(Interviews below were conducted by members of our
Staff Parish Relations Committee in 2023.):
Sarah Holloway, Director of Music
Sarah grew up with her brother and two sisters in Memphis, TN. Her father, Earl, was the music director at First Baptist Church and her mother, Jenny, was the pianist and church secretary.
Sarah now lives in Knoxville and has four grown children: Jim, Drew, Nathan, and Mary. She also has five grandchildren: Macie, Jimmy, Ren, Zay, and Lyric. We asked Sarah to tell us a little more about herself.
When did you first come to Christ United Methodist?
It was in February of 1998, when Bruce Marston was pastor. The church was having a Valentine banquet, and the entertainment had backed out. Bruce called me to see if Beverly Kerr and I could do the Valentine program, but then he also said “You wouldn’t consider being the music director, would you?” I told him I’d think about it, but just 20 minutes after I hung up, I knew I was going to do it.
What was it like growing up in Memphis?
We actually lived in a rental house on church property. It was a really big church with probably about a thousand people in Sunday school. So, we were busy. People came knocking on our door at all hours needing to get into the church for something, so here we’d go to unlock the doors and let them in.
What did you enjoy doing as a kid?
Right behind our house, about the time I was a preteen, the church built a rec center with a gym in it. It also had a skating rink, four bowling lanes, a racquetball court, a snack bar where they made hamburgers, a pool table, and ping pong tables.
Every day after school, I’d walk through my backyard and walk right in the door. And I learned to play pool. I learned to bowl. I learned to roller skate. I learned to be a fantastic ping pong player. That’s just what I did every day after school and all day on Saturday.
Plus, I was very involved with the church itself. We had an amazing music program at our church with a great choir program. The youth choir made a trip every summer to all kinds of places like Denver or Washington DC to sing on the steps of the Capitol.
I was also very involved in the choir at my high school. So, when I was a kid, that’s where I was – either at church or at school. It was an incredible way to grow up.
What’s something that not many people know about you?
I did not get my driver’s license until I was 22 years old. I had never had my first lesson because my parents never taught us to drive.
I was pregnant with Jim, and my younger sister, who had a license, was like, “This is ridiculous. You have got to learn to drive. You’re getting ready to be a mother.” So, she took me to get my license, and I got it that day. Basically I just learned how to drive afterward.
What would you say is the most interesting thing that you've ever done?
Going to Iceland! So, I mean, raising children, being in college, singing in Carnegie Hall… Those were all fantastic, of course. But for me, the thing that was just oil for my brain, just soothed it, just brought it to life again… it was that trip to Iceland. I did that in August of 2022 with Carol Kerr.
That answer came really quickly. It obviously made quite an impact on you. What were some of the things that stood out to you?
Just the seeing of everything. It was all so visual, with the gorgeous topography, the mountains and the water. It was all so beautiful. One thing that’s cool about Iceland is that at the northern part, where it should be the coldest, the ocean there is geothermal – so it’s like a gorgeous rainforest. They basically have all the flowers that we have here, but they’re giant! It was like looking at our same flowers, but they're huge. It was just stunning to see. And the people there were just so friendly and nice. Our tour guide told us that in 2021, the entire country had just one murder. And he showed us a large bay, where there was this huge Coast Guard ship, and he pointed at it and said, “This is Iceland’s entire military.” And he looked at us and he said, “We believe in solving our problems with love and understanding.”
Did you see the northern lights?
We did, even though we were up there at a time when we weren't supposed to see them. We were on the boat at about 11 p.m., and the captain announced that there might be northern lights around midnight. We went to the top of the boat and sat out in the middle of the ocean. Just lay down on all those deck chairs and just looked up and watched the lights. It was incredible!
Do you have any pets?
I did. I do not right now. I had my last dog, a dachshund, who died of old age about a year ago. And then I had a tabby cat about the same age, who died about six months ago. And then Mama had Barney, who was a little Shih Tzu, who lived with us, and I had to put him down about six months ago. So I lost all three of my pets really close to one another, and it just kind of got to me. I'm telling my kids, please don't get me another pet right now. I still need to recover from the ones I lost.
What sports do you follow?
I have to say, it was my son that got me interested in sports. Drew is a huge NBA fan, so as his mom, every April at spring break, I had to plan it to where we could be somewhere that we could watch the playoff that evening. And then Jim is a huge Cubbies fan, and his dad was a huge Cardinals fan. Really, I've become interested in sports because the people that I love are interested in sports. I think right now my favorite team is Grace Baptist because my grandson plays for their middle school team. And of course you can't live in this town and not love Vols football.
What sort of TV shows and movies do you watch?
I hate to admit it, but I love sci-fi, and zombie stuff, and anything apocalyptic. But I also like rom-coms, and I’ve got about five of them that I could just watch over and over – things like “Love Actually,” or “The Holiday,” or “Sense and Sensibility” – basically anything with Sandra Bullock or Ryan Reynolds. And I’m also a big news junkie. I probably watch way too much news.
What would you say you like the most about our church?
The people. Definitely the people.
This church is obviously home for me, and the people are my family. I’ve been here for 25 years and have no desire to go anywhere else. I remember Frances Ryan’s husband, Preston, took Nathan under his wing and became kind of a surrogate grandpa. And then Steve Carden and Orville Beeler really took Drew under their wings when he was growing up. I just can't say how much in love I am with the people in this church. And many of the folks that I’ve seen pass on – they’re still here for me. I can still walk through the halls and I can be near Chris Reid or I can be near Lana Beeler for a second. There's a sweetness there, in that I can still keep those relationships alive. And there are so many of our songs that do the same thing, like when the choir sings “Grace,” I can’t help but think of Grace Stout.
Do you have any favorite memories of things that we've done at the church?
One thing in particular is my Mama. She started playing here at church about 25 years ago when she was 70. And every offertory that she played, people have no idea what an emotional experience that was for me. When I was growing up she was my church pianist, but after I moved here, she and I were in different churches for about 15 years. Then I started out at here at Christ, and I'd been here two weeks and the pianist quit, so I called Mama in desperation. She was playing for Daddy at Crown College – and she dumped him like a hot potato! She came over here and played for us until her vision got to where she just could not see anymore.
Other memories that come to mind are musical moments like my brother, Paul, singing “Father of Light.” But it’s also things that happen on a regular basis, like when we’re done with choir practice, and everyone stays together, standing in the parking lot talking before they leave to go home.
And I have got to tell you, working with Nancy Hodges is just one of the greatest joys of my life. I'm so unbelievably thankful for her. And Mike Beckley – I’ve learned so much about being a better person from him. We are just so blessed in this church to have Nancy and Mike.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Just that if you’re interested in music, we’d love to have you come join us in the choir or handbells. ...Or both!