Editor's note: Today we conclude our introductions to new leadership at the Florida Conference.
LAKELAND -- Throughout her life, the unusual spelling of Rev. Rwth Anne Fuquay’s first name has raised some eyebrows and even caused a small furor as people thought this reflection of her Welsh heritage was a typo.
But now, six months into her new role as the associate director for the Office of Clergy Excellence, an oddly placed “W” in her first name seems appropriate. After all, her colleagues are Rev. Dr. Wayne Wiatt, office director, and assistants Winnie Dean and Wanda Byrd.
“We’ve nicknamed our office ‘Team W’ because all our first names begin with the same letter, so the unique spelling of Rwth’s name is very fitting,” Wiatt said.
|Rev. Rwth Fuquay|
Fuquay came to her new position after having served most recently as senior pastor at Trinity UMC, Lakeland. Ordained in 2002, she has served in a variety of church settings in Massachusetts, Mississippi and Florida, and as chaplain at Millsaps College, a United Methodist liberal arts college in Jackson, Miss.
Shortly before assuming her new duties July 1, she married Rev. David Fuquay, who is currently the director of Higher Education and Campus Ministry for the Florida Conference. The union meant relocating her son, Michael, and their pets from Mississippi to Florida. So in light of all the other life changes, learning a new job has been relatively smooth.
“Settling in has gone wonderfully,” Rwth said. “I have outstanding colleagues who have been very patient and helpful. Both Winnie and Wanda love what they do, and that spirit is contagious.
“While there has been a steep learning curve and I know I have big shoes to fill, [my predecessor] Emily Oliver did a fabulous job orienting me to all the facets of this position,” she said.
“Wayne and I are very similar in that we love the challenge of exploring new visions and new ideas. He manages to affirm and encourage me while at the same time empowering me to be creative and innovative.”
A major focus of Fuquay’s efforts is cultivating and encouraging young people to discern their call and find the right way to respond. This includes programs to help students in elementary through high school begin thinking of ministry as a vocation.
It also naturally includes working with seminary students and new clergy candidates, traveling to colleges all over the country.
“The best part has been meeting with seminary students, supporting them so they continue to feel connected and conveying that we are interested in them as people first,” she says. “When you experience their passion and energy, there is a palpable sense of God’s power.”
Fuquay herself graduated summa cum laude from Boston University School of Theology with a Master of Divinity degree and from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., with a bachelor’s degree in English literature and religious studies.
As an experienced retreat leader and pilgrimage guide, Fuquay counts spiritual formation and the nurture of gifts and vocation among her passions in ministry.
These will come in handy as she works to expand and support the conference’s mentoring program for new clergy, as well as continuing education initiatives designed to re-energize existing clergy.
Though the duties of her job description are diverse and demands on her to-do list are many, Fuquay has a deep relationship with God that makes her perfectly suited for the pace and requirements of her new role, said her longtime colleague and friend, Rev. Jennifer Deaton.
“I can’t think of a better person for this position,” said Deaton, an Episcopal priest who serves as the canon for pastoral care at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Jackson. “Because her passion is seeking God in all things, prayer and study nurtures her spirit. So while life’s currents are constantly shifting and changing, there is always that undercurrent of God.”
-- Colleen Hart is a freelance writer based in the Cocoa area.