Organized religion has faced an uphill battle over the last two decades: As the United States has become an increasingly secular society, many houses of worship nationwide ultimately shuttered their doors in the face of dwindling numbers of congregants.
As it likes to do, Sag Harbor bucks that trend. Led by charismatic clergy, the greater Sag Harbor area is home to myriad houses of worship, many with robust and passionate congregations. And for those whose numbers are dwindling, there are concerted efforts at community outreach, with clergy banding together throughout the year to provide services for those in need on the South Fork.
The St. Andrew Roman Catholic Church is a stone’s throw from the Christ Episcopal Church, just down the street from the First Presbyterian Church of Sag Harbor, more commonly known as the Old Whalers’ Church, housed in perhaps Sag Harbor’s most iconic façade. Temple Adas Israel, Long Island’s oldest synagogue, has sat at the corner of Atlantic and Elizabeth streets for more than 120 years and remains one of the most vibrant synagogues on the East End.
The Center for Jewish Life Chabad on Bay Street on Long Island Avenue has expanded its outreach since moving from North Haven to Sag Harbor in 2017. And the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Fork, under the leadership of the Reverend Kimberly Quinn Johnson, has never felt more relevant — its mission in social justice education and advocacy critical during a time where many political leaders seek to divide rather than unite.
And perhaps that is one of the reasons why residents still flock to these leaders and spaces — for community and a place where the goal is to draw people together rather than segregate.
For 70 years, Cormaria, a spiritual retreat center on Bay Street, has sought to do just that. A haven of peace, space for religious awakening and place where connections are sought and found, Cormaria remains the last surviving retreat on the East End.
Sister Ann Marino, the retreat director, is the living heart of Cormaria, a place that has welcomed all genders, persuasions and religions since the 1980s, and was one of the first retreat houses to welcome people with AIDS and HIV. It continues to support those in 12-step programs with weekend retreats and has maintained affordability to remain as inclusive as possible.
Cormaria is a place that invites self-reflection and rediscovery. During a time in history marked by conflict and change, it is a retreat we all need now more than ever.