She was the wife of Peter E. Lenk, whom she had first met in nursery school at age 3 and with whom she re-connected at the 30th Reunion of the Wellesley High School Class of 1972.
Rev. Lenk fought a courageous battle against Leiomyosarcoma, and when first diagnosed had been told by doctors that she had less than two years to live. She delighted in proving them wrong by living another 8 years.
A native of Wellesley (MA), Rev. Lenk was the mother of two children who were the “light and joy” of her life: Elizabeth Sangster of Sagamore Beach, and Ian Sangster of Quincy. She had two beloved stepchildren, Timothy Lenk of Milford and Beryl Lenk Wagner (Rob) of Steamboat Springs, CO, and a sweet grandbaby, Booker Timothy Wagner, on the way. She leaves two brothers, David C. Niven of VA and Andrew L. Niven of NV, her mother-in-law Constance R. Lenk of Mashpee, as well as many cousins, nieces and nephews. She was the daughter of the late David W. Niven and the late Olive C. Niven. She was predeceased by two husbands: Darcy W. Lever, Jr. who died in 1982, and Arthur John Sangster who died in 1997.
Rev. Lenk received her Bachelor of Arts in English Honors (now Commonwealth Scholars) from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she was a proud member of the UMass Marching Band. She completed both high school and college a year early, graduating Magna Cum Laude just after turning 20. She then embarked on a corporate career, eventually becoming Vice President of Human Resources in the financial services field. Along the way, she earned a Master of Science Degree in Human Resource Management from Lesley University in Cambridge.
After almost 20 years in business, she felt unfulfilled by “helping people with money make more money” and, hearing God’s call to ministry, left her corporate career to enter seminary. She graduated first in her class from Andover Newton Theological School in Newton Centre (MA) with a Master of Divinity in 1999, being honored with the Russell Chase Tuck Biblical Studies Award and membership in the Jonathan Edwards Honor Society. She was ordained into Christian ministry on May 23, 1999, at the United Church of Christ of Medfield (MA).
Rev. Lenk’s first call was as Associate Pastor at The Congregational Church of Topsfield (MA), United Church of Christ, where she served for six years. She was then called as Senior Pastor to the First Congregational Church of Stoughton (MA), United Church of Christ, where she served for eight years. In her years as a Pastor, she was recognized for her upbeat, optimistic and compassionate demeanor, her high energy and creativity, and her joy-filled sense of humor which she punctuated with an infectious laugh. She served the UCC in various local, regional, and national settings, and the Mass. (now Southern New England) Conference of the United Church of Christ recognized her leadership, service, and pastoral achievements with the Haystack Award for Discipleship in 2012.
Rev. Lenk received “out of the blue” a diagnosis of Stage IV cancer on Good Friday, 2013. She courageously led the Stoughton congregation in Easter celebrations two days later, then immediately went on a Leave of Absence to focus all her energy on her health. She began a CaringBridge blog of her first year as a cancer patient to keep friends and loved ones informed, which she later published as a book entitled Fertilizer Happens: A Pastor’s Faith, Calling and Journey with Cancer. Over the years, she underwent multiple different chemo protocols and endured six major surgeries as doctors tried to stem the spread of cancer.
When her health allowed, she was an active lay member of The Church of the Pilgrimage in Plymouth, using her knowledge and experience to start a Prayer Shawl Ministry, lead Bible studies, and serve on various ministry teams. In her spare time, she loved crocheting prayer shawls, baptismal shawls, and baby blankets. With her husband she enjoyed camping and serving as a long-time member of the Waltham Stamp Club, receiving accolades for her extensive collection of stamps depicting figures and scenes from the Old and New Testaments.
When the chemo and surgical options had run their course and the pain had taken its toll, it was time for the angels to escort her to Everlasting Life, where God, Jesus, her loved ones, and many dogs and cats were waiting to welcome her home.
Services will be held via Zoom on Saturday March 13th at 11:00 a.m. Details will be posted on www.churchofthepilgrimage.org the morning of the 13th, and will also be sent out via Jean’s Faith Communities. If you require more information, call the Church of the Pilgrimage, 508-746-3026.
Contributions in Jean’s memory can be made to either the First Congregational Church of Stoughton, 76 Pierce Street, Stoughton, MA 02072 or The Church of the Pilgrimage, 8 Town Square, Plymouth, MA 02360.