Her name card may say "Rev. Lia Willetts," but her new congregation and friends in Lehigh Acres call her Pastor Lia. She is the new minister of the Christ United Methodist Church on the corner of Homestead Rd. and Lee Blvd. She has served for 24 years in the ministry.
"My friends call me Pastor Lia, pronounced like Leah," Willetts said.
She comes to Lehigh from Fort Myers where she pastored a church for four years and before then, she ministered in Tampa for eight years. Her husband is the Rev. Tom Willetts at the Good shepherd United Methodist Church in North Fort Myers. They are married with two children. Their oldest daughter is a missionary in Argentina and their youngest daughter is a junior at Florida State University in Tallahassee. She wants to be a teacher.
Originally from Puerto Rico, she has a master's degree in theology.
She replaces Rev. Carlos Otero, who has been the church minister for last few years.
Ministers are assigned to serve for periods of time in the Methodist churches in Florida by the Florida Conference based in Orlando.
The Christ United Methodist Church is also celebrating its 50th anniversary in Lehigh and on Oct. 14, Pastor Lia said there will be a special service at 10"30 to mark the event.
The church has a membership of 251 worshippers and Willett says her mission in Lehigh is to reach out "to everyone in our community with the love of God. We are developing new youth and children's programs on Sundays and Wednesday nights.
And Willetts said plans are in the making for a special social event to held on Saturday nights.
"It will give the youngsters of our community something to do. We hear so much that there is nothing to do on the weekend in Lehigh, so we are working with the church and the young people to come up with a social event where they can come and be safe and enjoy themselves," she said.
Willetts said she wanted the church to become known as a place of worship for all ages, nations and races.
And with her background and being able to speak both English and Spanish, the church is launching a new service for Spanish-speaking worshippers starting September 9 at 2 p.m.
Regular services are 9:15 a.m. for Sunday School classes for infants to three years and from four years of age to the fifth grade and also for adults. Regular English worship service is at 10:30 .m. on Sundays.
"We going to continue to support the Daily Bread Food Pantry with several other community groups of Christian churches that support it with food. We will discontinue handing out clothing to make room for more food at the pantry which is located in the second house from the church on Homestead Rd. As of now, it hands out food three days a week to anyone in Lehigh who needs food," she said.
She said there is a Hymn Sing at the church on the fourth Sunday at 23 p.m. every moth and it is a well-attended event.
"It's not only for our members, but for the whole community," she said. And Pastor Lea has already joined the Lehigh Kiwanis Club and plans to work together with the club and other organizations in the community.
"Oh, and we are planning to hold a Movie Night for the entire family on Friday nights beginning in September. "We'll be showing some of the newer movies," she said.
The church is already planning for Christmas, four months away.
"We're going to have a live Nativity presentation. We will have people dressed in costume to portray the real reason for Christmas. It will be outside and we will have plenty of refreshments for all in the community."
"And in addition, we will have a Christmas Cantata inside the church which will be open to the entire community," Willetts said. She went on to say that the church will be open for worship services on Dec. 25, Christmas Day. Most churches are not open on Christmas Day unless it falls on a Sunday.
"But as always, our focus is on spiritual matters, about love of God and love of your neighbors.
I am glad to always offer prayer to anyone who needs it. All they have to do is call our church at 239-369-1433. You can also send an email to Pastor Lia Willets at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also go on the Internet to www.facebook.com/christumclehigh.
"But best of all, come and worship with us. Our mission is to invite all people to follow Jesus Christ, build them up into his body and image, and send them out to serve others," she said.