WEEKI WACHEE — In the late 1970s, there were only a few women enrolled in Evangelical Lutheran Church in America seminaries.
Kristen Wee was one of them.
Today, she is the pastor of Nativity Lutheran Church, where she has served since 2005.
On Sunday, the church will honor Wee's 25th year of ordination at the 8:30 and 11 a.m. services. The Rev. Barbara Lundblad, an ordained ECLA pastor, author and a Joe R. Engle professor of preaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, will be the guest speaker.
"Pastor Wee has served Nativity very well and is greatly loved by the people," said the Rev. Phil Schroeder, Wee's assistant pastor. "She has been a steady and generous friend to me, easy to talk to and work with."
Born in Minnesota, Wee, 70, said she was reared by parents who were "strong in the faith."
"I thought I was going to be a missionary to China when I grew up," she said. "I always felt very close to the church."
But life initially took Wee in a different direction. While she wanted to study religion and philosophy in college, she didn't think she would be able to get a job related to those courses. So she turned to music, winning a competition sponsored by the Minnesota Orchestra that landed her at the Manhattan School of Music, where she earned a master's degree in 1966. For a time, she taught music in public and private schools and gave piano and bassoon lessons.
Wee was married — to Daniel, also a Lutheran pastor — and the mother of four young children when she entered seminary at age 36. Wanting to continue to devote time to her role as a wife and mother, she went to school part time, graduating and becoming ordained nine years later, in 1987.
The minister accepted her first four-year pastorate in Waterloo, Iowa, served in an administrative staff capacity at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., for four years and then served eight years as a pastor in Austin, Minn., before coming to Florida to pastor Nativity.
Among Wee's accomplishments are finding her voice as a writer.
"I published a collection of sermons (Formed by a Dream, 2001) and a book of Bible studies (God Calls a People to Faithful Living, 1998)," she said.
A second series of sermons (Do You Love Me) was published in 2008. She is presently under contract for a third book of sermons.
Wee has worked in ministry with Lundblad — who is known for her work in advancing social transformation and reforming preaching in the church — for many years. Wee served on the national board of Re-Imagining, an interfaith movement by feminist theologians and their supporters to reform the church. That included a conference in Minneapolis in 1993 where Lundblad was a speaker. Wee also served on the Reforming Church Committee and has interacted with Lundblad on other projects over the years and attended Lundblad's preaching workshops.
"I was so pleased she was able to come down and join us this weekend," Wee said.
Wee said she is pleased with the accomplishments of her congregation at Nativity.
"I've become convinced that God saves the best for last," she said. "Coming to this parish was just a tremendous gift to me, because it's healthy and alive, forward looking, interested in outreach and interested in trying some new things."
It was a group from Nativity that started People Helping People, an outreach program to help those in need in the community that other churches later joined.
"It's just snowballed," Wee said. "We serve (dinner to) over 100 people every Sunday afternoon."
The church also ministers to students in 11 local schools and has collected and refurbished more than 100 bicycles that were given to homeless people. The church's food pantry is open five days a week and has a client list of more than 1,500 people.
Other church ministries include missions trips to Haiti and helping with Habitat for Humanity and shelters for youth and battered women.
"A very significant number of people at Nativity want to make a difference in our community," Wee said.
Schroeder thinks that is in large part due to Wee's efforts.
"She has maintained the steady program of the congregation, now 27 years old, and enlarged its mission and outreach into the community," he said. "Hospitality and generosity are marks of both her character and her ministry."
With her husband now deceased, Wee is not planning to retire anytime soon.
"I'm still having so much fun," she said. "When I wake up in the morning, I can hardly wait to get to work. It just fits me, and I feel so blessed."