While being sensitive and concerned about the spiritual needs of older members of Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, Rev. Hope Lee also wants to reach out to young families and youth.
Lee was named pastor at the church six weeks ago, replacing Rev. Bill Hull, who served as pastor for 28 years — most of the church’s existence.
Due to Hull’s marathon service at the church, even many longtime members have not previously installed a new pastor.
“It’s a big deal in the life of this congregation,” said Lee, 32, who has still not completed unpacking her moving boxes.
Lee inherited a healthy church from Hull with more than 400 members. But many more than that attend Sunday services at the “big green church” at 6101 Cortez Road during the winter season.
“It’s a healthy congregation,” said Lee, who is considered a “7 percenter” among Presbyterian clergy. Only 7 percent of Presbyterian pastors are younger than 40, she said.
“I see my mission here as to communicate the gospel to a generation that thinks the church is irrelevant,” Lee said.
Lee, and her husband, Sung Lee, with two children, ages 5 and 1, consider themselves regular folks.
When the Lees run into other young adults in the community, they are often greeted with surprise that the couple work as clergy members.
“It’s been neat for us to be in Starbucks having a conversation with someone, and then to see them in church the next Sunday,” Lee said.
Given the difficult eco- nomic times, the church can instill a sense of hope and inspiration for desperate people.
“Once you lose hope, you lose everything. Hope for us is in Jesus Christ,” Lee said.
“I just desperately want them to know that there is a God who loves them, who cares about them, and is interested in them.”
Lee, a native of Fallston, Md., originally thought she wanted to be a Ger- man teacher, but after enrolling in Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, her focus began to shift when she accepted a job as a youth director at a church to help pay her bills.
Later, she worked with a migrant farm worker mission in Wimauma and knew then that she wanted to make the ministry her life’s work.
“I was so deeply impacted by the people who had nothing except joy and excitement in their faith,” she said.
Before coming to Bradenton, the Lees were affiliated with ministries in Amelia Island, Fla., and King of Prussia, Pa.
For now, Sung Lee is a stay-at-home dad, but also assists with the children’s and youth programs at the church.
The church is involved in many missions in the community, ranging from Habitat for Humanity to Family Promise.
“If it’s a Christian mission, Kirkwood probably has some kind of history with it,” Lee said.
Part of the new chapter the couple want to write at Kirkwood will be with using modern social networking, such as Facebook and Twitter, in the ministry.
Church member Midge Goeth said the pastor search committee wanted to find someone who could take the church’s very solid foundation and make it grow.
Members are encouraged that their new pastor brings fresh blood to the congregation and that there will be a new focus on ministering to young people.
James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee Editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.