At the end of August, the Unitarian Universalist Church of the South Fork will be losing the Reverend Alison Cornish, their minister for almost 10 years and member for almost 20. The Rev. Corninsh is leaving the UUCSF to take a job at Partners for Sacred Places, a Philadelphia-based, nonprofit organization that works with congregations of all denominations to preserve their historic sites.
When asked if she was looking forward to it or if the move was bittersweet, the Rev. Cornish answered “all of the above,” adding, “It’s going to be very different, but I’m ready for a change.”
“We’ve shared a lot of history,” said the Rev. Cornish about the congregation that she’s been a member of since the late 1980s. One of the things she was most proud of, she said, was building the UUCSF’s meetinghouse at 977 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike and opening it to the community. The property for the meetinghouse was bought in 1999, built while the Rev. Cornish was in seminary, and she has presided over it since it was dedicated in 2006. Since then, the building has served as the home of the Rainbow Pre-School during the school year as well as recently, the Conservative Synagogue of the Hamptons. The space has also served community groups from the League of Women Voters to Adult Children of Alcoholics.
She was also proud of the legacy of political activism that she’ll be leaving behind. In 2006, the UUCSF was behind a winning First Amendment lawsuit that went after the organizers of Southampton’s Independence Day parade after they tried to stop marchers who planned on carrying anti-war signs.
The UUCSF has also taken a stand on the issue of immigration on the East End. When Southampton Village shut down a soup kitchen at Southampton Tire that was providing meals to immigrant workers in 2009, the UUCSF “went to bat,” to protest, said the Rev. Cornish. The church has also provided English as a Second Language classes and funded food programs aimed at helping immigrant families.
The Rev. Cornish also said she was proud that the UUCSF became a “welcoming congregation” in 2009. That meant officially welcoming people of all sexual identities. “We’ve had a door open for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people for a long time,” she said.
At Partners for Sacred Places, the Rev. Cornish will be helping congregations across the country to realize the value in their historic buildings and to maintain, preserve and grow them.
“Training congregations to see their historic buildings as assets instead of albatrosses,” she said in describing the task ahead.
The Rev. Cornish has held the position of historic preservation consultant for Southampton Town and the villages of Southampton, North Haven and Sag Harbor, so her new job will be fitting as it almost perfectly combines her two previous jobs: minister and historian. The Rev. Cornish is looking forward to a new job and a new city, but is relying on Philadelphia living up to its reputation as the city of brotherly love, she said.
Interim minister the Reverend Nancy Arnold of Valley Stream will be starting September 1. During the month in between the two ministers, guest Unitarian ministers will be leading services. The Rev. Cornish’s final service will be on Sunday, July 28, at 10:30 a.m. and she reiterated that “all are welcome.”