The Rev. Dr. Leo Christian had been on Martha’s Vineyard only a short time in his new position as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Vineyard Haven and the Gay Head Community Baptist Church in Aquinnah, when he got a little flavor of the Island.

He was stocking up on groceries, when a woman approached the check out line with only two items and he offered to let her go before him in line. She declined, she wasn’t in any hurry. He struck up a conversation, and she asked him how long he had been on the Island.

“One day,” he said. “Everyone around me started talking to me, saying welcome.”

Reverend Christian said he has found the same welcoming theme everywhere he goes on the Vineyard, from the Steamship Authority ferries to potluck suppers.

“I love it,” he said. “It’s more laid back. The people everywhere, stores, restaurants, they’ve all been really nice. I’ve been really impressed.”

The friendliness may be as much reflection as projection. Reverend Christian is an outgoing, friendly, giving and compassionate man. He also happens to be pretty funny.

In his service Sunday in Vineyard Haven, he was recounting efforts to incorporate music into the worship service for the small congregation in Aquinnah.

“Me singing a capella is not a good thing,” he said.

Reverend Christian is a native of Fitchburg, who now lives in West Yarmouth with his wife Cynthia when not attending to ministerial duties on the Island, usually Thursday through Sunday of each week.

Reverend Christian’s last name obviously fits his profession, but he said it wasn’t the name that steered him to a life of pastoral service.

“I’ve always liked my name. I had a sense of calling. There was nothing else I wanted to do.”

The calling seems to run in the family. Reverend Christian’s brother and three of his sons are men of the cloth.

He is a graduate of the Bethany Divinity College and Seminary in Alabama, and the Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary in Indiana. His educational travels foreshadowed a life of adventurous work. He has taught school in Russia, and ministered in Armenia, Africa, the Dominican Republic and Mexico. His last post was in Scituate, where he was pastor at the First Baptist Church for three years.

But he says none of his posts have been more enjoyable than his few weeks so far on Martha’s Vineyard. Every Sunday he preaches a 9 a.m. service in Aquinnah and an 11 a.m. service in Vineyard Haven. He revels in the drive between sermons.

“That ride is like none other,” he said. “It’s beautiful. I’m still just amazed every time.”

Reverend Christian said his goal for the two churches is to help them grow in the community.

“I don’t care too much about numbers, as long as they are healthy and vibrant,” he said. “Like a lot of New England churches, they’ve declined. We love both churches. They are totally different. The Aquinnah church, to be a healthy congregation, they have to be able to have an attitude of growth to support themselves, even leave a legacy for themselves. It’s a small congregation, distinctly Native American. The tribe considers that their church. They’re proud of that connection. I can help them with those goals, but that’s going to be a big job.”

In Vineyard Haven, he hopes to build on the church’s strength.

“They’re very active, very active for their size. Focus on what they’re doing well, and strengthening that.”

His approach to the ministry is a trinity of simple principles.

First, he said, “I need to be praying for our churches and our Island.” Second, “You need to be out among people, you need to be involved in things and meet people.” Third, “I just try to use the Bible, help people learn the Bible, as a tool to bring comfort and joy and hope to people.”

He takes that second principle very seriously. In various communities where he has served, he has been a volunteer police chaplain, a volunteer firefighter, a Little League umpire, a water well repair man, and once a congregation of farmers had him out plowing fields.

But there is one thing he doesn’t get very involved in: politics. Last Sunday, he offered a non-partisan prayer for public servants from the president all the way down to local government boards. But he doesn’t take sides.

“I stay out of politics. I encourage people to vote. I’ve never had a political sign in my yard, I’ve never had a political bumper sticker. Whoever gets elected I pray for. If they’re the leader of the free world, boy do they need it.”

Reverend Christian’s official installation will be held on Sunday, March 5 at 3:30 p.m. at the First Baptist Church in Vineyard Haven.