"I love preaching. I'm a good storyteller, I think, because I read so many books to my kids."

At the blessing of her clerical robe before her ordination, Tess Fuller finally knew she had made the right decision.

Photo by Candace diCarlo

Surgical Coordinator, Division of Plastic Surgery
Length of service: 4 1/2 years.
Other stuff: Loves to dance, especially the Electric Slide.

Teressa Fuller - she prefers Tess - didn't so much choose to be come a minister. She says it chose her. A lot of things in her life seem to go that way. Take her marriage. Called for jury duty, she was quietly reading her Bible one day in 1984. A young man saw her, and undeterred by the Bible, thought she looked cute, waved, and the rest is history.

The mother of two boys, ages 2 and 8, likes to take them to places like the Please Touch Museum and the Discovery Zone. Fuller, 33, loves to be around people and have a good time and dance. Her favorite music is R&B and gospel. She especially likes Luther Vandross and the Wynans. And she likes to preach.

Q. Why did you become a minister?
I felt compelled to preach the Gospel. It was a pressing feeling almost. It was like a 50-pound weight on me until I said yes.

Q. Where do you serve?
I work out of the pulpit on Sundays at 20th and Fitzwater streets in South Philadelphia, at Metropolitan AME Church. That's where my roots are. ... I grew up in that church. My mother was a young child in that church. She grew up there. When I can see someone who's 70 years old and worked on a board with my mother, that is so wonderful to me.

Q. How does your family feel about your being a minister.
I thank God every day for my boys and for my husband. I met my husband in 1984 in jury duty. The fact that I was sitting there reading my Bible at that moment didn't stop him. He looked over and said, she's kind of cute; I think I'll wave. Out of this has grown this tremendous support. I could not do all that I do - wife, mother, employee, minister, learning - without him there. My boys think it's great, especially the one who's 8 years old. When he becomes a teenager I know things will change.

Q. I thought you were already ordained.
I'm still in school at the Ministerial Training Institute of the African Methodist Church. I'm ordained as a local deacon. The next ordination - after two more years of study - I would become an elder.

Q. Has becoming a minister made you behave better?
It was the other way around. God was allowing me to clean up my act, to get relationships straightened out. I used to love to dress up, to shop. My husband says, "I can't believe you went into Lord and Taylor's and came out with pantyhose." I accepted the call to ministry in 1993.

Q. What's your favorite music?
As young as I am, I love the music from the 60s. My husband says, "You're just wrapped in that young body. You're an old lady." But I think you need to take new ideas coupled with old ideas. You can't forget about tradition.

Q. What was the most special thing about becoming a minister?
The blessing of my robes. My family purchased my white robe, and had the pastor bless the robes at the morning service prior to my ordination. My family presented the robe, and my uncle - we'd become so close and when I was young we'd been so far apart. As I listened to the gospel song on the organ, I'm just a boohooing and crying because that's when I knew I made the right decision.

Originally published on January 28, 1998