Harlem woman is Episcopal Church's first female Korean-American priest

Excerpted from an article on DNAinfo.com by Jeff Mays:

When she first started attending All Angels', an Episcopal church on the Upper West Side with her husband a decade ago, Christine Lee, who grew up in an Asian-American church, wasn't particularly fond of worshiping there.

"I just didn't feel like I fit in at All Angels'. It was too different, the liturgy, the worship style. Going from an Asian-American church to a church where there were only about five Asians, I had such a hard time connecting to anything or anyone," said Lee, 40, who has lived in Harlem for nine years.

But over time, Lee, the daughter of a reverend, connected with the congregants at the 5 p.m. service, which includes people who are homeless and others from diverse ethnic, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.

"Everywhere else in the city, even in a diverse city like New York, people are separated from each other by race and class," said Lee, who had graduated from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill. years earlier.

Soon, she found herself moving towards a career in ministry, spending the summer as the interim minister at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in West Harlem. And on Saturday, Lee, who was born in Indianapolis, was ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church, making her the first Korean-American woman ordained in the church, according to officials....

Lee, who is married to Jimmy Lee, executive director of Restore NYC, a group dedicated to ending sex trafficking, said she was taken aback by the honor.

"I was a little surprised but I guess I shouldn't be because there aren't a ton of Koreans in the Episcopal church. But it's always surprising to be the first of anything," she said.

Lee wasn't even aware of the honor she was about to achieve until she became friendly with Jae Chung, a Korean-American student at General Theological Seminary where she took a year of Anglican Studies to prepare for ordination, and his friend Young Yoon, a youth minister.

They told her that another woman, Christine Pae, who is being ordained in December in the Diocese of Newark, had been the subject of an article naming her as the first Korean-American woman set to be ordained.

Still not believing it was true, Lee set out to verify it for herself. The Recorder of Ordinations for the church doesn't keep demographic information and would require a vote from the governing body to start doing so.

But both the church's Office of Asian American Ministry and Office of Transitional Ministry told Lee they believed she was the first.

"I would have thought it would have been recorded in this day and age," said Lee. "Going forward this would be a good piece of information to have if we want to be a diverse church and raise up diverse leadership."

Lee was ordained Saturday at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine with six other women.

Comments (1)

I think the last line is very interesting to consider. SIX women ordained on the same day. Pretty cool!!!

Congrats to all! And lucky us!

Kevin McGrane

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