The Revs. James and Cecelia Lee are celebrating retirement after 39 years of service to Harvest Time Family Worship Center-Davenport and the community.
The couple stepped down from active pastoral roles at Harvest Time, Davenport, last spring when their son, the Rev. Anthony Lee, took over as senior pastor.
Four decades "was longer than I anticipated. I expected to be out in here in 15 years," James Lee said as he sat in his former office.
Retirement begins a fresh chapter for the couple after raising a family and faithfully letting their lights shine as stewards in ministry and community outreach. He continues to travel, preaching at locations around the United States and internationally.
The couple doesn't anticipate moving away from Davenport unless an opportunity opens up unexpectedly, he said. They attend services at Harvest Time and he's always available if Anthony Lee needs to run something by him.
"One of the things we have in our heart and mind is to visit around the city with other ministers and get to know them," he said.
They are familiar faces with people in the Cork Hill neighborhood in central Davenport and around the Quad-Cities. James Lee's ministry includes past service as a board member for the Quad-Cities Association of Evangelicals and working with the city of Davenport and school system on central city issues. In his outreach, he's discovered "people are looking for examples. They're not looking for us to be perfect because we haven't arrived there," he said.
James Lee said his mother dedicated him as an infant to the Lord, and he grew up in Mississippi, long conscious of being called to ministry. After she died young, he worked his way through the last two years of high school largely on his own, and was strengthened by a miracle, he said. College followed with graduation from Zion Bible College, then in Rhode Island, and the beginning of his active ministry as an itinerant evangelist and pastor.
Rev. Cecelia Lee's desire to give of herself began early while growing up in Chicago. As a teenager, she was "drawn to reach souls for Jesus Christ, to love God and to reach out to others," she said. She described her brief time at Moody Bible Institute-Chicago as a wonderful experience. The couple met in Chicago and married in 1965.
Her mission was to reach women. "That has been my passion in life, especially as I have grown older," she said. Her ministry includes serving as director of several ministries at Harvest, including to the single mothers and teen girls purity club and serving as a chaplain at the Scott County Jail and membership in Churches United of the Quad-Cities Area Women of Iowa.
The couple arrived in Davenport in 1972 and founded the Pentecostal Deliverance Church, located in the 1500 block of Fillmore Street. The name was changed later to Harvest Time and the current location at 636 Kirkwood Blvd. was purchased in 1980.
The years were filled with raising four sons - James E. Lee Jr., and the Revs. Anthony, Titus and Timothy Lee - and celebrating the births of 11 grandchildren. Also important was their outreach to the community through tent meetings, offering a food pantry, tutoring programs, radio broadcasts on WEMO-East Moline in the 1980s, and telecasts on Channel 18 from 1989 to 1996. They helped construct a church in Haiti and he spoke at an international conference in Kenya in 2006.
The couple was recognized earlier this week by Davenport officials. "Pastor James Lee and his wife, Cecelia Lee, have been faithful servants for 39 years to the city. They've been a beacon for our community in terms of service," Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba said.