Matt Cressler and Mary Ellen Giess

January 28, 2018


Matt: Our story of belonging begins in Chicago, believe it or not.  As many of you know, we are an interfaith family – I’m Catholic and Mary Ellen is a born and raised Unitarian.  We knew we wanted to raise our girls in a community of faith with people who share our values – especially a commitment to social justice — but when our two oldest girls were born in Chicago, we weren’t committed to any church in particular.

When I got my job at the College of Charleston we knew we wanted to be more intentional about choosing our faith community. But finding one that meets both of our needs is not easy.  So where to begin?  Well, Mary Ellen googled “religion” and “social justice” in Charleston and the first thing that came up was CAJM.  For me, the Unitarian Church’s role in CAJM (and the Black Lives Matter sign I saw outside when we first visited) hooked me and is a big part of what brings me back, Sunday after Sunday, Nehemiah Action after Nehemiah Action.

Mary Ellen:  For Matthew, the move to Charleston brought immediate excitement and satisfaction – a new job, a new professional community.  For me, it was much more challenging as I looked to find connections in our new home.  Our intention was to go “church shopping” – to find a community that met both of our needs and our values – but because he knew I was struggling with the transition, Matt graciously suggested we check out the Unitarian Church before anything else.  Little did he know that that small decision would lead to his conversion to become a “Catholic Unitarian.”  We were immediately drawn in by the amazing support we felt as parents, the strong commitment to religious education and to making children an active part of the community.  We also found an intergenerational community that provided opportunities for us to find friends, gain support for our family, and exercise our values through local action.

Matt: I remain committed to being Catholic, but we have found that this community provides space for us to maintain our own unique identities while celebrating our shared values and especially cultivating those values in our children. Like I said, we’re an interfaith family and like all interfaith families, we still wrestle with what that means and how that looks. But we’re happy to have a home here with all of you, wrestling with these things in community together.




Story of Belonging Archives:

January 2018 Anne Lewis

December 2017 – Kris Rife

November 2017 – Ren Manning

October 2017 – Priscilla Shumway