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Holy Trinity celebrating 70 years and a new rector


Since childhood, Nancee Cekuta could hear the Lord’s call.

She was always devout in her Roman Catholic faith, but Cekuta just kept putting off the Lord’s beckoning voice.

“Being female, I spent 40 years figuring out why God was calling me to be something that I could not fulfill,” Cekuta says.

Or so Cekuta thought until she found herself on what is known as a Cursillo weekend, where Christian laypeople gather to learn about leadership from priests and other laypeople.

“Life led my family to the Episcopal Church in 2004,” says Cekuta, who is 60. “I was on a Cursillo weekend in 2009 when God whacked me with a 2 by 4. I realized I was in a denomination that ordained women. When I returned home from that retreat, I sat down with my then-teenage daughters and explained I felt called to the priesthood, but it would drastically change our family dynamics.”

Cekuta and her daughters, Bridget and Kaycee, were gathered around the kitchen table at their home in Lawrenceville, Georgia, when Cekuta broke the news. Cekuta wasn’t sure how her daughters would react.

“Their response was, ‘Mom, we have always known you were called to be a priest. We’ve been trying to figure out why you didn’t know it,’” she recalls.

Here was a 9-to-5 working mother with two teenagers to raise, and mom wanted to become a priest.

“In the Episcopal Church, however, it is expected that formation for ordination into the priesthood also means quitting your job and moving to a seminary for three years of education,” Cekuta says. “So when my youngest was out of high school, I left Atlanta and attended seminary in Sewanee, Tennessee.”

Cekuta was ordained at the Diocese of Atlanta in the summer of 2015 and headed to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Charlotte, where she was associate rector until 2017. She was rector for St. Bartholomew Episcopal Church in North Augusta, South Carolina, from 2017 until 2020.

‘A natural fit’

Today, Cekuta finds herself presiding and preaching the gospel at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, where she is the first female rector in the Raeford Road church history, replacing the Rev. Jeff Thornberg.

Holy Trinity Episcopal and its 577 members also are celebrating the church’s 70th anniversary.

“Being at Holy Trinity is like wearing a pair of custom-made gloves,” says Cekuta, a native of Rochester, New York. “Not a week goes by that I don’t pull on some past skill or experience. The relationship between the parishioners and me is a natural fit, so Sunday mornings are fun. I genuinely enjoy having a church with so many young families and children, so sitting on the floor with the children each week during the children’s sermon is my favorite time.”

Parishioners have welcomed Cekuta with open arms.

“She is very energetic, detail-oriented and a people kind of person,” says Charles Koonce, who along with his wife, Connie, have been members since 1973. “She brings a lot of enthusiasm and has provided solid leadership. She got here when COVID did. But that didn’t stop us from having church services on the lawn with social distancing.”

The church also live streams Sunday services.

“It’s been two years this coming August” since Cekuta arrived at Holy Trinity, says Nancy Broadwell, 89, who has been a church member since 1955. “It’s not been a normal two years for any church. I can’t imagine how it has been for her. But she is attracting a lot of new families, which is very good. And she is really good with the little children. And we are doing a lot of outreach projects that appeal to many in our congregation. I think we are in good shape and she is certainly dedicated to making things be the best she can.”

Arriving at a new church and a new city has had some challenges.

“I must say, though, making the transition to a new city, diocese and church in the middle of a global pandemic was a unique experience for me and the members of Holy Trinity,” Cekuta says. “I worked as a rector for 17 months before I was officially installed. This Celebration of New Ministry usually occurs within weeks or months of arriving at a new parish. I still have not seen full faces of most parishioners, so now that masks are being relaxed, I will have to get to know them all over again. We have all taken the challenges and the changes in stride, found humor where we can, but we all look forward to where God is leading us.”

Nancee Cekuta, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church