From the Worldwide Faith News archives

At 71-Years Billie Lee Begins A New Ministry

From "Communication Ministries" <>
Date Fri, 21 Jun 2002 9:37:30 -0500

Date: June 13, 2002
Disciples News Service
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Contact: Melinda Mains
Phone: 317-713-2496
on the Web:

Philips Theological Seminary
Contact: Don Lanier
(918) 610-8303

TULSA, Okla., June 13, 200271-year-old Billie Lee, of
Edmond, Oklahoma, may be the only great-grandmother to
graduate from Phillips Theological Seminary. William
Tabbernee, PTS president, says the Tulsa-based school
doesn't keep such records. However, according to the best
memories on campus, she is a record setter. 

Billie graduated on Saturday, May 18, 2002, with a Master
of Divinity degree from PTS and was ordained into Christian
ministry the next day at New Covenant Christian Church in
Oklahoma City. She is a woman on the move, as if she has no
time to lose. 

She is the mother of three grown children: two sons, who
live in the Norman, Oklahoma, area and a daughter, the Rev.
Beth Ann French, who lives in Ottumwa, Iowa. Billie and her
91-year old mother live at the Oklahoma Christian
Retirement Community in Edmond. 

When people point out the obvious that at 71-years (soon to
be 72), she may be a little senior to begin a ministry, she
replies, "All of my adult life I have been a medical nurse.
That to me was a ministry. Now I want to be involved more
deeply in helping people." 

Billie has just been accepted for a year's residency in the
Clinical Pastoral Education program at Integris Baptist
Medical Center in Oklahoma City. "I would like to do
hospital or hospice chaplaincy work," she says. 

She felt a "call" when she was a teenager and intended to
become a medical missionary. "I went to nursing school in
preparation for that," she recalls. About that time she
also fell in love with her high school and married him.
Later, largely through her influence, he entered Phillips
Theological Seminary and Billie decided the life of
minister's wife would become her ministry. 

For years she also worked in various physicians' offices as
a nurse. While that was satisfying, Billie says, she
eventually realized she wanted to help people in a more
holistic way. That was especially true when her marriage
ended and she was looking at a future much different than
what she had expected. 

It was then that friends and her daughter, Beth Ann, began
to encourage Billie to think about attending seminary. She
also realized that, in order to be accepted as a medical
chaplain in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), she
would need a seminary degree. She explored the flexible
course offerings at PTS in Tulsa and discovered they suited
her situation perfectly. 

There were other complications, however. Billie not only
needed to go back to school after many years of being away,
but she also had to support herself while in school and
take care of her aging mother who lives 90 miles away from
the seminary campus. With determination, a realistic plan,
and hard work, Billie did it in just four years. 

She credits an encouraging seminary community, the support
of her family, and a strong faith for her success. One more
thing has helped, she says: good health. She works at that,
too. For 30 years she has had a discipline of swimming laps
several times a week, which she believes is a key to her

Now Billie is looking forward to a future as a hospital or
hospice chaplain. She would prefer to work 20-30 hours a
week, instead of the 60 hours she was accustomed to as a

How long would she like to continue in ministry? She
doesn't know. "God hasn't called me to sit down, yet," she

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