Ferguson follows God's
calling to Broad Street
By Jill Ralston
Cleveland Daily Banner
CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Growing up in Oak Ridge, Tenn., a young man couldn't help but long to be an engineer.
For the Rev. Frederick Anderson "Andy" Ferguson, becoming an electrical engineer only made sense. His father was a scientist in Oak Ridge after having relocated his family from Athens in 1948. When Ferguson's father relocated the family to Oak Ridge after he returned from the war, Ferguson was just six months old. Surrounded during his formative years by engineers and the like, Ferguson developed an interest in his father's career.
The young Ferguson, who is now the senior pastor at Broad Street United Methodist Church (Cleveland District), went on to pursue a Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering with a minor in math at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville - following in the footsteps of his father... sort of.
In 1970, Ferguson married his sweetheart, Celia, right before his last year of undergraduate school. The couple had met and dated while in the same youth group in church.
"I went to Cookeville, and she stayed in Knoxville," he said of his wife who is now a marriage and family therapist at the Family Center in Athens. "While I was in school in Cookeville, I worked parttime as a youth director at First United Methodist Church in Sparta. I was intending to be an engineer."
The pastor who had performed the Fergusons' wedding ceremony a year before, along with his brother, "got together and saw to it that I filled out an application to apply for a Rockefeller Foundation Scholarship." The scholarship was "for anyone who had never considered the ministry but would consider a trial year of seminary."
Ferguson noted, "I was vaguely interested. But the more I poured myself into that application, the more I began to wonder if maybe God was calling me."
Although Ferguson was not awarded the scholarship, he began to wonder "what if" and decided to challenge himself and attend seminary for one year and "see if God was opening that door to me."
"I never looked back," Ferguson said. "That was just a complete change in direction for me and has always convinced me that God calls preachers. You don't volunteer for this work."
He then decided to pursue his Master of Divinity at Duke University in Durham, N.C. In 1972, he was licensed as a United Methodist pastor and ordained in 1976. "Seminary came in between the two," he said.
And so, the twentysomething Ferguson decided to take the path of an entirely different profession. Although, for him, the two professions were not all that different.
"I can remember, even as a youngster sitting around the dinner table, discussing how faith and science worked together," Ferguson said. "And my dad in particular - he was a Sunday school teacher and he taught us early that God had given us an incredible creation and it was worthy of study (regarding what his father did as a scientist at Oak Ridge). I think that is something I've always grown up believing."
Ferguson added, "Everyone talks about the separation between science and religion, but there is no separation. This incredible creation has been given. Go discover it and all you'll do is increase your appreciation of all that God has done."
Ferguson's son, David, 28, eventually followed his father's early footsteps and is now an electrical engineer. And like mother like daughter - the Fergusons' daughter, Jane Ellen, 26, is now a graduate student at the University of Georgia where she is studying to be a school counselor.
After seminary, Ferguson and his family relocated every four years. He was appointed to various churches, including Trinity Lenoir City (Oak Ridge District), First Maryville (Maryville District), and First Jefferson City (Morristown District). Five years ago he was appointed to Broad Street.
Ferguson's roots are still in Knoxville. He even has a famous connection to the Tennessee town as his nephew (his sister's son) is Colorado Rockies' first baseman, Todd Helton, a graduate of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
During his spare time, he enjoys cycling. Each year during Annual Conference in North Carolina, Ferguson joins the Rev. James Green, a retired Maryville pastor, by riding their bicycles about 110 to 120 miles in two days (from Murphy, N.C. to Maryville).
As for how long the Fergusons will remain in Cleveland, it is anybody's guess. "There is no limit once you are appointed," Ferguson said. "As long as the church and the pastor believe it is important, you will stay. People are so mobile that a pastor can stay still and get a different congregation."
Reprinted with permission, Cleveland Daily Banner
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