11/18/17 6:00am
11/18/2017 6:00 AM

This Thanksgiving, volunteers will dedicate their time to making sure everyone on the North Fork has somewhere to spend the holiday.

Members of First Universalist Church of Southold will be serving lunch around 1 p.m. at the American Legion Hall in Southold, continuing a tradition that dates back about 30 years.


03/20/15 6:00am
03/20/2015 6:00 AM
The interior of First Universalist Church of Southold during a service in the 1980s. (Credit: The Southold Historical Society)

The interior of First Universalist Church of Southold during a service in the 1980s. (Credit: The Southold Historical Society)

To the editor:

It is with a heavy heart that I write of the loss of the First Universalist Church. My family, the Terrys and Goldsmiths, were founding members in 1835. It started as a church, then disbanded and became the Lyceum Association in 1863, according to the book “North Fork Nostalgia,” a collection of stories from the scrapbooks of Becky Terry. It gained an enviable reputation putting on plays. The church had a Gothic Palladian window over the front entrance, the only one of its kind.  (more…)

03/18/15 10:00am
03/18/2015 10:00 AM
The interior of First Universalist Church of Southold during a service in the 1980s. (Credit: The Southold Historical Society)

The interior of First Universalist Church of Southold during a service in the 1980s. (Credit: The Southold Historical Society)

When fire destroyed First Universalist Church of Southold, the community lost not only a treasured building, but a significant piece of North Fork artwork as well.

Amid the rubble of the church lie the unrecognizable remains of a 12-by-16-foot mural that hung above the altar for nearly 90 years. Painted by noted Peconic artist Edith Mitchill Prellwitz, the mural was last valued at more than $80,000. She donated it to the church Nov. 27, 1926, in memory of her parents.  (more…)

03/17/15 12:00pm

As you entered the hamlet of Southold, heading east around the bend at Tuckers Lane, a familiar site always greeted you: First Universalist Church.

This has been true not just for the current generation of North Forkers, but for generations past.

The historic landmark — with its clear glass windows and iconic steeple — was lost late Saturday night to a fast-moving blaze that drew about 150 firefighters to the Main Road property.   (more…)

03/15/15 1:56pm
03/15/2015 1:56 PM
Pastor Jef Gamblee of First Universalist Church in Southold, with church member Peter Young of Southold, load the church sign into a pickup truck before driving it to a service at  Custer Institute. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Pastor Jef Gamblee of First Universalist Church of Southold, with church member Peter Young of Southold, load the church sign into a pickup truck before driving it to a service at Custer Institute. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Minutes into the First Universalist Church service in Southold Sunday morning, a speaker was briefly interrupted by a voice at the back of the room.

“Excuse us,” the gentleman said. “We have your bell. We thought you’d want it here.”

The voice was that of Southold fireman Brian Grattan, who had driven along with fellow firefighter Ed Boyd the 1.4 miles from the church to the Custer Institute, where members of the congregation gathered for a service.

The charred bell was located after the Main Road church was destroyed in a fire the night before and its relocation to Main Bayview Road was symbolic of how First Universalist’s members were rising from the ashes themselves.  (more…)

01/24/14 7:00am
01/24/2014 7:00 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | These teens are on a quest to provide shelter for bus users. Standing, from left: Vivienne Glasser, Thomas Spackman, Gwyn Foley, John Batuello, Connor Morrison. Front row: Ethan Sisson and Sam Shaffery. Not pictured: Ashley Alexander.

Devoting time to civic causes is a common resolution this time of year, but for a group of teenagers who grew up attending youth meetings at First Universalist Church in Southold, bettering the community is the foundation of their friendship.

Their latest volunteer effort, Project Bus Stop, furthers their mission.

The seven high school students organized PBS more than a year ago after noticing that riders on the county’s S92 bus line — which runs from Orient to East Hampton — were left unprotected from the elements at stops along Route 25. Their goal is to convince the county, state and town to establish six new bus shelters.

“The bus is easy and convenient and there is no reason people should have to stand out in the snow or rain,” said Mattituck High School sophomore Sam Shaffery. “It is a matter of taking care of the people around us.”

Students said youth mentor Regan Batuello of Southold inspired them to educate themselves and have a stake in their community, and encouraged them to start Project Bus Stop last year.

“It bothers me when people just complain about stuff and don’t do anything about it,” Ms. Batuello said. “I was driving in my car one day complaining there were no bus shelters and I realized that I was doing what I hate.”

“When she brought it up to us we all thought it was a great idea,” said Southold High School junior Ashley Alexander.

The group’s first order of business was mapping out a four-year plan that included site planning and lobbying local, county and federal government officials to take action.

To keep their goal on track, PBS members said they follow their mission statement of “helping friends and neighbors stay warm and dry by getting some new bus shelters installed on the Main Road in Southold Town.”

The statement translates into the goal of constructing six bus shelters on Route 25 in Southold Town, located as follows: on the eastbound side across from Mattituck Plaza; on both east- and westbound sides in Cutchogue, by the King Kullen shopping plaza; on the eastbound side near the Empire gas station in Southold; on the eastbound side in Peconic, across from the current shelter near the highway department yard; and on the westbound side in Greenport, across from 7-Eleven.

This is not the first time a plan has been launched to install bus shelters throughout Southold Town.

In 2007, Village Liquor Store owner Margaret Conway successfully protested the installation of a bus shelter in front of her Main Street, Southold, store by physically standing in front of the construction — making the Town Board reconsider the project.

Ms. Conway said the shelter would be an eyesore and would create parking congestion and she would not support the renewed effort to place one outside her business.

“It is a nice, little, quaint Main Street and it is not big enough for a bus shelter,” she said. “I don’t see the need.”

Project Bus Stop would also need to get the proper approvals from the county, which operates the buses, and the state, which has jurisdiction over the roadway, town officials said.

PBS members have already met with town officials and Legislator Al Krupski. They’ve also spoken at a county Legislature meeting.

“All these youngsters have the ability to think and act like adults,” said Project Bus Stop adviser Mark Sisson of Mattituck. “They have the tools to make this idea happen.”

Group members are confident they will reach their goal before college.

“It needs to get done and we’re the people to do it,” Sam Shaffery said.

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10/14/13 11:00am
10/14/2013 11:00 AM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | The Rev. Jeffrey Gamblee of Staten Island has joined First Universalist Church of Southold as its new part-time pastor.

The Rev. Jeffrey Gamblee will lead church members in bi-weekly services as the newest pastor of First Universalist Church of Southold.

The 65-year-old Staten Island resident, commonly referred to as Pastor Jef, came to the church after a successful career in broadcast journalism. After working behind the camera at an NBC affiliate in Cincinnati, Ohio, he spent eight years freelancing, producing, shooting and directing video spots. He was nominated four times for regional Emmys, he said, and took the prize home twice in the mid-1980s.

Q: When did you find the church was your calling?

A: I knew by the time I was 8 years old that I was called to ordained ministry. I was always active in church but, at first, I didn’t like the idea of being a minister. I eventually ran out of excuses. I had independently taken clinical pastor education chaplain training; it was hospital-based. When I moved to New York City in 2001, I heard through a clergy friend that a nearby hospital was looking for a chaplain. I said, “Well, I’ll give it a shot.” The head chaplain looked at my résumé and said, “I’ll hire you, but you have to go to seminary and get ordained.” And so I did.

I am passionate about it. My very best day in television is not equal to my very worst day in ministry. Between the Emmys and meeting a former president and big stars and sporting figures, there was a very cool quality to the 25 or so years I did it, but I knew I wasn’t standing at the center of my being.

Q: What was it about the community that drew you to First Universalist Church?

A: It’s the people. We have a really solid group of members and I think they embody the elements of the liberal progressive and spiritual seekers. They are genuinely committed to this faith and what’s not to love? It’s just a welcoming church and we’re always happy to see new people.

The area is gorgeous. This is my third weekend out here so I’m still exploring. I am originally from Troy, N.Y., and there is a similarity the farther out I get past the pine barrens to where the vineyards are, it’s like — I recognize this. You’ve got the soil, the atmosphere and the weather.

Q: What do you hope to bring to the members of your congregation?

A: I think I want to bring an enthusiastic affirmation of the Unitarian Universalism faith by preaching and committing myself to the community. I am here on the weekends, so I will be here Friday afternoon until Monday around noon.

Q: Can you share something interesting about yourself?

A: I play the banjo — not very well, though. I’ve told the congregation not to worry, I will never play for them. I enjoy it. I am very much a music advocate. I am working with Charlotte Day, the music director, on getting the music the way we want it.

I also do still photography. I was just floored when I got out here. I’ve prowled once and have already got some great stuff, so I am looking forward to that.

[email protected]