There are many new faces among Marblehead’s faith leaders, with more coming in the next couple of years. Longtime Temple Emanu-El Rabbi David Meyer, who is the current head of the Marblehead Ministerial Association, spoke to Marblehead Current about all the changes and his hopes for the future.
“It is a challenge to keep the energy of the interfaith community strong as people are just getting to know each other,” Meyer said. “Hopefully, all the new ministers in town will take up with the same commitment and motivation for the interfaith work here.”
The MMA was formed in the late 1970s in response to antisemitic graffiti at Temple Emanu-El and the JCC. Since then, the group has met monthly and worked to stand against hatred and bigotry in town.
“We have a printed and signed document of mutual covenant with one another to stand as a unified community of faith in opposing prejudice and bigotry, racism and antisemitisn,” Meyer said.
The MMA has about 20 members representing the following faiths: Baptist, Catholic, Christian Scientist, Episcopal, Judaism, Lutheran, Methodist, Sufi and United Church of Christ. There is also a representative from the Marblehead Counseling Center.
Rev. Jenna Crawford is the new minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead (UUCM) on Mugford Street. She started on August 1. Her goal for her new church?
“I went into ministry with the hope of being able to address, in one particular way, the spiritual and justice needs of individuals and communities. And between the last two-and-a-half years of pandemic, and the fact that we live in a society malformed by white supremacy, cis-hetero supremacy, capitalism, ableism, and other oppressions, those needs are great.
“My goal for my tenure in Marblehead is to facilitate the creation of spaces, structures and spiritualities that work toward liberation from these ideologies and systems – at UUCM and in the wider community,” she added.
Crawford, who grew up in North Reading, was an outdoor educator before joining the seminary.
“I love to be outside,” she said.
In her free time, she enjoys hiking, canoeing and running.
Pastor Isac Garrigues-Cortelyou is the new minister at St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church on Cornell Road. He says his church is going through a time of transition.
“St. Stephen’s lost members during the pandemic – from Covid-19 and natural attrition. We have this time where we can imagine what we want the church to be like while also honoring the tradition of 230 years of the Methodist movement in Marblehead.”
Garrigues-Cortelyou is looking forward to his work with the MMA.
“It is helpful for the Marblehead Ministerial Association to serve as a collective conscience for the town and for the faith community — to live into radical solidarity.”
Garrigues-Cortelyou grew up in Michigan and enjoys living in Marblehead.
“In such a small geographical area, you can pretty quickly go from rural to suburban to urban,” he said.
His wife is in seminary at Boston College and hopes to become a nursing home chaplain.
Rev. Don Remick is serving as an interim minister as Old North Church looks for a permanent replacement for Rev. Dennis Calhoun, who retired this summer.
Remick has served several churches north and south of Boston. At Old North, he hopes to help the church “adapt and thrive in the changing landscape of ministry, particularly in this pandemic time as it discerns its next chapter of ministry and the pastor who will partner with them through it.”
At. St. Michael’s Episcopal Church on Washington Street, Rev. Stephen Voysey is serving as interim minister until a permanent successor is named. Rev. Andrew Stoessel retired from St Michael’s last spring after 20 years at the church.
Voysey is a retired priest with 40 years of experience serving churches in the Dioceses of Chicago, New York and Massachusetts and completed interim ministry training in 2015. He and his wife live in Gloucester.
End of an era
Rabbi Meyer is set to retire in July and will serve as emeritus rabbi after that. With more than 30 years of service, he believes he has the longest tenure of any faith leader in Marblehead in recent history.
“I’m a repository of a lot of history,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot.”
One of the memories that stands out the most is when the MMA called town residents together on Sept. 11, 2001.
“We gathered the community at Seaside Park in this aftermath of the attacks,” Meyer said. “We had several hundred people come out, and I sounded the shofar as an alarm that day.”
He continued, “I really hope that with a large number of new clergy, the energy of the MMA can be maintained and advanced with new ideas and new approaches.”
The MMA will host its annual interfaith Thanksgiving service at Old North Church on Tuesday, Nov. 22, at 7 p.m. It is open to all.
Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter. She also works as a PR specialist.