The Rev. Andrea Brownlee is the pastor of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Perry. She earned her bachelor’s degree in religious studies with a minor in music from the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio, and her Master of Divinity from Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky. Andrea was ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in 2007.
Look for Andrea and her husband, Brandon King, and stepson, Colson, around town enjoying the local restaurants. Their 10-month old puppy, Charlie, a Labrador retriever/golden retriever mix, rounds out the family.
“Ministers aren’t boring, end quote,” declares the Rev. Brownlee. If you have doubts, her responses here should dissuade you. She’s thoughtful, reflective, energetic, active and engaged in the community. One cannot be boring if one has worn Jelly shoes and loves “Eye of the Tiger.”
Laura: What’s your favorite thing to do in Perry?
Andrea: My husband and I like to go out to eat—so visiting all the local restaurants. And going to Perry Perk, my office away from my office.
Laura: Favorite Perry comfort food?
Andrea: Cinnamon roll from Perry Perk.
Laura: What smell reminds you the most of your childhood?
Andrea: Popcorn. But air-popped popcorn, not microwave. We had popcorn most Sunday nights. (Since her father was a minister as well, Sunday dinners were snacks, and popcorn was one of those snacks.)
Laura: What is something you have with no monetary value but with so much sentimental value to you that you wouldn’t sell it for $5,000?
Andrea: I would not sell this glass sailboat (Andrea showed me a sleek, clear glass sculpture of a sailboat). It was my dad’s, and I inherited it. He always had it in his office. (Andrea would hide it so he’d have to search for it sometimes.) It keeps me connected to my dad. (She wouldn’t sell it for more than $5,000.)
Laura: Name a song you could listen to on “repeat” for forever.
Andrea: “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. It has that ability to put you into a good mood even if you’re not. It gets you going. You can’t not dance to it. But then after a while, you can listen to it in the background.
Laura: What outfit or piece of clothing or accessory did you wear growing up that you thought was the coolest ever?
Andrea: Jelly shoes. I had pink Jelly shoes, and I wore them everywhere with everything. (Pink plastic shoes go with everything.)
Laura: What’s the most impressive thing you can cook?
Andrea: Homemade gnocchi—it’s a potato pasta thing. You sauté it in butter, garlic and goodness. (Both Andrea and her husband would say it’s her most impressive dish.) I’m really proud of myself for being able to make it. (When I asked Andrea what prompted her to even try making this dish that is made from homemade dough, she said that she “got a mixer with some attachments.” She lost this non-appliance-using non-cook at “got a mixer,” let alone one with attachments. Good gosh! I’m impressed by people who even know how to use a mixer with attachments let alone have a result as tasty as gnocchi sounds.)
Laura: What’s the best trait you inherited from your parents?
Andrea: Being able to share my emotions. In a lot of families, sharing emotions isn’t always what happens. My family taught us and showed us it’s okay to share our emotions. I learned how to do that in a healthy way, which means I’m not afraid to cry in public.
Laura: If you had to take a tourist one place in the Perry area, where would you take the person?
Andrea: Around Second Street and to the sculptures on Willis—the whole downtown area. It’s a fun part of town to take people to.
Laura: What do you wish you really understood about Perry?
Andrea: More of its history. It would help me to understand the community better—know the present place better.
Laura: What one thing would you like to see happen in Perry that hasn’t happened yet?
Andrea: Not something that hasn’t happened, but an ongoing increase in and continuation of the things that are already happening through the Chamber and the City. I’d like to see more people engaging in what is happening and offer suggestions of other things to do.
Laura: Did you do anything for the first time in the past 12 months?
Andrea: Yes. In May I got to hold my nephew for the first time since he was born on Sept. 10, 2021. He was still young enough that he wanted to be held. (He lives in Indianapolis.)
Laura: When people come to Perry for the first time, what do you think surprises them the most?
Andrea: How much activity really is happening around town and in the community—that Perry is as active as it is.
Laura: What’s the one thing that you really wish all Perryites understood about you personally?
Andrea: That even though I’m a minister, I’m still only human. I like to joke and have fun and be serious when it’s called for. Ministers aren’t boring.
Laura: Name one of your hidden talents or interests that might surprise people.
Andrea: I play the piano.
Laura: What was your favorite thing to do on the playground when you were a kid?
Andrea: Swings. We’d swing and see who could jump the farthest. Some friends came out of it with sprained wrists (Andrea was spared).
Laura: What is the most scenic landscape you’ve ever travelled through?
Andrea: New Zealand. One part of a bus trip in New Zealand through picturesque places that are hard to describe. The type of scene that only exists in movies and then you learn it has been in movies–the green hillsides with castle backgrounds.
Laura: Favorite Iowa day trip?
Andrea: To Pella for Tulip Time.
Laura: What is the best TV show of all time?
Andrea: “Gilmore Girls.” I can watch that over and over and not get bored of it.
Laura: Motto/saying/rule to live by.
Andrea: “Today I will get something done.” And “To live a life worthy of the calling to which I have been called” (which comes from Ephesians). We’re all called to something different (minister, wife, mother, friend)–living that out in a way that’s worthy.
Laura: What book changed your life?
Andrea: “Mere Christianity” by C. S. Lewis. It caused me to think about life and faith in ways I hadn’t as a kid or even a young adult.
The obvious answer is “The Bible.” The Bible still changes my life. I’m always reading it.
Laura: Person you’d most like to meet living and dead.
Andrea: Martin Luther King Jr. just to hear more about his life and fight for justice and to learn from him how to be a better ally.
Sandra Bullock because she will play me in my Lifetime movie. (Sandra would never consider a role that was boring!)
Laura: What are you looking forward to in the next 12 months?
Andrea: Seeing what life has in store. Being involved in the community and re-engaging after being gone on a sabbatical for a few months.
To quote Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” those who think ministers or Perry are boring may “doth protest too much.” While some are declaring that there’s nothing to do in Perry, Andrea is trying to juggle volunteer duties at multiple Perry events on the same day.
We all have our own levels of community engagement that work for us. But what if each of us committed to attending one Perry event over the next 12 months that we haven’t attended in the past?
Ministers aren’t boring. Andrea’s not boring. Engaged community members aren’t boring. With Andrea as your inspiration, check out the diverse activities Perry offers to you. You’ll run into her. And you can share some of Perry’s history with her. Like Andrea, “See what life has in store.”
Laura’s share: What sentimental item would I not sell for $5,000? My daddy’s pith helmet—with its stains of hard work. I thought this “safari” hat was so cool and loved that other farmers all wore seed corn or implement dealer caps and not the cool kind of hat my daddy wore. He wasn’t wearing it for a fashion statement, though, it was a practical and smart choice given the protection that a pith helmet could provide over a baseball cap.