07 December 2005

Remembering our Dad: 06 June 1939 - 08 Dec 2001

It has been 4 years since our father passed but we have not forgotten his efforts or contributions in the Western New York Conference of the United Methodist Church or our family and our lives. For 38 years he was there for numerous congregations and our family.

From the very beginning my father's life and ministry could be defined as one of inclusiveness. Like the Unted Methodist Church (Open Doors, Open Hearts and Open Minds) Dad felt strongly that the worship service should be a participatory experience for all. He looked for ways to include people in the worhip service each Sunday. Music was a most important part of that participation. He encouraged his congregations to read the rules for singing hymns as set forth by John Wesley in the front of the hymnal. He encouraged the involvement of everyone in the congregation from children to adults.

I believe I was a constant reminder of my Father's commitment to the ministry and the traditions of the United Methodist Church. I was named after the Methodism founder John Wesley's mother. When Mom and Dad named me, I don't think they thought I would be such a vivid reminder of Susanna Wesley. It was evident by the age of two when I announced "I do it Myself", that I surely had Susanna Wesley's qualities of stubborness and determination in me.

I am a United Methodist minister's daughter but never fully understood the meaning of that and the bond I shared with my Dad until recent years. I spent most of my childhood acting like "Lucy" from the Peanuts cartoon and doing everything to not live up to the expectations of that title. It wasn't until I went off to college that I began to realize how important Dad's ministry had been in shaping my life.

I remember the almost weekly calls by Dad to check-in and that inevitable question: "Did you go to church this week?". I had sworn when I moved off to college that I would never go to church again. I had done all that I could of that when I lived at home.

Finally, in the Fall of my Freshman year I did go to the University UMC with some friends. It was an unsettling experience and I wasn't sure why. As far as I could tell everything was the same, the hymnal, the order of worship, the lectionary. When I came home for Christmas Eve that year I realized what was missing at school. It was my Dad. It had been the first time in my life I had attended a worship service where my Father wasn't participating or preaching. I had come to expect him to always be the minister.

After college, I returned home and continued to be a member of Dad's congregation in Hornell even though I was living in Rochester. It wasn't until the merger of the churches in Hornell that Dad suggested maybe I should find my own chuch in Rochester. For the first time in my life, I was going to choose my own congegation instead of having the Bishop choose it for me and my family.

I decided on Asbury First UMC. It was the closest UMC to my home in Rochester. It was also the church my Dad had attended as a child with his parents. Dad gave me the usual advice - "Don't rock the boat"!. I had come full circle since college and was now a part of a vibrant and caring UM community.

Dad encouraged the use of my talents at Asbury First and soon I was singing in the Sanctuary Choir and on several committees. I donated my timpani to the Asbury First Orchestra. I even found myself helping in the Children's Christian Education area. Something I swore I would never do after all the times Mom and Dad had used us as test kids at Chrsitian Education Lab Schools.

After Dad retired, he and Mom traveled to Rochester often to attend church with me and go to some of the various music programs at Asbury First.

My father has left me several reminders of his ministry and the bond we shared. I wake every morning to the bust statue of Susanna Wesley from the Americn Methodist Bicentennial Conference he attended in 1984. I have a cross and flame pendant I have worn since I was 15. Most importantly, I have the leather bound United Methodist Hymnal he gave me when I started singing in the Asbury First Sancuary Choir.

His ministy with his congregations and all of us can best be expressed by the text to one of his favorite hymns:

We Are The Church
"The church is not a building, the church is not a resting place, the church is the people..
I count if I am ninety or nine or just a baby...
That is somthing I am sure about and I don't mean maybe!"...

My Dad was my best friend and hero. He was my city on the hill. when I hear "O come, O come Emmanuel", I think of him and the ideals he embodied and I find solace in all of that.

Rev. E. Robert Ferris Jr. - His Life

Born in Corning on June 6, 1939, he was the son of Earl Robert Ferris, Sr. and Helen (Ryal) Ferris.

He graduated from Colgate Rochester Divinity School and became an ordained United Methodist Minister in 1965. He served churches from 1959-1999 in Spencerport, Hamlin/Kendall Mills, Colden, Sweet Home, Livonia, Spencer United Methodist here in Hornell, Silver Springs/Gainesville, and Dalton/Swain/Short Track.

He was married December 26, 1959 to the former Shirley McManis of West Rush, who survives. He is also survived by two daughters, Susanna Ferris of Rochester and Nancy (Michael) Postilli of Hilton; two sons, Timothy (Tracey) of Fairport and Jeremy of Hornell; a sister, Virginia (John) Williams of Plant City, FL and two granddaughters, Rachael Ferris and Julia Postilli.

Prior to moving to Hornell in 1979, he had become active in community affairs. He was involved in the Livingston County Coalition of Churches and the Genesee Valley Girl Scouts Board of Directors.

Since 1979 he helped found the Spencer Nursery School, he was active in the Pastoral Care Department at St. James Mercy Hospital, served as President of the Hornell Area United Way, received the United Way’s Hall of Fame Award, was a member of the Board of Directors of the Livonia, Avon & Lakeville Railroad, and acted as a rail safety program presenter and State Treasurer for New York State Operation Lifesaver, Inc.

He was a member of the Board of Directors of Steuben Educators Federal Credit Union, member of the Board of Directors and first chairman of Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers, and was also on the Board of Steuben Arc.

He was an active member of Rotary since 1971. He joined the Hornell club in 1979 where he served as a representative on the Camp Star Board and became its President. He became a Paul Harris Fellow in 1997 and was a former President of the Livonia club and former Treasurer of the Hornell club.

Most importantly he was our father and protector and we remember him to this day and forever!

Advent and Christmas were always our favorite times of year and this year and always we will remember his commitment to his congregations and our family.

From our family to yours in the words of our father:

"May the grace, peace and mercy of the Lord of Christmas be with you and your family this holiday season and always throughout the year".


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