Just being comfortable with her belief in God wasn't enough for Faith Avery. What she wanted to do was better understand it.
As a result, following four years of education at SUNY-Geneseo, Avery spent two more years hitting the books at God's Bible School and College in Cincinnati. What she came away with was a better appreciation of her faith , as well as a husband.
"I made a lot of great friends that I will hopefully have for a lifetime, and it's also where I met my future husband," said Avery, the former Faith McManaman, a 1999 graduate of Colonie High School. "I just wanted to learn more about my faith and about my beliefs. I wanted to know all about the theology behind my beliefs, and the classes I took there were very helpful in understanding my faith . It was a great experience. I loved every minute of it."
Faith married Joshua Avery on July 19 and the couple only recently returned from their honeymoon. An executive assistant for British American President Bernard F. Conners, Faith Avery and her husband, the son of God's Bible School and College president Michael Avery, attend the Pilgrim Holiness Church on Curry Road in Rotterdam.
"I don't know if it's the particular denomination that keeps me there, but it's the church I've attended my whole life," Avery said. "Our church is based on biblical belief, and I'm sure that model is a part of many other churches. But I just feel very much at home there. It's a family-oriented church, and it's a very warm and welcoming place. I couldn't ever see myself getting too far from something with a conservative Methodist background."
co-pastors are women
While Avery said her church does tend to attract more conservative and traditional Christians, that's not the case in every aspect of her faith . The two co-pastors at Pilgrim Holiness are women, Genie Dickerson and Brenda Wallick.
"They just recently got called to spend another two years at our church, and they're doing a great job," Avery said. "Every church has a spiritual and a business side, and they've done a wonderful job in both areas. They've helped make our church a great place for Christian families."
The Pilgrim Holiness Church got its start in 1897 when a group of Wesleyan Methodists near Cincinnati broke with the Methodist Episcopal Church.
"Our denomination has a Wesleyan-Arminian background, and our church tends to put an emphasis on outreach," said Avery. "Every Sunday morning we have a bus and two vans that picks up inner-city kids and brings them to our church. We have a lot of outreach ministry, and that's very important to me."
Avery is very willing to talk about her faith to anyone that asks. However, the chances of her bringing it up first are pretty slim.
"My personality doesn't lend itself to doing a lot of reaching out, but I hope that my life is a daily witness to what I believe," said Avery. "I'm not going to go knocking on doors, but I try to be very welcoming to any new families I see in our church, and I try to invest my energy in the children here. I try to make a difference in their lives."
Stephen Mills and his wife Kezia are in charge of the junior church at Pilgrim Holiness, and having a person like Avery eager to help out is a big plus.
"You ask her to do something and she'll see that it gets done," said Mills, who has known Avery since she was a young child. "You can always count on her to help out, and she loves getting involved in the lives of young people. She has a quiet personality, but she has her own way of reaching out to people. She's kind and considerate and all those things, and her faith has always been constant. As long as I've known her, her faith has always been important to her."
Avery's own experience as a child in the Pilgrim Holiness Church was something she always enjoyed.
"My whole family was always going to church, but I can remember definitely enjoying the experience at a very young age," said Avery, who has a twin brother and two older sisters. "I can remember making a conscious decision at 7 or 8 that I wanted to live my life for God, so ever since then I've tried to live a life that was pleasing to him and guided by biblical principles."
Avery's devotion didn't waver during her four years at Geneseo, where she earned a bachelor's degree in biology. On most every Sunday, she was up and out, heading to a Pilgrim Holiness Church almost 50 miles away from campus.
"When you get to college and you're away from home you have to make that decision to get up and go to church," said Avery. "College brings about all kinds of choices and decisions you have to make, like whether or not to go to parties with your friends and drink with them, or stay home and remain true to your beliefs. I got up just about every Sunday and made it to this sister church, and if the weather made it impossible, there was a Baptist church right nearby that I found very welcoming."
Avery started working at British American while on break from college, and returned to the company three years ago after her time in Cincinnati. Conners, a former FBI agent and author who began British American more than 40 years ago, says he can't take the credit for such a great hire.
a rare employee
"I'm not sure who hired her, but through some evolutionary process she wound up working closely with me and she's been a splendid assistant," said Conners. "She's remarkable when it comes to detail, and she's quite a lovely person. She's reserved, and her religion is very personal to her, but she's also very intelligent and that quickly becomes obvious to people when they meet her."
Conners said attending Avery's wedding was a particular delight.
"I was so taken with the ceremony and how things were handled," he said. "It was so wholesome, and a great example of how well things can be done in some churches. It was extraordinary. Faith is the kind of person you don't come across too often in this day and age."
In order to plan her wedding, Avery took a little break from teaching Sunday school at Pilgrim Holiness, but she expects to be back in the swing of things soon.
"When I was a kid, Sunday school was the highlight of my week," she said. "I still love it, and while I had to take a little sabbatical, they know I'm coming back. We do a lot with our junior church, and I really enjoy helping Steven and Kezia and being involved with the kids."