Originally posted on FB, 25 March 2021
• Written by Lesa Quale Ferguson•

My New Year’s resolution for 2001 was to get to know “God a little.” I don’t know where the thought originated, but I followed it. Three months earlier, I had moved from Seattle to my grandmother’s house in South Buffalo. Shortly after, my brother joined us and then bought a corner tavern where I eventually worked. Since I had nothing better to do than fight about the dishes with my brother and grandmother, I began my pilgrimage at the corner church where my parents had married (and left the church following their divorce). I quickly realized that while others may get to know God there, I was far too much of a lefty to endure the sermon.

I asked around about “liberal” churches, and many people suggested a Catholic one downtown. I was new in town, so I tried to find it and couldn’t. Late and lost and freaking out about it – the story of my life. As I hadn’t grown up in a church, I assumed, given what little I did know, that I’d be hard-pressed to have one accept a foul mouth, chronically tardy, doubting Thomas like me. I pulled the car over in front of a church that started a half hour later than the other. Here, I was right on time.

The secular humanist in me thought, so Gertrude Stein-ily, “A church is a church is a church is a church.”

Inside this massive 19th-century red-stone Episcopal church with a historical designation in front, a very tall, imposing man dressed in white robes held sway before the altar. He welcomed us and said that communion was open to all, with no exceptions. I thought to myself, “He couldn’t possibly mean me?”

Despite the preacher’s largess, the room was hollow, with only a smattering of people sitting in the pews. A large choir had assembled on the altar—more choir than the congregation. This man and his singers seemed ready to rock with all the enthusiasm of a first album tour—a large venue with a small crowd.

And he did rock. He was invested, spirited, kinetic, poetic, smart, and compassionate. It’s as if he reached out with those long arms, embraced us, and lifted us.

I came back every Sunday.

It was at Trinity where I managed a bookstore, squirreled away in the back pews and wrote; invited my new fella on Sunday morning for a date, gave reflections on Sunday evening, partook in communion, read and sold books on faith as an agnostic; walked down the aisle to be married; miscarried, not once but several times; napped when I was pregnant; played on a blanket with my newborn, quit my job to stay home, became a vestry woman; asked the leadership to write recommendations so we could adopt. It was Trinity where my husband came to tell me about my grandfather’s death; my ex-husband informed me after 20 years, he had finally quit drinking; my grandmother poked around White Elephant sales; sermons lifted my spirits and changed my life. Sometimes, I contributed, and sometimes didn’t; I made and sometimes lost friends. My baby played Baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve pageant; my boys were christened, and then Cam left.

I tried to stay. At this point, I was becoming increasingly aware that my youngest son had issues that I did not yet fully understand. Trinity became one more place where we, as a family, failed at sitting still and being quiet. The church once again became somewhere I didn’t fit in.
Until Cam left, I had no idea how much he protected us, particularly me, from the heavy strictures of that mighty room.

Cam had made space within his congregation for outsiders, loudmouths, sinners, wanders, secular humanists, artists, doubters, and fidgeters. He had offered us sanctuary, a place for holiness, however we experienced it.

While I have no idea if I got to know God even a little, I do know I was offered a divine interlude for over a dozen years. Cam celebrated 40 years as a priest and promptly retired. He created his own website, has written several books, and works as a part-time preacher. My mom ( Trudy Cusella ) asked me to send pictures to his new congregation for a scrapbook to celebrate his tenure as a priest. When he left Trinity, I was asked to make a scrapbook, but I didn’t. This was an opportunity to redeem myself. I have included a sample of pictures I took and one of me with him on my wedding day.

With the pictures of our congregation, I wish I had added this:

“A finger pointing at the moon is not the moon. The finger is needed to know where to look for the moon …” – Thich Nhat Hanh.

Thank you, Cameron Miller, for being our rector. You have shown us the beauty of the moon and let us all, no exceptions, bask in its light.

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Lesa Quale Ferguson

Writer + Picture Taker ^ Image-Maker & Design Web-ber #Ma

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