The Reverend Violet L. Dease Lee, Ph.D.
Assistant Minister for Care & Advocacy
The Reverend Violet L. D. Lee licensed and ordained to the gospel ministry of Jesus Christ by the Covenant Baptist Church in Washington, DC, serves as Assistant Minister for Advocacy & Care of The Abyssinian Baptist Church. The historical Abyssinian Baptist Church is located in the Village of Harlem where Rev. Lee serves under the tutelage of The Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III.
The first and only woman to serve as Assistant Pastor and the first woman to preside over the ordinances in Abyssinian’s 204 years of Christian witness, Rev. Lee finds profound joy in the pastoral vocation and the responsibilities to lead worship, preach the Gospel, teach, counsel and visit with God’s beloved. Her love for God’s people has only grown deeper since joining Abyssinian’s ministerial team in 1998. She is humbled by the call to minister at the critical rites of passage moments in life for the members of the Abyssinian Church — funerals and weddings, pre-marital and family counseling.
She is also a gifted social ministries leader and in the past, has carried the dual role of Assistant Minister for Social Ministries and Dean of The Abyssinian Institute for Christian Education. She has helped to direct and coordinate a number of Christian education and social outreach ministries including financial assistance programs, a food pantry, a Grief & Bereavement Support Group, access to case workers, HIV/AIDS ministry, a health ministry and an annual health fair. Rev. Lee remains committed to the spiritual formation of newcomers to the Abyssinian fellowship by providing instruction and orientation for new members. At present, Dr. Lee, in conjunction with other Social Workers within the Abyssinian congregation is preparing to launch a social service drop-in center, The Center for Care & Advocacy. This center will also provide counseling and psychological services to the community of Harlem.
Rev. Lee has also served for the Abyssinian Development Corporation, a 501©(3) community development organization, as the Vice President of Family Services. In that role, Rev. Lee was responsible for and served as the Director of a homeless shelter, Abyssinian House, for 25 families preparing for permanent housing; a 100-unit housing complex for senior citizens and the frail elderly, Abyssinian Towers; and case assistance programs for persons in the community. Before completing this assignment, Rev. Lee began to implement social services for low-income housing residents of a 231-unit housing complex, newly acquired by the non-profit organization. Also in that capacity, Rev. Lee co-wrote departmental grants and implemented new programs. Rev. Lee’s longstanding commitment to social justice finds dynamic expression in her holistic approach to pastoral ministry that is mindful of God’s call for justice.
A native of Cheraw, South Carolina, Rev. Lee holds a Bachelor of Social Work degree (BSW) from Winthrop University in South Carolina, a Master of Social Work degree (MSW) from Howard University in Washington, DC and a Master of Divinity degree (M.Div.) from Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. Rev. Lee has done extensive research in counseling, having completed coursework toward the Ph.D. in Clinical Social Work at New York University. In 2012, she received the Doctor of Philosophy degree from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education. Along her educational journey, Rev. Lee has been listed in Who’s Who Among American College Students and the National Dean’s List, as well as having received other honors, scholarships and awards. Committed to social uplift and community service, Rev. Lee is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., A Public Service Sorority and serves as the Chaplain of the oldest alumnae chapter, New York Alumnae Chapter. In December 2002, Rev. Lee was featured in Glamour Magazine as a top religious leader. The African American Pulpit honored Rev. Lee as one of the nation’s “20-To-Watch” emerging ministers under the age of 40 in the Summer 2005 Issue. She was featured in the November 2008 Upscale Magazine and in the African American Pulpit’s Lectionary and the fall 2009 Issue.
Prior to joining the Abyssinian staff, Rev. Lee held positions in various social work capacities, primarily addressing the needs of men and women living with HIV/AIDS. Rev. Lee was once the only Discharge Planner for the District of Columbia, developing a comprehensive program to provide services for incarcerated men and women living with HIV/AIDS within the District of Columbia Department of Corrections system for Family & Medical Counseling Services, Inc. and preparing them for their return to society. In this position, Rev. Lee was instrumental in establishing unprecedented federal funding to expand this program and its services. Rev. Lee has also served as a case manager, health educator, and public health investigator where she facilitated pre- and post-test counseling for the AIDS virus in Charlotte, NC for the Metrolina AIDS Project (M.A.P.) and for the Mecklenburg County Health Department. Rev. Lee presently serves on the Board of Directors for the American Baptist Churches – Metropolitan New York.
A real “people person,” Rev. Lee takes pleasure in traveling, spoken word/poetry, theater and other cultural outings. She also enjoys reading and creative writing.
Rev. Lee is happily married to The Reverend Canon Terence Alexander Lee. They reside in Hollis, NY where he serves the St. Gabriel’s Anglican Episcopal Church as Rector. They are the loving parents of one daughter, Gabrielle Alexandria.