Meet Southold First Universalist Church’s new part-time minister

The Rev. Jim Macomber

The Rev. James Macomber began serving as part-time religious leader for Southold’s First Universalist Church in September.

It was love that brought him back to Long Island, where he had served as pastor for the Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook in 2006-07. During that time he met the love of his life, Aina Gentile, a teacher in the Kings Park School District, and married her this August aboard the Christeen, a 125-year-old oyster sloop on Oyster Bay. They make their home in Centereach.

Now retired as a full-time minister, The Rev. Macomber came to Southold in answer to the church’s call for a part-time pastor. His last full-time posting as a minister was in Atlanta, Ga. He also works part-time for the federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, collecting data for the Consumer Price Index.

The Rev. Macomber came to the ministry as a second career after spending 24 years on the faculty of the business school at the University of Tennessee. His ties to Unitarianism go back to his childhood near Cleveland where he felt drawn to the ministry beginning in high school. In 1997, he entered Vanderbilt University Divinity School in Nashville, Tenn. and on his ordination in 2001 he retired from teaching to pursue the ministry full-time. Besides Stony Brook and Atlanta, he has served in Nashville and Los Alamos, N.M.

This month, under the Rev. Macomber’s leadership, the church is launching two new Sunday morning programs — an adult discussion group and a children’s ecumenical worship, both starting at 9:30 a.m. before the regular 10:30 a.m. service.

The discussion group, “Food for Thought,” will cover various topics from Aristotle to Zoroastrianism, the Rev. Macomber said. Initial discussions will be on theology. The discussions will be led by Judith Speyer, an experienced therapist and practicing Buddhist, who has chosen the theme, “In Difficult Times … A Buddhist Approach.” The initial session was on Sunday, Jan. 9, with more sessions set for Jan. 16 and 30 and then once a month through June.

Regan Batuello, the church’s long-time director of religious education, will lead the children’s program, which will also run at 9:30 a.m.

“We plan to explore the idea of worship from a young person’s perspective without a presupposed set of ideas,” Ms. Batuello said. “We’re going to explore spiritual topics in an open way, rather than learn a set of rules,” she said.

Participants in both programs are being invited to bring breakfast to the sessions.

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