NEW PORT RICHEY — Pastor Gabe Wright ushered in a new era at Asbury United Methodist Church less than a month ago when she took over the job as senior pastor.
"It was interesting to see how the people would react to a woman pastor," said Jo Anderson, a member of the church for the past seven years. "It has been a wonderful experience so far. She is a positive, caring person who will be a shepherd to the congregation."
So far Pastor Gabe, as her church calls her, feels welcome.
"I feel much embraced by the congregation," she said. "It was surprising that some women, not any of the men, have said that they have never had a female pastor before. But that was all that was said on the subject."
For the 55-year-old Rev. Gabriela Wright, the ministry is a second career.
Her first career was in the Florida Community College system for 20 years where she went from counseling to dean of students.
"But I always felt the call from God in my life," she said. "Even as a little girl I wanted to be in the ministry when there were no opportunities for women, other than being a nun, and I wasn't Catholic."
Wright was raised in Florida after 1969 and attended both the University of South Florida and the University of Florida. She did her seminary work at Asbury Theological Seminary at the Orlando campus.
Married to Paul Wright for 30 years, they have a daughter and a 2-year-old granddaughter who live in Boca Raton, where she served her first parish.
Most recently she was associate pastor at Hope United Methodist Church in Pasco County.
Her husband is the dean of Institutional Technology at Pasco-Hernando Community College.
So far Wright has no plans for the church — only to follow what God has planned.
"We are discerning his plans for this church to see what He has in store for the community and the church," she said.
Church membership runs from 120 to 130 on any given Sunday.
Anderson said the church is made up of a lot of seniors, including her. She is 67.
"With Pastor Gabe we expect nothing but good things to come," said Anderson.