The Rev. Candace Whitman will deliver her first sermon when the congregation gathers at the Amagansett Presbyterian Church on Sunday at 10 a.m.
She comes to Amagansett from Fishers Island, "a very interesting place to be a minister because there aren't a lot of social services there, and not a lot of government structure, so there was plenty of opportunity for meaningful outreach from the church to the local population."
An artist, author, and educator, Ms. Whitman, a Long Island native, majored in art history at Yale University, later taught at New York University, and is the author of several children's books. But hearing a call to the church, she attended Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating with a Master of Divinity degree in 2011.
"I was making my living in the arts," she said last week. "I was enjoying my life very much, but I had some career decisions to make, and I realized that what I was most intrigued by was the work of the church. People had said to me for a number of years, 'Have you ever thought of becoming clergy?' It seemed a little daunting at that time to go back and get a Master of Divinity -- it's a rather involved degree. But it's one of those things that even the person being called doesn't quite understand because, the way I experienced it, it was a desire, but it was as if something from outside was pushing me in this direction."
As an artist, "it's always about getting to the truth," she said. "That's when it resonates with others, because there are universal truths and we recognize them. That's the overlap with Christianity: We talk about truth. Jesus talks about truth. I think that's where people feel the connection with a sermon or with the Bible or with others who are sharing their faith with one another."
Ms. Whitman plans "meaningful outreach into the community" here, which has grown and changed because of the coronavirus pandemic. "Christians live by a different set of values, and we support each other in living by those values. For some people, that's incredibly life-giving. It helps us keep our priorities straight -- what's important in life, what to cultivate. That's a reason why I think church communities can grow, because people feel that good energy from a church community."
Timing of services during the week will be explored to accommodate people's schedules and needs, Ms. Whitman said, as will additional offerings, including for children. "I'm open to all sorts of ideas and suggestions about how this church can better serve its community," she said. "I do hope that people are curious. If they're looking for a place to develop their spirituality, I believe the church will offer some things that are really worthwhile." The church's annual summer fair will once again take place this year, on Aug. 7.
Sunday's service will be in person. Those who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 have been asked to wear a mask. Hand sanitizer will be available and congregants will be distant from one another. "People, I think, will feel very safe," Ms. Whitman said.