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Interim pastor at St. Phillips in Hinesville
In the pulpit
Father William “Buck” and Ellen Lea - photo by Photo provided.
Father William “Buck” Lea has been in the ministry for 32 years. He is serving as the interim pastor at St. Phillips Episcopal Church in Hinesville.
Interim pastors fill in for a certain period of time, until a church finds a permanent pastor. Then they’re off to their next assignment. “I prefer being an interim pastor,” Lea said.
Lea was given his first, non-interim pastoral assignment in 1978 in Colorado. He first served as an interim pastor in 1986 in Massachusetts. “I enjoy serving as an interim pastor. Most of my ministry has been as an interim pastor. My assignment is to carry the church until a permanent pastor comes,” he said.
Interim pastors help churches examine and redefine their overall visions. “The interim pastor helps the congregation as they move forward in adjusting to leadership change and assists them as they look for a new permanent pastor. It takes a unique person to serve as an interim pastor,” Lea said. “I have attended interdenominational training in Baltimore, which includes interim pastors from various denominations.”
He also attended seminary in Nashotah, Wisc., and has a master’s of divinity degree.
“I do well as an interim pastor, and I am able to identify and understand the needs of the people. I set goals that are quantifiable. God has given me the unique ability to recruit and place people where they are suited. I can identify the need and the talent and place people accordingly,” he said.
“One thing that impedes church growth is having the wrong person in the wrong job. The foot can’t be a hand, and the hand can’t be a foot,” Lea said. “St. Phillips is experiencing growth. We have formed a newcomers committee, and as part of our outreach ministry, we have a doll ministry. The ladies of St. Phillips enjoy making dolls for sick children. They have made over 3,000 dolls.”
The doll ministry is an important part of the church’s outreach ministry.  When a child is hospitalized, the ministry gives a doll to the child as a way to make the young patient a little happier during their stay in the hospital.
“We also assist the Manna House and homeless people. The church also has a deployment ministry for the military,” the interim pastor said.
St. Phillips also is well-known for its strawberry and apple blossom festivals.
Lea said he enjoys harp music. “My passion is singing sacred harp music. We sing it a cappella. Sunday, Sept. 5 will be sacred harp Sunday. We will sing for the service and there will be a demonstration. The main service will be at 9 a.m., and the demonstration will be from 10:30 until 11:30,” he said. Sacred harp music is Protestant Christian music.
“I also read a lot,” he said.
Lea’s advice to pastors is, “You are there to serve the congregation, not the other way around. Don’t try to change them. If they are not good enough now, they never will be. Love them where they are. If they want to go in a new direction, you help them get there. Trust your congregation. They are not a bunch of dummies.”
Lea and his wife Ellen have been married 21 years. They have four children and one grandson. The Leas live in Savannah. Ellen is a choirmaster at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church on Wilmington Island, and teaches music at St. Peter school.
Lea said he loves this area. “It has been a real gift and a blessing. The people are really good people,” he said.

Anderson is the author of “Lack of Knowledge” and “Dare to Soar.”
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