Renowned Chelsea church makes history by naming its first female, Asian-American pastor

Rev. Christine Lee. (Courtesy St. Peter’s Chelsea)

BY GABE HERMAN | St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Chelsea has announced a new priest-in-charge, who will break barriers as its first ever female pastor and its first Asian American priest.

Rev. Christine Lee will be formally commissioned at St. Peter’s Chelsea, which is at 346 W. 20 St. between Eighth and Ninth Aves., during a service set for this January.

This isn’t Reverend Lee’s first time making history. In 2012, she became the first Korean-American woman ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church.

Lee was recently vicar at All Angels Church on the Upper West Side. She is currently a Doctor of Ministry student at California’s Fuller Theological Seminary, where she focuses on leading organizational and congregational change.

She will bring that focus on change to St. Peter’s Chelsea, starting a new church vitalization program that includes a Sunday School for kids, leadership training and other congregational development programs.

“I am looking forward to being a part of this new season in the life of St. Peter’s Chelsea,” said Reverend Lee. “I have been inspired by the leadership at St. Peter’s and their desire for the church to be a sign of life and hope. There is a lot of fear and anxiety in our world today, and sadly some of that has been caused in the name of God. Our desire is for St. Peter’s to be a place where all are welcome and can encounter the love of God in these challenging times.”

St. Peter’s Chelsea was founded in 1831. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

Ongoing building restoration work will continue at the church, which Reverend Lee will be involved in. She will also bring in a new group of members to join the current congregation.

“I am very excited and encouraged by St. Peter’s Chelsea in calling Christine Lee as their new priest,” said Reverend Allen K. Shin, bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. “With additional new members blended with the existing congregation, a new vision for mission and growth will emerge under Christine’s leadership. St. Peter’s as an incubator community for development and revitalization of other communities in the Diocese is a new paradigm that has not been tried before. This is truly an exciting new project in this Diocese.”

St. Peter’s Chelsea, which dates back to 1831, is in the Chelsea Historic District and on the National Register of Historic Places. It was founded by Clement Clarke Moore, who wrote “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” which is commonly called “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” The church was built on his Chelsea estate.