By Stephen J. Kotz
To an outsider, it might seem to be a circuitous route that brought the Reverend Rose Livingston to the Sag Harbor United Methodist Church, where this month she took over for Pastor Tom McLeod who moved to the North Fork at the end of June.
But Pastor Livingston, 49, who comes to Sag Harbor from a post at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church on Staten Island, sees Providence directing a life journey that brought her to Brooklyn from her native Jamaica when she was a child. She pursued a career in children’s mental health services in the city before eventually settling on becoming a minister.
“It took me a few years to know what I wanted to do,” she said on Monday in an interview in her new office, “but theology was always important to me.”
Pastor Livingston will serve a part-time ministry in Sag Harbor, where the congregation has been on the rebound since selling its old church building on Madison Street and building a new edifice on Carroll Street. For now, she will split her time between Sag Harbor and New York, where she still has a home, before she moves into the parsonage at the Bridgehampton Methodist Church, which has merged with the Southampton congregation.
Her goals for her new ministry are to “work with the community, find needs and see how we share,” she said. “Perhaps there is a homeless population, latch-key kids, the addicted that we can serve.”
A particular interest, she added, will be to “attract young people to the congregation” and continue its mission programs on both a local and broad based level.
Pastor Livingston was just 14 when her mother, “seeking the American dream,” moved with her from Kingston, Jamaica, to Brooklyn. An excellent student, Pastor Livingston was admitted to Hobart and William Smith College in Geneva, New York, when she was 16. “It was beautiful, absolutely beautiful,” she said of the campus, where she studied psychology.
More importantly, she said, it was the right time and place for her. “At that time, women’s studies was becoming important. There was that conversation about women’s place and contribution to society. It was a place for dialog”
Pastor Livingston later received a master of divinity degree from Howard University and a master’s degree in psychology from Bowie State University in Maryland. Most recently she completed her classroom work on a doctorate in education at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, although she has yet to complete her dissertation.
For much of her career, Reverend Livingston was a case worker and supervisor for New York’s Administration of Children’s Services. “It is a tough world,” she said of the career, “but it is a great need and one I love.”
Although she was brought up in the Anglican tradition in Jamaica, Reverend Livingston’s mother joined a Baptist church after moving to New York. Pastor Livingston herself was a member of a Pentecostal church for many years in Brooklyn before becoming a Methodist. “I’m all over the place,” she joked.
“The United Methodist Church is a Godsend for women,” she said. “It’s truly an equal opportunity employer” for ministers.
After serving as a minister in various capacities, Reverend Livingston was handed her first post at St. Mark’s Church on the southern shore of Staten Island, where the congregation had an aging population. Besides ministering to the elderly, Pastor Livingston also established a girl’s club at the local elementary school.
Her initial take on her new congregation? “They are beautiful people, they are very supportive,” she said. “They love the Lord. They tell me they enjoy the services.”
In her preaching, she said, she hoped that through the Gospel she can assist her congregants “on their close, personal walk with God.”
“God is not an imaginary friend,” she said. “God is real.”