LEONIA, N.J. — Just around the time Leah Fowler began to grasp her faith, she also started to understand her sexuality, too.
The then-18-year-old Atlanta native knew LGBT has been something the church has long struggled to accept.
It was, however, part and parcel of Fowler's religious journey.
“I couldn’t be one without the other,” said Fowler of being a pastor and a lesbian. “There were people saying there’s a don’t-ask, don’t-tell [policy]. It was my personal life.”
But Fowler strives for integrity, authenticity and honesty. It’s what she feels people deserve from a pastor.
Particularly, the parishioners at Leonia's Presbyterian Church, where she will begin her tenure as senior pastor on Sunday.
“For me to just try to not be gay didn’t seem like it was in the cards,” said Fowler, who has a 4-year-old daughter with her wife. “To deny that part of myself feels like I’m denying the part that God created me to be.”
The reverend admires First Presbyterian Church's cultural diversity and its acceptance toward her as a gay pastor.
“What’s unique about a church — or any religious institution — is that you can come together in a community to be spiritual… without being religious,” said Fowler, who spent the past seven years as an associate pastor just outside of Chicago.
“There’s something about being a community that draws from the outside of yourself in a really positive way.”
Fowler will lead Sunday's 10:30 a.m. service at the Presbyterian Church, located at the corner of Leonia Avenue and Fort Lee Road, in Leonia.
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