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Nell Mohney

Douglas Fairbanks is senior pastor of First-Centenary United Methodist Church. Recently when we were chatting, I asked, "Is it true that you and Carolyn (his attractive wife) had planned to retire after you completed your term as district superintendent of the Knoxville District?"

"That's true," he said smilingly, as if he were having a pleasant memory.

"But that's the year when you came to First-Centenary. What happened?" I asked.

"What happened," he said, "was that the bishop called and asked if I would consider postponing my retirement to become the senior pastor at First-Centenary United Methodist Church in Chattanooga. Since I had grown up in Chattanooga and had served Signal Crest United Methodist Church on Signal Mountain, I had known about and greatly appreciated First-Centenary United Methodist Church. Carolyn and I did much evaluating and praying and decided to say 'Yes' to the bishop's request."

"What was your faith background during your childhood and youth?" I asked.

Laughingly he replied, "It was not one that would likely produce a United Methodist pastor." His father, a Tennessean, was a member of the Church of God, and his mother was a polar opposite. She was a Catholic of Italian descent from New York.

"Was that a detriment to your faith journey?" I asked.

"Oh, no, not at all! It was a background of rich diversity that helped me realize that the Christian faith is so much bigger than any one denomination or church."

He seemed to sense that I wanted to ask, "Then, how in the world did you become a United Methodist pastor?" So, he continued, "My family lived in the Highland Plaza area and attended the neighborhood church, which was Methodist."

From the time Doug was 10 years old, he felt called to be a pastor. His calling was confirmed during his year of military service in Vietnam and by excellent professors in his undergraduate and graduate studies. Today, the members of First-Centenary Church are delighted that Doug and Carolyn bypassed retirement and that he now stands at the helm of our "ship of state" at First-Centenary.

Contact Nell Mohney at nellwmohney@comcast.net.

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