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Rev. Kay E. Woike, 78, United Church of Christ pastor

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Jan. 13, 1944 – April 18, 2022

When Rev. Kay E. Woike was attending Yale Divinity School in the late 1960s, she was one of only two women who went on to become ordained ministers.

“The professors said, ‘You’re in this program to be a good minister’s wife, right?’” her daughter Elizabeth Woike-Ganga said. “And she said, ‘No, I want to be a minister.’ ”

For a while, she was both a minister and a minister’s wife. She and her husband Glenn, who attended Yale Divinity School together, both led congregations in Central New York before they came to Buffalo.

Rev. Woike, who went on to serve as a pastor for nearly 30 years at the Church of the Nativity, United Church of Christ, in the Town of Tonawanda, died April 18 in her Town of Tonawanda home after a short battle with cancer. She was 78.

Born Kay Reinhart in Temple, Texas, she grew up in a family which had a long connection with the United Church of Christ. She graduated from high school in Sylvania, Ohio, in 1961 and enrolled in DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., where she met her husband and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1965 in philosophy and religion, with an additional pre-med major. They were married in 1965.

She told Buffalo News reporter Catherine Smith in 1979 that she decided against medical school because she didn’t think her interest in medicine was strong enough. She knew, however, that she wanted a professional career.

She and her husband took two years out from their theological studies to serve together as missionaries with the Presbyterian Church of East Africa in rural Naromoru, Kenya, where she taught English and science to secondary school students. They returned to complete their master’s degrees in divinity in 1971 and her husband became pastor of a church in Seneca Castle, near Geneva.

After doing non-ministerial work for a year, she was ordained in 1972 and was called to serve as pastor at two rural churches in Fayette, near Syracuse. When she became pregnant, the women in her congregations held a baby shower for her.

Rev. Woike left the pulpit again in 1975 when her husband accepted a post as pastor of Sweet Home United Methodist Church in Amherst, but soon found a part-time position overseeing Christian education at the Church of the Nativity, United Church of Christ, in the Town of Tonawanda.

She became a full-time associate pastor in 1978 and, while her husband was attending the University at Buffalo to become a librarian, she became the family’s breadwinner.

She went on to be co-pastor at the Church of the Nativity with Rev. Dan Schifeling in 1983. She retired in 2007 and was designated pastor emerita in 2011.

Active with Buffalo Area Metropolitan Ministries, Rev. Woike chaired the Food for All Steering Committee. She also served on committees with the Western New York Area Churches in Covenant and the New York Conference.

In retirement, she was interim pastor at various churches and worked with refugees and immigrants through Journey’s End and Justice for Migrant Families. She encouraged Nativity to help settle more than a dozen refugee families.

She also took up watercolor painting and showed her work for several years at the Niagara Frontier Watercolor Society.

Survivors include two daughters, Elizabeth Woike-Ganga and Adrienne Woike; a sister, Susan Reinhart; two brothers, Charles Reinhart and Fred Reinhart; and three grandchildren. Her husband, who became head librarian at Daemen College, died in 2012.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Church of the Nativity, United Church of Christ, 1530 Colvin Blvd., Town of Tonawanda.

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Dale Anderson has been a Buffalo News staff reporter since 1968. He was the chief rock and pop writer for 20 years and helped establish the weekend entertainment magazine Gusto.

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