Today we’d like to introduce you to Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.
Rev. Jennifer, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
It’s one thing to hear a call to ministry, and another to actually answer it. I remember feeling the call when I was about five years old. On the New Jersey Shore, where I grew up, as I gazed at a vast ocean and golden, purple sunsets, I knew that God must exist, for only something far greater than I could create such a vision.
Nevertheless, before I was accepted to seminary in 2007, I lived and worked in many places including as a student of theatre and social history at the University of London, Birkbeck College and as an advocacy journalist and public relations executive in Washington, D.C. I earned a Master’s in Literature from American University while working full-time for a trade association, waking sometimes near 5:00 AM to write my thesis on comedies of manners. Later, I returned to New Jersey where the ministerial call grew louder.
The key moment occurred on September 11, 2001, at McNair Academic High School, an honors magnet school in Jersey City, N.J., where I served on faculty as an English teacher. As students, staff, and administrators lived through the collapse of the World Trade Center and the destruction of part of New York City, we bonded as a Beloved Community, a veritable United Nations of belief systems and nationalities. In those moments, I knew that this is what true spiritual communities — churches, synagogues, mosques — are meant to be: places of connection, compassion, comfort, refuge, healing, joy, peace and, of course, enlightenment, in a world which can be full of affliction, chaos, noise, pain, and information overload.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Some people still are surprised that women work as clergy. I’ve stopped counting how many times I hear: “Wow! It’s so cool that you’re a woman minister in the South,” as if only men can be clergy. And depending on the denomination, women still are restricted to only subordinate roles.
Over the years, I’ve experienced my own #MeToo’s, including with a former boss, a board leader, and a congregant. I encourage everyone, especially young women, to be strong, direct, and clear about boundaries. We teach people how to respect us and part of that is calling people on their inappropriate, disrespectful behavior, and saying, “No,” and holding to it, even when we feel uncomfortable or imagine that we aren’t being “nice.”
What should we know about Unity Atlanta Church? What do you do best?
As Senior Minister of Unity Atlanta Church, I’m responsible for the ministry’s spiritual direction, ensuring opportunities for congregants of all ages to learn and grow in their faith formation. I’m passionate about emotionally healthy spirituality, reminding people that we can’t grow in our spiritual maturity, our relationship with God, ourselves, and others, if we don’t tend to our physical, emotional, and mental well-being also.
Unity Atlanta Church began in 1924 and continues to thrive as an inclusive, open, warm, compassionate, loving spiritual community offering a variety of services, programs, and classes. Our Beloved Community offers prayer support, congregational care, divine connections, sacred conversations, and loving encouragement. We believe that all people are created with sacred worth by the divine creator, benevolent, loving, compassionate, which we call God. While our origins and foundation are in Practical Christianity and New Thought Christian traditions, we honor all paths to God, recognizing that Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Mohammed, and other great spiritual masters were blessed teachers who can help us understand how to live in the world today and grow as spiritual beings.
We’re affiliated with Unity Worldwide Ministries, based in Lee’s Summit, Missouri; with Unity World Headquarters, publishers of Daily Word magazine; and with Silent Unity, Unity’s worldwide, 24/7 prayer ministry, which has been praying with millions of people seeking spiritual support for 125 years.
Our Sunday Services, which include prayer, guided meditation, music, and message, are held at 8:45 and 11:00 AM. Our “Faith-Filled Wednesdays” services, with dinner at 6:15 PM and program at 7:00 PM, cover spiritual topics such as theology, prayer, meditation, and healing of mind, body, and spirit, among others. Our Spanish Ministry, Conexion Divina, also meets every other Wednesday at 7:00 PM.
Do you have a lesson or advice you’d like to share with young women just starting out?
Trust your heart and your intuition, the still, small voice inside of you. No matter what your spiritual beliefs, remember that there is a Presence of God within you which longs to express through you, as you. That God Presence is always guiding you on your best path. Avoid asking “why” certain things occur or imagining that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes, things just happen, because that’s how life works. Your power and your strength are in knowing that you can keep learning and growing throughout your life; that you find courage by having faith in yourself; and that life’s greatest joys are often in the simple pleasures rather than in grand possessions.
Remember that our first relationship, our first love, is always with ourselves. This is not something we’re commonly taught because it often seems more noble to put others first. Nor are we taught to notice our own feelings or understand the variety of needs we have for love, peace, respect, mutuality, connection, compassion, understanding, comfort, shelter, etc. Yet, without divine self-awareness, we stumble and fall in a relationship after relationship because we are not aware of our own feelings and needs. We cannot request what we want nor can we give freely from our hearts. Knowing ourselves, our strengths, and our limitations help us shine best in whatever work we choose to do.
- Address: 3597 Parkway Lane
Peachtree Corners 30092
- Website: UnityAtl.org
- Phone: 770-441-0585
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: Unity Atlanta Church
- Facebook: Unity Atlanta Church
- Other: revjenn.com
Photo from Easter 2019 – from left, Music Director Marilyn Hopkins, Easter Bunny, Executive Director Pam Johnson, Senior Minister Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks, Youth & Family Ministry Director Leshey Williams, Assistant to the Senior Minister Linda Horton