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Reverends with varied pasts share same message

 - Annie Tietje/Staff Photo
— image credit: Annie Tietje/Staff Photo

KINGSTON — Though beauty queens and professional poker players rarely cross paths in their careers, two are doing just that at the North Peninsula Unity Center. They are brought together by their desire to spread the word of God to all, and both of the center’s new reverends say their varied pasts only strengthen the message.

The Revs. June Miller and Robbie Fahnestock are the first ministers to bring the Kingston congregation together for approximately 18 months, and Unity Center board member Suzanne O’Clair said the church is glad to have them.

“We’re the best kept secret in Kingston,” Miller said. “I think how the people feel when they are here is the most important part. Our congregation is full of unique people, and that’s very important.”

Members of the congregation are no more unique or varied than Miller and Fahnestock themselves, who have both grown from diverse and rich backgrounds, O’Clair said. Miller was Miss Alaska while she was in college, using the opportunity to gain more funding for classes and broadening her world experience at the Miss America Pageant.

“Not to be outdone, I first got my bachelors (degree), but I wanted my masters as well,” she said. “I ran out of money, and ran for Miss Alaska and was in the Miss America Pageant. It was enough money for me to get back in school, and I got my masters in psychology.”

Miller has been ordained in the Unity Church for about 25 years now, and is still full of enough energy and vigor for another quarter century.

Fahnestock said he also hopes to work within the church for a long time. He was ordained four years ago, but has been involved with the church since 1985 through Seattle Unity Church. After college, he said his career took an unusual turn.

“I was looking for work, and poker became legal in the state of Washington,” he said. “I decided to play poker while I was looking for a job. My older brother taught me, and I did the game for about 15 to 18 years... There are a lot of things you do in the ministry you do in poker. It’s intuitive.”

The Unity Church welcomes people who believe in varied faiths, creating a place to make everyone feel welcome. The center in Kingston, on Ohio Avenue, usually has 25 to 35 attendees each Sunday, more if it’s a holiday, O’Clair said. The ministers both said they have enjoyed their start in the North End, noting the particularly happy response from the congregation.

“It’s been five months since I spoke here at Easter,” Fahnestock said. “We were hired June 15 I believe, and it’s just been a lot of fun.”

“This is a warm, warm congregation,” Miller added. “They are so welcoming.”

Both reverends are hoping to bring in more youth from the community, and are working on ways to reach students in the area. They hope to swell the number of locals who attend every Sunday and participate in the center’s other activities.

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