Ministering to a brand new congregation while practicing social distancing has created a challenge for J. Howard Reed, who was recently announced as the interim pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church.
Not long after the Texas native arrived at Westminster, he began advising the congregation on following CDC guidelines, working with elders on canceling large events and coordinating a livestream Sunday service.
The service was planned before we knew we would use internet streaming to provide for our people and friends that day,” Reed said. “The gospel reading for the service included this providential dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well: ‘Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem,’ said the woman. Jesus replied, ‘Woman, believe me, the time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. ... God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.’”
Westminster’s interim pastor search began last summer with the retirement of long-time pastor Steve Newton. Reed accepted a one-year interim contract while the congregation continues to search for a full-time pastor.
Westminster is Reed’s seventh interim pastor position, following service as pastor to Central Presbyterian Church in Houston and York Road United Reformed Church in Woking, Surrey, England.
Raised in the small town of Eagle Lake and educated in public schools, Reed earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin and Master of Divinity from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
Since 2010, he has worked with transitioning congregations in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas as churches coped with financial stress, severe conflict, major grief or moving forward after long pastorates.
“Ministry is still wonderful, because I never figure it out and never see any limit to the infinite love God gives to individuals and the world,” he said. “It is wonderful because of the huge variety of tasks involved, which include many daunting challenges.”
Experiences as a farmer, hitchhiker, a cook on an offshore drilling rig, and a nursing home orderly helped shape Reed as he prepared for a life of ministry. He was ordained by Grace Presbytery, Presbyterian Church in 1984. He became a Minister of the Word and Sacrament for the United Reformed Church in the United Kingdom in 2000 and received the privilege of call in the United Church of Christ in 2010.
Reed is married to Larraine Lyter-Reed, a family nurse practitioner in Texas Children’s Hospital. He is the father of Clara V. Reed-Lee and the late Ansel Reed, who died from a genetic illness at age 20 in 2006. He enjoys cooking — “and eating” he adds, hospitality, gardening, painting, camping and hiking, classical music, talking to his beagle Jessie Byrd and traveling. He has toured 48 states in the U.S., 19 countries in Europe and worked as a volunteer for 2 months on a kibbutz in Israel.
Westminster Presbyterian Church is a designated Texas Historic Landmark that traces its roots to the first Protestant minister to preach on Texas soil. Worship services are held each Sunday at 11 a.m. and, through precautions related to the COVID-19 outbreak, livestreamed at Facebook.com/westpresnac.