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STAFF SPOTLIGHT

(Interviews below were conducted by members of our

Staff Parish Relations Committee.):

NANCY HODGES, PIANIST

 

What is your job at church? What are your duties?

I am the church pianist. I provide music for Sunday worship services as well as rehearse with and accompany the adult choir. I also accompany the children’s choir and the handbell ensemble when needed.  I accompany soloists, play for weddings, funerals and church social events when requested.

 

How long have you held this position at CUMC?

My first worship experience with CUMC was Christmas Eve fifteen years ago.  Sarah had received my name from a mutual friend who thought I might be available to play for the church.  I was already playing a keyboard (not a piano) for another church and I explained to Sarah that I was not interested in leaving that position.  She asked if I would at least consider helping CUMC at their Christmas Eve Service as the eyesight of her current accompanist; her mother Jennie Holloway, would not allow her to continue playing any longer. I agreed to help just for the Christmas Eve service. After reconsidering, I went back to Sarah and shared that I would be willing to help her for three months in order to give her time to find someone permanently. By the third week of playing for her, I had fallen completely in love with this amazingly talented, big hearted, the sky’s the limit, ball of fire wrapped in a beautifully small package, named Sarah Holloway. I was also in love with our fabulous adult choir who have become my family apart from my personal family, and this wonderfully friendly and loving congregation who had so many mission minded activities and goals they were looking forward to.  I asked Sarah on that third Wednesday evening at choir rehearsal if she had filled the position as I wanted it for myself.  She said she had not even begun to look and the rest, as they say, is history.

 

Tell us about your family.

I met my wonderful husband, Eddie, in the music department during my college years. I received my Bachelors of Music Degree in piano and was certified to teach music K-12.  Eddie is an ordained Minister of Music and we celebrated over 40 years of marriage earlier this year.  After seminary, God’s calling took us to NC and later to SC. While living in SC we welcomed our greatest gift from God, our only son. He has his degree in Business Administration. He met the love of his life during his college years and they have been married over 10 years now. Last year they welcomed twin blessings from God, the first grandchildren on both sides of the families. 

 

Where did you grow up?

I was born in KY, and at birth, I was placed in a foster care home to await my adoption.  My parents adopted me at 6 months of age. Shortly after the adoption, my family moved to a small coalmining town in WV where we lived until I was in fourth grade.  During my fourth grade year, we moved to TN where I resided until I graduated from college.  The summer after graduation, I very gratefully accepted a teaching position in music and taught for almost 3 years before moving back to KY to help put Eddie through Seminary.

 

What did you enjoy doing as a child?

My parents loved listening to “records” mostly Big Band era from the 1920’s through the 1960’s and I loved dancing, in our living room, to all the different styles of music.  We listened to a lot of Spiritual music as well and because I was raised Baptist I was not supposed to dance. One night my dad came home from work and found me dancing to Mahalia Jackson and he immediately scolded me by saying “Nancy, we do not dance to hymns”!  At six years of age I very innocently looked back at my Dad and said “but Daddy, it’s not a him, it’s a her” (Duh!)   

I would hear a particular song that I really liked and the following Sunday I would find a piano at church and pick out the melody.  My parents soon decided to invest in a piano for our home and enrolled me in piano lessons. 

Besides loving to play the piano, my sister, who was two years older than me and adopted from a different family, and I would charge the neighborhood kids 25 cents (per kid/per day) to come play at our house. We were the only family on our street who had a yard.  That is when I found out I liked making money! I sold the GRIT newspaper for a while and around Thanksgiving we always received a large book in the mail that had different styles of Christmas cards that could be personalized and I would take that book around to all the neighbors and sell, sell, sell.

 

What are some of your favorite memories as a child or young adult?

Selling at such an early age helped prepare me for growing through the rest of my education years.  My favorite memories include being part of the Brownies and Girl Scouts programs where I had to sell mainly cookies to help fund raise and just about every year I was top seller. I also enjoyed playing flute, cymbals and the xylophone in the band (no, not all at the same time).  I was extremely active in the Youth Program at church where I was one of the accompanists in our choir. I loved going on our summer mission trips and playing for the choir to sing. Both the band and youth program had fundraisers every year and the selling continued. 

During my high school and my college years, I have great memories of being part of piano competitions as well as accompanying different vocalists or instrumentalists for their competitions or performances.  During my college years, I received compensation for that talent.  

My last set of favorite memories was, and still is, any time spent time with my (adopted) mother’s side of the family.  They are very close to each other and we have a grand time when we are all together…especially at the beach.

 

Tell us about your first car.

In high school, several of my friends were receiving cars as a graduation gift. I asked for a Camaro. My dad explained that would not happen under any circumstance.  He said IF I graduated from college, on time, he would get me a car. I graduated on time, four years later, and my mother had to make my dad keep his promise. My dad’s solution was to buy my mom a brand new Buick Regal and then begrudgingly give me her older Buick Century that was the ugliest shade of green that you have ever seen.

 

What music do you enjoy?

I enjoy all types of music, except perhaps Gregorian Chant especially if played on the Sackbut! That is the Biblical name for this instrument, so feel free to look it up if you have never heard that particular word.  

Music is food for my soul and can speak to me quicker than the greatest orator or author on the planet. Music is something I feel from the deepest regions of my soul. It does not matter what I am listening too. It could be a soloist, a quartet, a choir, a piano, a cello or a full orchestra.  When a piece of music is played with the right feeling, it brings me to tears,  or makes me want to laugh, shout, sing along, or it makes me want to close my eyes so that I am lost in the beauty of that moment.  Music makes me want to stand up and dance whether it is a “hymn or it is a her”. Outside of God, nothing and no one can touch me in such a personal way.  


 

What is the most interesting thing you have ever done? 

I am still planning this question.

 

Where do you like to travel and where is your favorite place to visit?

I have been to Mexico, Canada and on two Caribbean cruises. I have also traveled to most all of the East Coast states as well as all of the southern states and have been as far west as Texas. However, my favorite place to visit is the beach because I have so many fabulous childhood and lifetime memories tied up in that area.

 

What are your favorite TV shows and movies?

My all-time favorite movie is Savannah Smiles. 

 

Do you have any favorite pets?  Tell us about them.

Currently I do not have any pets. I have had two dogs in my adult years. My first was a Lhasa Apsa and my second was a mix of Jack Russell “Terror” and Beagle.  Both dogs, for health reasons, had to be put to sleep. Each time was extremely devastating. After I retire, I will consider another dog, but definitely not before.

 

What is your favorite sports team?

My blood runs deep orange for both the Men and the Lady Vols.

 

What do you like most about Christ United Methodist Church?

I came to this church because of the music program. I stayed after saying I was not interested, because I fell in love with the music director and the music program that Sarah provides, not just on special occasions but 52 weeks a year!

 

Do you have any favorite memories of things that we have done at this church?

For me, it would be the Easter, summer and Christmas concerts. It is so much fun being with the choir members even when we have extra rehearsals, as that just means more time with the people I love. I also cherish the many programs or social events provided by UMM and UMW.  Again, this is time with “my family” away from home. I have many wonderful memories, too many to list, over my last 15 plus years at CUMC. However, I am looking forward to making many more memories with all of you in the future.

Love and respect to all, and thank you for allowing me to be part of the journey!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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