A life of service for the faithful realized
Updated: December 14, 2017 at 6:23 pm
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Ken Fuquay was always someone whose love for the church helped shape and create the person he is today. This journey was done with joys and struggles and eventually led him to become a “person of the cloth.”
His father was a minister at Mount Pleasant Pentecostal Holiness Church and the family’s life always revolved around all things pertaining to it. The household was filled with gospel sounds. At the age of five, his parents stood him up on a stool between them at the Wednesday night Bible study where the time was replete with song. As he matured, he attended a Pentecostal Holiness junior college and participated in Sunday school, Lifeliners, Bible study, teen talent, Bible quiz, youth camp, camp meeting, choir and more.
During his childhood, he followed his father’s posture in the basement of the church and took an old lectern, stood up on a box behind it and preached to the neighborhood kids, he said. He even took up an offering because that, along with laying on of hands, was something all preachers did, he added.
“Being raised in a pastor’s home is replete with ministerial desires. I learned the nuances of ministry; I saw the heartbreak and the incomparable joys of ministry. Two things happened growing up in that environment. I thought I felt called to ministry, but I was unable to discern whether it was a true calling or the product of the long shadow cast by my father. Secondly, growing up, I realized that something was different about me. As a boy, I did not have language for it. But as I moved into junior high and high school, my classmates provided the language; they called me faggot and queer. It was then that the twisted and guilt-ridden theology began to slam up against the fiber of who God created me to be, and I began an exhausting struggle.”
It was not until later in life that he found his way to the Presbyterian church. As life would have it, he experienced a time when he rebelled against church life and religion and gravitated toward a party lifestyle, including drugs. But that was not long lived as his pull back to faith captured him once again.
“I woke up one Sunday Morning with a keen realization that unless something extreme occurred in my life that day, I was going to die. I left my husband in bed, got dressed in my finest high-dollar suit and drove my nice 5-series BMW to a little unassuming church on the wrong side of Charlotte. Some friends had been consistently telling me about a choir at a little Presbyterian church on Seigle Ave. near 10th in Charlotte. I drove there that morning, still under the influence of the previous night’s party, but knowing with everything inside of me that something had to change, and it had to change immediately. As I neared the church, I was a bit frightened to park my car on those streets — I feared it might be stolen. But as I parked, I heard music coming from the church; I saw people from all walks of life walking up the steps to the unassuming sanctuary. I entered the sanctuary and the choir was singing ‘We are climbing Jacob’s Ladder.’ The choir was packed and so was the sanctuary. And I began to notice that the choir and congregation were made up of old and young, black and white, gay and straight; it was something I had never experienced in church, ever! The pastor was female and black. I cannot remember the content of her fiery sermon that day, but I remember seven strangers coming up to me after church, putting their arms around me, telling me they loved me and inviting me to come back.”
His excitement exploded. “I raced home to tell my husband that I was changed. We began to attend to Seigle Avenue Presbyterian Church. We began to disciple our lives under the ministry of Pastor Floretta Watkins. We joined the choir. We found community. I became an ordained elder at [the church]. It was there that I discovered the fullness of God who fills all in all. It was there, that for the first time in my life, I saw and experienced Christ in the fullness of the good news of the gospel,” he shared.
Since then, he has continued his career in broadcast education and has pursued a degree that would allow him to be a full-fledged minister. In fact, he became the first out gay minister in the Presbytery of Charlotte, although not the first gay minister for the denomination.
He said about that arduous and painstaking experience, “Fortunately, or unfortunately, I am not the first gay minister to be ordained by the Presbytery of Charlotte. I may have been the first to stand on the floor of Presbytery and utter those the words, ‘I am gay’ on the day I was presented as a candidate for ordination.” His journey was, however, not taken alone as others help serve as support and guides along the way to ordination candidacy in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
“I remember vividly the day I was presented for candidacy. It was a cold February afternoon in 2013. Many of the ‘saints’ from Mulberry Presbyterian Church, where I attended at the time, gathered in the first few pews of Cooks Memorial Presbyterian Church along with a couple hundred or so elders from across the Presbytery. My husband sat in the third row. My pastor, Rev. Chris Carrasco stood with me as I articulated a brief faith statement. We knew that the floor of the Presbytery, which had over the past few years been the scene of many contentious and passionate debates on the question of the ordination of gays and lesbians, would be open for questions at the conclusion of my statement. I was humbled as I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit, felt the hand of my pastor on my shoulder and saw the smiles and enthusiastic eyes of those who gathered in support that day. When the floor of Presbytery was opened for questions, there was a pregnant pause. Hearing no questions, the chairperson of the committee on Preparation for Ministry asked all of those in favor of granting candidacy status to say ‘Yea.’ A chorus of ‘yeas’ was lifted up. When the chairperson asked for all those opposed to say, ‘Nay,’ there was one loud ‘nay.’ I was asked later if the ‘nay’ startled or angered me. The answer is, ‘no.’ Because the Presbyterian Church (USA) discerns in community, every voice matters,” he shared of that experience. His dream of becoming a minister came true on Nov. 4 when his ordination service was held at Statesville Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Fuquay loves the scriptures and is convinced “that the very thing that has been used throughout my life to condemn me, is the very thing that sets me free to be who God created me to be. I hope to instill in this congregation a love for scripture. Through scripture, we discover a God who above all wants to release humanity from bondage. And revealed in Christ, we discover a God, who above all, loves all of creation in vulnerability.”
Fuquay’s first pulpit experience has come as Matters to Mission (M2M) Charlotte’s “lay pastor,” which he has held for two years. The church plant met in his home for months. He would preach two Sundays a month in that place and in June 2016, M2M Charlotte moved into The Evening Muse located at 3227 N. Davidson St. The excitement was high for him on that first day in the new locale as he “was able to preach my first sermon in our new digs at the Muse” and “we also served communion (the Eucharist). Interim Executive Presbyter, Rev. Betty Meadows, joined us for the event and led us through that sacrament,” he said.
“I have always been inspired and mesmerized by the sharing in communion. Being able to lead in that sacrament has been a dream of mine. So, the first Sunday after I was ordained, M2M Charlotte participated in the Eucharist and shared in communion. We used a loaf of bread personally baked by a good friend of mine who is Hospice chaplain at Hospice and Palliative Care Charlotte Region and we used a chalice and paten given to me by some very dear friends. As I held the bread and cup in that space for the first time as a ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament, it was surreal. It was also very sobering. This is very serious. Yes, ordination was a goal of mine. It was a level of accountability in ministry that I sought and longed for. Yes, we might have broken some ground getting there; yes, it took a lot of blood and sweat and tears (literally); yes the pomp and circumstance that surrounded the ordination moment was stunning and exhilarating; but holding the bread and cup reminded me that it is our participation in bringing the good news of the gospel to a hurting world so desperately in need of that good news that matters most. We are simply broken vessels holding out bread and wine saying, ‘Come, taste and see how good life can be.’”
The congregation has been supportive of Fuquay for years. “They have been faithful over and above what I could have ever expected. It has truly been a gift. I have not done this alone. I may have been the one to stand for ordination…, but it was as much for this congregation of gatherers and friends as it was for me. I, along with M2M Charlotte, are still finding our footing in the neighborhood. I, nor the congregation, has encountered any animosity from the community. We have had several neighbors from the NoDa Community join us [for] worship and outreach. For that I am grateful.”
Fuquay holds a music degree from Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, Ga., and a Masters of Arts in Christian Education and Masters of Divinity, both from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Charlotte, N.C. He has a background in radio-television with a specialty in commercial copywriting and was an ad copywriter for several major FM radio stations in the Queen City. He is co-owner and co-director in charge of curriculum at Carolina School of Broadcasting, where he also teaches communication courses.
Music has always been something that Fuquay has loved, quoting Albert Einstein who said, “Music is the mind of God.” He treasures making music with friends and lends vocals to one band in “two incarnations,” Three Fold-Chord and Heidi Dove and Fretless. They offer their talents at nursing homes, churches and breweries.
Fuquay and his husband Terry have been in a relationship for 34 years and in 2011 they were married in New York City. They are parents to Abby-dail, a mini-golden doodle. His husband works with adults with developmental disabilities. They are both actively involved with the ministry of M2M Charlotte.
Hobbies for Fuquay include music, writing, as well as volunteerism with the chaplaincy program at Levine Dickson Hospice House in Charlotte, as well as the Uptown Men’s Shelter and Urban Ministries Room in the Inn.
For more information about Fuquay’s church, visit M2MCharlotte.org.
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About the author: Lainey Millen is QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director. She can be reached at email@example.com and 704-531-9988, x205.