideas “in a deeply emotional way” that he’s been preaching about for years. “Absolutely everything in the universe is connected to everything else,” he mused. “Our destinies are deeply intertwined, and that means we must do everything we can, in whatever way we can, to safeguard the well-being of the planet and every person on it.”

He is senior minister of All Souls Unitarian Church, an historic congregation located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the 10th person to hold this position in the congregation’s 202-year history. He has served as a minister of All Souls for 28 years, the last 14 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).

Reverend 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 has written opinion pieces for Reuters, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, TIME magazine, the Huffington Post and other media. He also has appeared on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.

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

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

For Galen and Holly, the biggest “gift” of the pandemic was that their daughter, Zoe, and her new husband, Connor, came to visit Shelter Island last summer for a week and ended up staying for several months, returning again during the winter. “I will be forever grateful for the time we spent with them,” he said.

Please join us for Harvest Sunday on Aug.29 at 10:30 a.m. for our second-to-last service of the summer with Reverend Guengerich and the Sylvester Manor farm crew.

Next week: Our Closing Service, on September 5, will feature Reverend Katharine Henderson of Auburn Seminary in Manhattan.