Teresa MacBain, the former Methodist pastor who left her faith last year and now serves as the executive director of the Humanist Association of Florida, has won the American Atheists' "Atheist of the Year" award.
The ex-pastor, who served in ministry for 20 years before revealing last March that she lost her faith, received the award at last month's American Atheists Convention in Bethesda, which celebrated the secular group's 50 year anniversary.
In an email to The Christian Post, MacBain revealed that during last year's convention, she only knew a few people but this year, after forming many new relationships, it felt more like a "big family reunion."
"Most every relationship in my life vanished after I came out in March," MacBain told CP on Wednesday. "But I also found so many new friends within the freethought community."
The former Methodist pastor, who resides in Florida, said that it was a huge honor and a big surprise to receive the award, which was presented to her on stage by Dave Silverman, the AA president.
"Receiving this award means so much to me," said Macbain, who was the first ex-pastor to receive the award. "I hope that my life and example will encourage others to be brave enough to be who they are. I also hope that others will realize that atheists are good, loving people, not monsters. Maybe the steps I've taken will help create a smoother path for those who will come out in the future."
Macbain, who formerly served as the public relations director of American Atheists, detailed in a longer interview with CP last year the gradual process in which she had lost her faith.
"It was very, very gradual. Actually there's not really one single moment where I can look back and say ah, that was the moment. It was kind of a slow progression," Macbain revealed.
"My husband and kids were fine, they knew that things had changed for me, but extended family, I lost those relationships. I lost all of my friendships except for one couple. I have one maybe from the church that I'm still in contact with, but initially they were all just very angry. They locked me out of the church and it took me some months to collect my belongings. It was a very difficult situation."
Macbain is also the first female graduate of The Clergy Project, a group which provides a safe haven for former ministers who have left their faith and no longer hold on to religious traditions. The project has over 440 members.