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GNOUU is a local cluster of UU churches who are revitalizing their faith while rebuilding their city.

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Rev. Jim VanderWeele

Minister's Office Hours:

Rev. Jim will hold office hours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm.

The Quest for Faith

 The quest for faith is embedded in the psyche of human behavior. The search for a “roadmap for life” (i.e., for personal meaning, or “faith”) is also apparent here in New Orleans.

Our city contains a mixed metaphor of engagement in this spiritual quest. It may appear that an interest in spirituality eludes us, that we are too busy with our food, our arts, our Mardi Gras and JazzFest, and our music and dance, to pay attention to the development of our spirits. However, the elusiveness of the spiritual search is a sham, for New Orleans has its unique shadings of spiritual interest. Our landscape is enmeshed and enveloped in the intonations of the Papacy, but it is also textured with the scent of vodoun. There is a broad interest in yoga in our city. Many here appreciate the thoughts of the Buddha, and the teachers and schools that followed his words of instruction. The spiritual terrain of our city is mixed, dramatic, unique… and it has long been engaged in its own brand of search.

But we also believe it is true for many that their spiritual search is divorced from an association with a church.

Faith and Hope at Community Church

Our style of church, here at Community Church, has a unique set of characteristics. Our tradition, in our religious and spiritual heritage, is filled with hope for the human spirit.

This hope-ful sentiment has been found among the deists, the free thinkers, transcendentalists, scientists, humanists, feminists, naturalists, and liberal religionists. The question asked by Unitarians and Universalists for more than two centuries has been the hopeful question: “How can we make this a better world?”

Our faith is placed upon our hope for human kind. This faith is grounded in our belief that people who mutually support the expansion of human potential can and will influence the course of human events.

(Now, there has also been suffering in our liberal faith; as when women sought the right to vote, for decades, and when segregation was finally officially legally written into obsolescence, and when choice was awarded in 1973, and in our continued commitment to the value of the United Nations, and when many other battles were fought and won, the battles for justice, for equity, and for compassion in human relationships.)

Yet, over time, the faithful and hopeful progressive vision of freedom and liberty resounds as a strain that marches across the face of our country, the world, and here in our center of the world: the city of New Orleans. Our sense of faith and hope is grounded upon the long heritage from which we have garnered our meaning and purpose.

Rev. Jim VanderWeele

Our minister arrived in New Orleans in the fall of 2002. He returned to school in his 40’s in preparation for Unitarian Universalist ministry. This transition of life followed earlier occupations in carpentry, sales, commodity brokerage, and political activism.

Jim was raised in the Christian Reformed Church, a tradition based on the teachings of John Calvin, but accompanied by an active involvement in the social and political frameworks of life. His attendance at Christian Schools lasted from kindergarten through the sophomore year of college. One feature of this early-life study was his opportunity to study the Bible, and church theologies, which quickly led him to questions of faith and an interest in the exploration of other religious, philosophical, social, and psychological traditions.

After years of personal study, his return to school allowed him to focus on World Religions during the completion of his undergraduate studies (in the mid-90’s). This was followed by the completion of his seminary training in 2000 at the Meadville Lombard School of Theology.

The sum total of this personal study has, at this point in time, led to a deep appreciation for our Unitarian Universalist heritage. This is especially true because our spiritual ancestors from the late 1800’s shifted their attention away from the teachings about a Triune God and focused them instead on the blessings of life when lived under the care of a loving and beneficent God (however you wish to interpret this term).

Community Involvement

Rev. VanderWeele is very interested in the safety of the people of New Orleans. His attention to public safety extends from the ability to protect our fellow citizens from water and from each other. He has explicit interest in the work of the Corps of Engineers, Congress, and local governments with reference to water. However, he is equally as interested in the restructuring of our police and courts to provide an increased sense of public safety.

Rev. VanderWeele selected for Russell Lockwood Ministry Award

Rev. James VanderWeele has received the Russell Lockwood Ministry Award, which commemorates outstanding ministerial service to churches and communities within the Southwest Conference of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). The award, presented at the spring meeting of the Conference on April 27th, recognizes his untiring leadership of the post-Katrina recovery of the three New Orleans area UU churches and his involvement in interfaith social activist networks such as All Congregations Together and the Common Good Initiative.

Weddings, Memorial Services, and other Community Services

Those who are interested in a marriage or a commitment ceremony, or any other ministerial service, can contact Rev. VanderWeele at his personal phone: 504-913-5672, or reach him by email at:

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