The Rev. Dr. Chris J. Antal, called and settled minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Rock Tavern, is resigning his position effective June 30 to focus on his career as a full-time chaplain at the Veterans Administration facility in Philadelphia.
Rev. Antal has ministered to the congregation since 2011 and has been active in peace, racial justice, climate and social justice causes locally and nationally.
Former Rock Tavern UU President Hollis Kellogg, in a letter to the congregation, said, “We will continue to have a connection to Reverend Chris through his occasionally being asked in the future to present his messages as a Visiting Minister. Our congregation has been blessed by the contributions he has made over the past decade and we hope to be able to express our deep appreciation to him personally at an outdoor service in June.”
Due to the COVID pandemic’s negative impact on the congregation’s finances, the minister’s role, at his suggestion, had been reduced from half time to quarter time earlier this year.
Antal moved his family to Philadelphia almost two years ago. He is a former officer and chaplain in the Army National Guard and the Army Reserves and, one year after becoming the consulting minister to the congregation in 2011, he was deployed to Afghanistan.
The congregation welcomed him back and shortly thereafter voted him as its called and settled minister. The then, Captain Antal, made national headlines when he resigned his commission in 2016 with a public letter to President Obama.
“I refuse to support US armed drone policy,” he wrote. “I refuse to support this policy of unaccountable killing.” In his letter, he listed three major reasons why he could no longer serve his country in good conscience: the secretive drone program, America’s continued development of nuclear weapons, and its policy of what he calls “preventive war, permanent military supremacy and global power projection.”
He is a past president of the Greater Newburgh Interfaith Council and was instrumental in forming a local chapter of Veterans For Peace, an international organization whose mission includes increasing public awareness of the costs of war and United States overt and covert intervention in other nations.
“Serving as your called and settled minister has been my privilege and honor,” Rev. Antal wrote in a letter to the congregation, “I am confident the UUCRT will emerge from recent challenges as you have from challenges in the past; like the phoenix from the ashes.”
Recently elected UUCRT President Patrick O’Neill echoed those comments with this remark: “For over 150 years, our congregation has withstood wars, natural disasters, fire, depressions, and now has survived the plague. The Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Rock Tavern continues as a place of spiritual growth. With in-person, and now through electronic services, we continue welcoming all who want to lead a just and decent life. “
A farewell reception for Rev. Antal and his family will be conducted Saturday, June 12 at 1:30 p.m. outside on the grounds of the congregation’s fellowship hall at 9 Vance Rd., in Rock Tavern.