A young Caribbean-American priest who was born in Crown Heights and grew up in East Flatbush – both in Brooklyn – says she’s “come home to myself” since ordained a priest on Sept. 15, 2018.
“I feel that I’ve come home to myself, because what I do in my ministry as a teacher, a pastor and a prophetic preacher – all of those things have always been a part of who I am,” said the Rev. Leandra Lisa Lambert in an exclusive Caribbean Life interview.
Rev. Lambert, whose parents – Leandra “Virginia” Baptiste and Joseph Lambert – hail from Bogles, Carriacou, the larger of Grenada’s two sister isles – was ordained a priest at The Cathedral of the Incarnation, Garden City New York.
Since then, Rev. Lambert, who only gave her age as in the early 30s, has been serving as Associate Rector at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, East Hampton, New York, where there are over 600 active congregants.
The church’s rector is The Very Rev. Denis C. Brunelle, who grew up in New Hampshire, but whose family is French-Canadian.
Rev. Lambert said, since The Very Rev. Brunelle is currently on a three-month sabbatical, she manages the day-to-day pastoral and administrative responsibilities.
When The Very Rev. Brunelle is present, Rev. Lambert said she preaches on alternate Sundays but administers other sacraments every Sunday.
She said the East End, Long Is., which encompasses the far end of Long Is., has the highest income inequality per capita in the country, “with a high concentration of wealthy individuals and families, and a thriving year-end community who makes life possible here.”
“Those stories don’t often get told,” she said. “They are often eclipsed by the wealth and opulence.”
From the time she was assigned to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, East Hampton, Rev. Lambert said parishioners “have gone out of their way to welcome me in the community, which is reflective of their core values as a worshipping congregation and community of faith.
“Everyone who walks into St. Luke’s is received in a spirit of love and hospitality, because we understand that, all of us, not matter where we come from, are children of God,” she said.
Rev. Lambert added that “the ministry, certainly, has its challenges, but the great blessing of the journey is that we don’t live, and we don’t work, and we don’t serve in isolation.
“And so, my ministry has been enriched because of my colleagues and friends and family who continue to support me,” she disclosed.
Six months before becoming a priest, on Mar. 1 2018, Rev. Lambert was ordained a deacon at her previous home church, St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church, on Hawthorne Street, in Brooklyn.
At her ordination to the priesthood, over 1,000 people gathered at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, where the Right Rev. Lawrence C. Provenzano, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, presided.
The preacher was the Rev. Canon Calvin C. McIntyre, a retired Jamaican-born priest, who served for many years as the Rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in the Bronx.
“On a deeper level, I felt ready for ordination,” Rev. Lambert told Caribbean Life then. “The calling God had for me was there my entire life. It took me some time to recognize it; it took time for the church to recognize the call also.”
Before the Ordination Service, Rev. Lambert said it is customary that the ordinand take time for retreat.
Rather than going to a monastery, she said she knew she wanted to do something different.
“I decided I would take a sensory deprivation float,” Rev. Lambert said, stating that the float is a salt solution, “which makes the body incredibly buoyant.
“My time in the pod was in complete silence and darkness,” she added. “I had an intense spiritual experience, where I was transported to the time of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and I was floating with my ancestors in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean during the Middle Passage.
“In those moments, I could feel myself bound to them and immersed in their sacrifice,” Rev. Lambert continued. “I felt their spirit once again. It was the wind at my back propelling me forward, as I walked in the procession the morning of my ordination.
“They were with me as I lay prostate in prayer, and they held me up in the moment I became a priest, under the weight of the hands of the bishops and priests,” Rev. Lambert said.
The day after her ordination as a priest, Rev. Lambert said she celebrated her first mass at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church, the parish which sponsored her for ordination.
“I was good to be back home,” she said, adding that she had “the joy” of baptizing her first two babies.”
After the service, Rev. Lambert said she stood in the sanctuary for 2 ½ hours praying with parishioners.
“It was a stark reality of ministry and my call to represent Christ, and be with God’s people, as we all navigate life,” she said.
Rev. Lambert said, while she knows that the ministry will present her with “unimaginable challenges” in the years ahead and that God will use her, taking her to places she “can’t imagine and prefer not to go,” she remains “comforted knowing that the God who brought me to this point in my life and ministry will see me through.
“I know the blessing and prayers of the great cloud of witnesses go with me,” she said. “My prayers now are for good health and that I be worthy of my calling.”
Rev. Lambert graduated from Harvard University’s Divinity School with a Master of Divinity (M. Div.) degree in 2015. Her Master’s thesis was on “Sign, Symbol and Sacrament: Eucharistic Ethics and the Israel-Palestine Conflict.”
Prior to pursing her Master’s degree, Rev. Lambert said she had attended Wellesley College in Massachusetts, graduating in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in classical civilization and political science, and pursued a semester of studies in Greece a year earlier through the college’s Study Abroad Program.
In Greece, she said her interest in politics and the church’s role heightened.
On her message to the world, Rev. Lambert, who was named the “2017 Young Adult of the Year” by the Union of Black Episcopalians, said she wants to continue spreading “the message of the Cross and the Resurrection.
“God is always taking dead things and broken things, and bringing something new out of it [them],” she said. “And am very humbled to be called into the ministry in the church.
“And all I want to do is to be a faithful servant and worthy of the calling,” Rev. Lambert affirmed.
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