Vanessa Southern

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Vanessa Southern
Vanessa Rush Southern Unitarian Church.jpg
Born 1968 (age 50–51)
Residence San Francisco, CA
Nationality American
Education Harvard Divinity School[1]
Alma mater Stanford[1]
Occupation Minister
Years active 1991–2014[1]
Organization First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco
Spouse(s) Rohit Menezes[2]
Woman cutting ribbons on a board.
Church volunteers wrote the names of fallen soldiers in recent foreign wars -- each name on a separate ribbon -- and the 4000+ ribbons hung outside the church for several years as a memorial and tribute to their sacrifice as well as a symbol of a hope for the wars to end. In May 2012, the ribbons were retired, and will later be buried as part of a memorial to honor the fallen soldiers. Photo: Vanessa Southern removing a ribbon in May 2012.

Vanessa Rush Southern (born 1968) is an American Unitarian minister notable for increasing church membership[1] as well as being a progressive liberal advocate of issues such as reproductive health care options for women,[3] diversity and racial tolerance,[4] affordable housing including projects for Habitat for Humanity,[1][5] human rights,[3] and remembrance of civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King.[6] She became Senior Minister of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco in July, 2017.[7] Previously she was minister of the Unitarian Church in Summit from 2001 to 2014 where she presided over high-profile weddings[8][9] as well as local community discussions on topics such as diversity and tolerance[10] and the "achievement gap" between low–income and high–income families.[11] Her father was the director of an acting school in New York City called the School for Film and Television and her mother was a hematology technologist at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.[2] She was married in 1999 to Rohit Menezes.[2] She wrote two books, This Piece of Eden and Miles of Dream.


Since July, 2017 Southern has been Senior Minister of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco. Earlier she was minister of the Universalist National Memorial Church in Washington from 1995 to 2000,[1] and in Summit from 2001 to 2014. During those years, congregation membership grew from 400 to 500 members, and children's education expanded to 200 members, according to a report in the Independent Press.[1] The congregation supported relief efforts in Darfur, Haiti, New Orleans, Pakistan, Guatemala and elsewhere, as well as social action projects including tutoring sessions in an Irvington school, local food banks, a program entitled Summit Helping Its People, a transition program for homeless people called Homefirst, house-building efforts, and other charitable projects.[1] In 2010, Southern's congregation was honored by the Unitarian national assembly as being one of four "breakthrough congregations" in North America for increases in membership and charitable activity.[1] She was quoted in the Dallas News thanking utility workers from Texas who helped restore electric power in New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Staff writer (December 26, 2011). "Summit Unitarian pastor celebrates 10th anniversary". Independent Press. Retrieved 2012-01-04.
  2. ^ a b c "WEDDINGS; Vanessa Southern, Rohit Menezes". The New York Times. May 2, 1999. Retrieved 2011-07-31. The Rev. Vanessa Rush Southern ... graduated from Stanford University and received a master's degree in divinity from Harvard University.
  3. ^ a b "Summit Unitarians support reproductive-health spending". Independent Press. June 14, 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-31. ... reproductive health care services ... Parish Minister Vanessa Southern stated: “These cuts are shortsighted ... This is a human rights issue.“
  4. ^ Staff reporters (January 17, 2011). "N.J. plans Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations". Newark Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2011-07-31. ... Program of Remembrance, sermon by the Rev. Vanessa Southern of the Unitarian Church of Summit and song by Continuo Arts Foundation commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.’s contributions to all people
  5. ^ Liz Keill (January 5, 2011). "Summit's first Habitat structure rises on Morris Avenue". Independent Press. Retrieved 2011-07-31. ... "When the framing goes up it will be magical,” said Vanessa Southern, rector of The Unitarian Church in Summit. ...
  6. ^ "Martin Luther King Day of Service launches 10-year initiative; spotlights Latino community". Independent Press. January 13, 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-31. ... A Program of Remembrance ... with a sermon by The Rev. Vanessa Southern of The Unitarian Church of Summit
  7. ^ "UUSF". UUSF. Retrieved 2018-01-05.
  8. ^ "WEDDINGS; Grace Kim, Erin Caddell". The New York Times. March 25, 2001. Retrieved 2011-07-31. The Rev. Vanessa Southern, a Unitarian Universalist minister, participated in the service.
  9. ^ December 2, 2012, Brenda Fulton, Penelope Gnesin, The New York Times, accessed December 2, 2012
  10. ^ Barbara Rybolt (August 10, 2009). "Prime Time Calendar of Events for the Week of August 12, 2009". Independent Press. Retrieved 2011-07-31. ... There will be a community discussion on the book ... The leader will be Vanessa Southern from the Summit Unitarian Church
  11. ^ Heather Collura (October 22, 2009). "Mayor Holds Monthly Diversity Forum". SummitPatch. Retrieved 2011-07-31. ... Vanessa Southern, Unitarian Minister, said she's read that the achievement gap widens during the summer when some families cannot afford to have their children participate in enrichment activities.
  12. ^ November 7, 2012, Vanessa Rush Southern, Dallas News, quote=...I love men from Texas. My dad is a Texan. My grandfather came to be a Texan. All my uncles are Texan. Some of the most important men in my life are Texan. They are strong, capable, kind, wise, funny, irreverent and reverent, dedicated and protective men.... In Sandy’s aftermath, a love letter to men from Texas, Accessed November 9, 2012

External links

  • Speech in Boston
  • Service of the Living Tradition sermon
  • This Piece of Eden book
  • Miles of Dream book
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