Rev. Kevin O'Hara
- Patchogue, NY
I'm currently in Patchogue, New York, just minutes from the beach and Fire Island. I am serving at the Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Patchogue. It's a church dedicated to service in the community. Even though we aren't on Main Street, I feel like we're a hidden gem... and I think Jesus had something to say about that. I have three trained deacons, and despite my own human limitations, the church is growing and the Good News of God is reaching new and excited ears. To say I love where I am serving is an understatement. I'm thankful to God who brought us together.
What brings you joy in your ministry?
Ultimately, it's serving those who are on the margins of society. Since I've been at the church, I've had a few deaf people attend church regularly. I usually have a big mouth that all can hear, but I had no idea how to minister to those who are deaf. Luckily, God also put a sign interpreter in the congregation too! Then, we also welcomed a legally blind person who has challenged me in other ways. And of course, being openly gay in a conservative area has attracted some other gay members. I can't wait to see how we can reach out to others and what God has in store for the church.
Who inspires you in ministry or seminary?
I think the first person who inspires me is Dietrich Bonhoffer; his wisdom and courage in facing difficult times, and his view of grace have inspired me to know that everything comes with a price. I appreciate N.T. Wright theologically and especially holding him in tension with Marcus Borg. If only all people who differ so much could be such great friends! Lastly, I appreciate Tim Wise, author of "White Like Me", who has explored the depth of his life and realized the advantages he has had; it's made me look at my own life and to treat all people with fairness.
What are your interests outside of ministry?
I love swimming; I try to do that as much as humanly possible (which right now is a day or two a week). I love the beach and water; if possible, I can be found on Fire Island or at the bay. I'll be the one with the nice tan and a cleric shirt on. I love reading and figuring out my own position about things in life. I have two cats that will scratch me if I don't mention them. And, when possible, I love a good night's sleep!
Best meal you've ever eaten?
So... I'm not much of a food person, but I would have to say a good salad (I know, salad! ugh!) beats anything else on its best day. I consider salad to be God's trail mix in life.
I'm originally from Philadelphia, born and raised. I went out to Elizabethtown College in the heart of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I was trained as an elementary education teacher but didn't feel called to being a teacher. Since I had nothing better to do with my time, I decided to take my mother's advice and go to seminary. The rest is history...
Did you always want to be clergy?
No. I actually wanted to be an elementary teacher, but as I was going through college and the cooperating training, I struggled every day to live according to the "No Child Left Behind Policy". My cooperating teacher said about 2/3 of the way through that she was sad that she was losing me. I didn't know what she meant. She said that while she thought I would make a great teacher, she knew I couldn't reconcile my teaching philosophy with what the government was requiring.
During this same time, I was trying to reconcile more than my future career. I was very angry with God. I was slowly coming back into the church, thanks to a mentor who was a Lutheran pastor. During the summer one year, I decided to read the Bible, but on the sly so nobody would know. Well, my mother caught me... and thought it would be a good idea for me to go to seminary. After graduating college, I had nothing better to do, so I went. Who knew this was God's plan all along!