Local churches lead with young pastors

Nicole Fuentes
Posted 9/28/23

The Rev. James E. Reiss is the new Priest in Charge of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Rider Avenue, Patchogue, while Claire Repsholdt recently celebrated a year with The Lutheran Church of Our …

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Local churches lead with young pastors


The Rev. James E. Reiss is the new Priest in Charge of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Rider Avenue, Patchogue, while Claire Repsholdt recently celebrated a year with The Lutheran Church of Our Savior this month, and Rev. Steven Williamson-Link now leads Emanuel Lutheran Church as of 2022.

James E. Reiss, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Fr. James is a Long Island native; growing up in East Northport at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church, he heard the call to Ordained Ministry at an early age and was sponsored for Holy Orders by Trinity Episcopal Church in Northport.

After graduating from SUNY Old Westbury with a degree in religious studies and psychology, he went to Austin, Texas, for his master in divinity degree from the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest. There, he focused his studies on Latinx ministry and received a concentration in military chaplaincy. 

Following seminary, Fr. James served as the curate at Centro Franciscano, a Spanish-speaking Missional Congregation for the Bishop in Riverhead. After a year, he was invited to join St. John’s Episcopal Church in Huntington as an assisting priest for a year as he cultivated his administrative, leadership, and pastoral skills. He began his ministry as Priest in Charge of St. Paul’s, Patchogue, on Palm Sunday in April of 2023.

Fr. James is also an officer in the United States Navy. Since seminary, he has been actively pursuing chaplaincy for the armed forces, as a chaplain for the Episcopal Armed Forces and Federal Ministries office. He has felt a strong call to remind all serving this country of God’s unconditional love. LTJG Reiss is a Navy chaplain candidate who completed Officer Development School in Newport, R.I., in August 2020. Fr. James completed two OJTs (on-the-job trainings) in San Diego, Calif., (2022) and Norfolk, Va. (2023). 

He was married to Kailee Sievers by Bishop Provenzano at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Garden City in September 2023. They have three little dogs: Coco, Oreo, and Mocha. He loves jazz, the beach, and fellowship with others in the community.

He said to feel free to swing by for service on a Sunday morning at 9 a.m. or out in town for brunch or coffee. 

Claire Repsholdt, Pastor at Our Savior

The Lutheran Church of Our Savior is the little white church with a big heart, located at 231 Jayne Avenue in Patchogue. In 2022, they celebrated their 75th anniversary. During that time, the church also called on their new pastor, Rev. Claire Repsholdt. She has now served the church for the past year. Pastor Claire grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and then attended Indiana University as a Wells Scholar. Upon graduation, Pastor Claire went to Yale Divinity School, where she received her masters of divinity degree. She was a liturgical coordinator while at Yale and also served as a chaplain resident at the Yale-New Haven Hospital. She then went to St. Mark’s Church in Baltimore, where she served as a vicar for one year until her call to Patchogue.

Steven Williamson-Link, Emanuel Lutheran Church

Steven Williamson-Link accepted his second divine call in December of 2022 to serve as pastor at Emanuel Lutheran Church.

“I have a heart for sharing the love of Christ with all of God’s children, and I am honored to serve Christ in His kingdom. Certainly, God is with us, and I can’t wait to see the wonderful things He has planned for all of us at Emanuel,” he wrote to his church members.

He was born in the Midwest and grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He was baptized and confirmed in the LCMS (Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod) and is the oldest of four. In his free time, he enjoys playing guitar and writing music.

In May of 2018, he married his wife, Natalie. In addition to working as a digital and social media marketing manager, Natalie is also an author with a master’s in poetry from Dartmouth. She has published seven books. Together, they have a chocolate Lab named Mabel.

Williamson-Link attended St. John’s Lutheran School (Wheaton, Ill.) from preschool through eighth grade, and graduated from Wheaton Academy High School (West Chicago, Ill.) in 2005. In 2009, he received his undergraduate degree in theology from Concordia University Wisconsin (Mequon, Wisc.), after which he enrolled at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind. During this time, he served at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church (Huntington, Ind.) for field work, and West Portal Lutheran Church & School (San Francisco, Calif.) for vicarage. He received his first divine call and graduated from CTS with a master’s of divinity in 2013. He was ordained at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Elmhurst, Ill. (June 16, 2013), and was installed (June 25, 2013) at Resurrection Lutheran Church (Cairo, N.Y.), where he served God’s people as assistant pastor until 2023. 


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