Over the years, you might have seen Thomas LaMothe swagger onto the stages of . Or you might have run into him at nearby speaking fluently with staff — then getting onto his motorcycle and cruising the North Fork.
But if you’re a member of his congregation, you probably are most familiar with LaMothe as the humble pastor of the , a role LaMothe said comes first.
“You lose nothing if it’s not true, but it’s a win-win proposition if you believe in God,” he said. “And I always try to channel the living faith.”
LaMothe, 54, is a Queens native who dropped out of school at 17 and joined the Air Force in 1975. He said he was raised “very nominally Catholic” in Flushing, and when he was younger, he felt he was dragged to church.
“I didn’t believe any of it — I did it because I had to,” he said.
During his military stint in 1978, he worked with a man named Don, who LaMothe described as a very devout Christian.
“He was a very intense guy, extremely intelligent and well read with some college under his belt,” he said. “He was brilliant and articulate and interesting — I was challenged to see if there was anything to Christianity.”
In 1986, LaMothe earned his degree from Philadelphia Biblical University. He started his association with the historic Greenport church when he took the job as pastor — the first time around — in 1989. Though he wasn’t familiar with the North Fork, his mother had been summering in a house in Amagansett and during one excursion to visit her he commented to his wife, Jeanette, about how nice it would be to live out here, a statement LaMothe looks back upon as a prayer.
In 1994, LaMothe decided to go back to Queens and work as pastor at the Bellerose Baptist Church — a big congregation with a large Spanish-speaking sector.
Though he did not speak a word of Spanish, LaMothe tried to develop the church bilingually by teaching himself the language at the age of 40 in one month — with the help of the Berlitz Language Learning Center in Mineola.
"Mentally, that was the most difficult month of my life," he said.
Despite the pastor’s efforts to unite the church, the congregation soon began to split culturally, and his family soon became homesick for Greenport. In 2001, LaMothe once again became pastor at Greenport’s First Baptist Church and hasn’t looked back.
LaMothe’s involvement in community theater began in 2004, when, with no theater background, he got the part of Lancelot in a Riverhead production of “Camelot” after a nervous audition.
“I grew up listening to the cast album and had always loved it,” he said, just before breaking into a spot-on Richard Burton impersonation. “But the director had already cast himself as the king and I had to sing after a 25-year-old with a beautiful voice.”
Despite his nerves, he got the part, and has since played roles in classics such as “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” “Macbeth,” “The Music Man,” and most recently Chekhov’s “”
Though many people ask him if his theater training has helped or enhanced his role as pastor, LaMothe said that acting and preaching are apples and oranges for him.
“When I’m in church, it’s all about God, not me,” he said. “I want people to be impressed with God when they walk out of service — but not to refer to me and think, ‘Boy, isn’t he something?’ Theater is different, though. I have no problem taking the stage during certain scenes and thinking that right now, it is about me. That’s entertainment and that’s giving a gift, but it has to be in the appropriate context.”
This preacher who has become a recognizable face around town in many ways remains humble about his life’s passion.
“When people tell me at the end of a church service that they understand God better through me, then I know I’ve done my job,” he said.