Our Minister

Rev. Art McDonald, ordained to the ministry in 1978, was called as minister to the First Universalist (Unitarian Universalist) Church of Essex, MA in September of 2003. 

Previously, Art had served as minister of the Allegheny Unitarian Universalist Church in Pittsburgh, PA. from 1991-2003

Art holds a PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Pittsburgh, focused on the relationship between religion and politics. His dissertation research was conducted in Peru, South America. Art is also adjunct faculty at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Pgh. PA. More recently Art has been teaching as a part time faculty member at Merrimack College, North Andover, MA and Salem State College in Salem Ma.

Along with traditional pastoral duties such as preaching, conducting rites of passage, worship-leading, counseling and adult education, Art believes that religious congregations have a major role to play in community outreach and organizing, thus he sees much of his ministry as involved in community issues of justice and peacemaking. 

Art has been married to Melanie (Hodorowski) McDonald for 25 years.

Search Rev. Art's McDonald's sermons' click here.


Our congregation at the First Universalist Church of Essex was founded in 1829. 

In 2005, we celebrated 175 years in the same location on Cape Ann. After a number of decades of slow decline, we are currently growing once again. Currently, we have approximately 125 members and contributing friends with twenty-five children in our Religious Education Program. We have a full music program as well, and frequent adult religious education programs. A big part of our mission is in the community. To that end, we are active and engaged in issues around economic justice, same-sex marriage, affordable housing and housing for the homeless, environmental justice, hunger and youth advocacy, and peace in our world. 

On Sundays, we come together, in part, to share our joys, concerns and challenges surrounding our families, communities and our world. We are welcoming and affirming and are proud of the accomplishments of our church, our congregation and our greater community. 

Our History

The First Universalist Church of Essex, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association, has been a consistent presence on the North Shore since 1829, proclaiming the central message of Universalism, which is inclusive, and justice-based universal love and salvation. 

After the tragic fire in 1946, that leveled our historic building, the congregation was rebuilt in the 1950s. As we begin the 21st century, the Universalist message of love is relevant as ever. 

We are a vibrant, growing congregation with a developing Religious Education program for our children. We offer a rich and diverse music program that includes an adult choir and musical guests during the Sunday services. 

We are also proud to be the home of the One World Coffeehouse for the past 19 years.  For more info click here: One World Coffee House.