When the Rev. Abhi Janamanchi accepted the call to be the senior minister of Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda. Md., he became only the fifth senior minister in Cedar Lane's 62-year history.
His departure brings to a close 14 years of service as senior minister at the Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater, where he developed a multicultural interfaith program that spanned the Tampa Bay area. He was the featured speaker at national and international religious conferences and coordinated interfaith community action on a variety of social justice issues.
Born in 1969 and raised in an industrial city in southern India, he was especially close to his maternal grandfather, who was an active member of the Brahmo Samaj, a liberal Hindu reform movement with ties to Unitarian Universalism. Janamanchi was inspired at an early age by his grandfather's lifelong commitment to liberal religious values and social justice.
While attending Andhra University in India, Janamanchi earned a bachelor's degree in physics and pursued graduate work in quantum mechanics. He also met his wife-to-be, Lalitha, and the couple married in 1990. A year later, he put his studies on hold for a career in banking.
Janamanchi and his wife shared an interest in the Brahmo Samaj, and he was ordained as a lay minister.
While attending a religious conference in Bangalore, he met the dean of Chicago's Meadville Lombard Theological School, who encouraged him to apply. He was accepted, moved to the United States and graduated in 1998 with a master's degree in divinity. While in seminary, he and his wife helped develop an outreach ministry to the Indo-American community in Chicago called the Bharat Samaj.
Early in his career he served several years as intern minister at the Unitarian Church of Evanston and the UU Community Church in Park Forest, both in Illinois. He then accepted a position as interim associate minister at the First Unitarian Society in Madison, Wis.
Since becoming the UU of Clearwater's senior minister in 1999, membership, church attendance and enrollment in religious education have doubled.
In an email to congregants, Janamanchi said the move "means the chance to be a part of a large, programmatic, multistaffed congregation. It means new opportunities, new challenges, in a new setting. And it means being 20 minutes from our nation's Capitol."
In a bittersweet closing, he added, "But it also means saying goodbye to dear friends and colleagues like you. It means coming to terms with the joys and the struggles of what we've shared, cherishing what we learned and giving my best to what's next."
Janamanchi and his wife have two sons, Abhimanyu and Yashasvi.
His last day in the UU of Clearwater pulpit is Sunday. His ministry in Bethesda will begin in August.
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After serving 21 months as priest-in-charge of All Saints' Episcopal Church in Tarpon Springs, one of the oldest churches in the Diocese of Southwest Florida and the Tampa Bay region, the Rev. Wayne F. Farrell has been elected as its parish rector.
Bishop Dabney T. Smith approved the call, and Farrell will be formally installed as only the fourth rector of the parish, which still occupies its original Florida carpenter Gothic church building.
"Our parish is grateful to Bishop Smith and his staff for their support during our transition," said Farrell. "Most importantly, this congregation is thankful at being strengthened by the Holy Spirit over the past 21 months. We look forward to the new places God is leading us in mission and ministry."
Farrell, a 1980 graduate of the University of Florida, worked 27 years as a small businessman in the field of real estate development and home building before he was called to the ordained ministry. In 2011, he graduated with a master's degree in divinity from the School of Theology of the University of the South, Sewanee, Tenn.
He and his wife, Trish, have been married 29 years and have two adult children.
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Now that summer's here, Festival Ruah celebrates the season with an interfaith program of multicultural music, dance, poetry and readings at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater, 2430 Nursery Road.
Performers include Gumbi Ortiz and New Groove City with Latin percussion and music; didgeridoo and percussion with Baba Abasi Ote; classical Indian dancers Jayash and Manash Ramanathan; Kuumba dancers and drummers; jazz musician Fred Johnson; and others.
Well-wishers will also have an opportunity to say goodbye to the Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, who has accepted a position at Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda, Md.
Free and open to the public; offerings will be accepted. Refreshments will be served and childcare will be provided.
Call (727) 531-7704 or email [email protected]
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Singer, songwriter and poet Tom Kimmel will be the guest musician at the 10:30 a.m. service Sunday at Unity Church of Clearwater, 2465 Nursery Road. Later, at 1 p.m., he will lead a song-writing workshop at Peace Cottage.
Kimmel, who will perform in concert at 7 p.m. Monday at Peace Chapel, has released seven solo albums, published a book of poems and led song-writing workshops in this country and abroad. His compositions have been recorded by major artists and featured in films and television shows.
Offerings of $15 per person or $25 per couple will be accepted at both events.
Call (727) 531-0992. Visit housebuiltonlove.com.
Mail religion news to Nova Beall at 1130 Cleveland St., Suite 100 A, Clearwater, FL 33756; fax to (727) 445-4119; or email [email protected]