About Us

Next Service

Joining Humanity

Sunday, May 29, 2022

11:15 a.m. In-Person and Online

Service Leaders

Jay Leach, Minister; Rita Heath Singer, Lay Service Leader

Watch Online

Meet Our Minister

Rev. Jay Leach

When the Unitarian Universalist Community of Charlotte called Jay Leach to be its minister in 2003, he was delighted. He was attracted to this large, vibrant congregation and pleased to have the opportunity to move from the west coast back to his native region. Now, more than sixteen years later, he remains delighted to have the opportunity to offer spiritual leadership and pastoral presence to the largest Unitarian Universalist congregation in the southeast – a role that calls him to be a progressive presence and voice in the larger community as well.

Jay was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina.  He is a third-generation alumnus of Furman University where he graduated with a major in philosophy. He had a very winding path in seminary that took him to Rüschlikon, Switzerland, Louisville, Kentucky, and Wake Forest, North Carolina. During the transfer of his ordination to Unitarian Universalism, he completed a second Master of Divinity degree at the Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, California, where he also taught preaching and worked in the area of new student recruitment.

In a ministerial career of three-and-a-half decades, he has served prior congregations in Charlotte, New Orleans, Houston and Napa. Among many community activities, he served on the Board of Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans and the Board of Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston, worked as a clergy counselor at a hospice for people with HIV/AIDS and helped initiate the work of a Corporate Responsibility Committee for a major Catholic healthcare system.

He’s a Class XXVII graduate of Leadership Charlotte, was involved in North Carolina’s “Moral Monday Movement” under the leadership of Rev. William Barber, was a member of the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice, and is currently chair of the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Superintendent’s Interfaith Advisory Council.

In the larger world of Unitarian Universalism, Jay was a past-president of the Senior Ministers of Large UU Congregations and served on the Presidential Search Committee for the Starr King School for the Ministry.  Jay is currently on the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee for Starr King and enjoys a role on the Board of Skinner House, one of our denominational publishing houses.

Jay has a deep personal and spiritual interest in poetry, a passion that is often reflected in our services. He has a longstanding interest in the American Transcendentalists, especially Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, an affinity that also informs the content of our services.  Much of his current reading, study and teaching is in the area of racial justice.

He’s an on-again, off-again runner, completing two marathons.  He loves baseball and travel and has an interest in photography and a lifelong love of music of all kinds.

Jay’s wife, the Rev. Melissa Sparks, is also an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister. She is a graduate of the Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley and is both the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Catawba Valley in Hickory, North Carolina, as well as the Affiliated Community Minister of the UUCC. Her work as a documentary filmmaker includes A Perversion of Justice and Life Without.  She is also a singer/songwriter with a recording of original songs called “Ready.”

They are the proud parents of a child, Emerson, who was born in 2006.