The Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kwong has been selected as our new Interim Senior Minister


Please read the following message from the President of our Board of Trustees:


Hello Fourth Universalist Friends, Members, Clergy, and Staff,

The Board of Trustees of the Fourth Universalist Society in the City of New York are happy to announce that we have completed our search for an Interim Senior Minister, who will start on September 1, 2023.

Our congregation is fortunate to have identified a strong, spiritual, accomplished and capable candidate, the Rev. Dr. Jonipher Kwong.

Rev. Jonipher Kwong currently serves as the Unitarian Universalist Association’s (UUA) Ministerial Credentialing Director. He was previously Congregational Life Staff for the Pacific Western Region. He is also a Program Leader for the Unitarian Universalist (UU) College of Social Justice.

Here are Rev. Jonipher’s first words to the congregation:

“While the departure of a beloved minister like Rev. Schuyler will inevitably entail a grieving process, it is also a wonderful opportunity for Fourth Universalist to continue pursuing its mission, especially during these challenging times when our Unitarian Universalist values are being assaulted in our country and the world. I look forward to both holding steady as we sail towards the North Star, which is the mission of the congregation, and preparing the way for your next Settled Minister. I also look forward to getting to know each of you better in the months ahead as we learn, grow, and evolve into the Beloved Community.”

Some further background information about Rev. Kwong includes his service as the Minister of the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, Hawaii. He served as interim minister at Resurrection Beach Metropolitan Community Church in Costa Mesa California, as consulting minister at Sepulveda UU Society in Los Angeles, California, and the Temecula Valley UU Community.

Raised in an ecumenical background, he values his pluralistic upbringing—from Evangelical to United Methodist, Episcopalian to Calvary Chapel. He was christened at a Gospel church and baptized as a Chinese Mennonite. In Hawaii, Rev. Kwong was a member of the Honolulu Mindfulness Community, a spiritual community influenced by Zen Buddhism.

Rev. Kwong will lead worship services and provide congregational stewardship, in addition to staff management at Fourth Universalist. Rev. Kwong will partner with the volunteer Board of Trustees with congregational policy and oversight. Other responsibilities of the interim minister will include administration of our congregation’s programs, leadership of the staff team, and supervision of Fourth Universalist’s business operations in collaboration with our congregation’s leaders and staff.

Most importantly, Rev. Kwong will be responsible for providing guidance in navigating through what Fourth Universalist must do during this interim period to prepare for and then call on a new settled minister to serve our congregation from this pulpit in two years.

This two year interim period will be a time to disconnect from the past, to re-imagine and re-form ourselves, and to prepare for our next settled minister. One of Rev. Kwong’s roles will be to guide that process. During his tenure with us, the interim minister will assist us in understanding who we are and what qualities we want in our next settled minister. Members and committees can expect discussions and meetings about our covenants, mission, expectations, and vision, and what the next phase of our congregational life will look like.

The cycle of nationwide searches for interim UU ministers had already been completed, when Rev. Schuyler left us. Fourth Universalist was extremely fortunate that such a qualified candidate as Rev. Kwong expressed interest in serving our community. We the Board of Trustees moved quickly to ensure that we would have a qualified minister in the pulpit by our annual Homecoming Sunday on September 10, 2023.

We believe that Rev. Kwong is a wonderful person for the job and the right fit for Fourth Universalist. His recommendations were excellent. Additionally, he was interviewed by seven Trustees. We had a long list of questions regarding beliefs, values, administrative responsibilities, and practical concerns which we discussed in a two hour conversation. The Board is unanimous in our conclusion that we are lucky to have found Rev. Jonipher Kwong.

We recognize that departure of a beloved minister, like the Reverend Schuyler Vogel, will inevitably entail a period of adjustment. However, we can also use this opportunity to sharpen our congregation’s focus on our mission: our mission to build an inclusive, liberal, spiritual, community, one that connects us to our spiritual center and to one another, a congregation grounded in reason, service and love. This is especially important as we seek to remain a beacon of liberal, progressive, welcoming religion in New York City and the wider world.

Rev. Jonipher Kwong’s first worship service with us will be on Homecoming Sunday September 10th. We hope you’ll be here to join us, when the Board of Trustees welcomes him to the pulpit.

Thank you,
Spencer Salzberg
President of the Board of Trustees

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