New pastor at North Suffolk church

Published 10:17 pm Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The new interim pastor of a North Suffolk church once was told she couldn’t be a pastor because she is a woman.

But now Leigh Gillis, a long-time resident of Norfolk, has accepted the position as interim pastor at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church.

She recently finished a two-year interim pastorate term at a Presbyterian church in Goldsboro, N.C.

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“The welcome has been very hospitable and gracious,” Gillis said.



Unfortunately, during her transition to Suffolk, her 89-year old father passed away in early August.

Despite the fact she had not officially preached yet, a few members from St. Andrew still attended her father’s funeral in Norfolk. She also received cards, gifts and food from other members of the church.

Gillis’ interest in ministry began in high school. However, when she told her guidance counselor she was interested in being a minister, she was told, “women don’t do that.”

In response, Gillis decided to pursue English. She received her undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech in 1977.

After college, Gillis worked for a computer installation company for more than a decade.

However, the late Rev. Bob Carlson, a pastor filling in at her home church, Ocean View Presbyterian Church, encouraged her to consider attending seminary. Carlson even set up an admission interview for her with the Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond.

Gillis received her master’s degree in communications from Norfolk State University in 1990 and eventually received her degree from Union Presbyterian Seminary two years later.

So far, Gillis has preached at two Sunday services at St. Andrew, and she already appreciates the congregation.

“I love it,” she said. “The congregation is really responsive and asks me questions after service.”

The pastor is very optimistic about the church’s future.

“I look forward to working with the church and providing a new perspective and different style,” Gillis said. “I look forward to learning and growing together.”

The previous pastor at St. Andrew, the Rev. Dr. Keith M. Curran, had been there for about 18 years. He stepped down in March to “ease into retirement” and had accepted an interim position at a church in Kilmarnock.