Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Church Embraces a Wedding

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Church Embraces a Wedding

Article excerpt

Byline: Terry Dickson

Diane Woodard lived a dream Monday night.

"I always wanted to make Elvis' wedding cake," she said.

Yes, Elvis got married Monday night at Mount Calvary Baptist Church, a little country church toward the sunset from Hoboken. For those who couldn't find their way, there was a sign out by U.S. 82 that said simply, "Elvis Wedding."

OK, it wasn't the Elvis. The vows were spoken by Elvis Ferguson, 86, and Ermie Conner, 78. It is the third marriage for both. They both lived up to their earlier vows, but death parted them from their first and second loves.

Why the couple, who are members of New Hope Baptist Church in Clinton County, Ky., chose to get married in Southeast Georgia is a story in itself.

Elvis Ferguson has been a deacon at New Hope for years, the same church where the former Ermie Conner's late husband, Billy Ray Conner, had been a member. Once her husband died she began attending his church. It was there, Elvis said, that "That old love bug bit."

They could have gotten married there, the bride said, but the happy event would have been tinged with sadness.

"He's got five grown kids. I've got three," Ermie said.

Attending a wedding in New Hope would have brought up memories of the deceased parents for both sets of children, she said.

"I didn't want them having sad memories in the same church," she said.

Besides, Elvis knew the preacher would work cheap at Mount Calvary. It's the home church of Al Ferguson, the groom's younger brother, who is also a retired Baptist minister. Al Ferguson formerly pastored a few small churches for low pay.

"I worked cheap. I was worth every penny of it," he joked.

The Rev. Ferguson also has some experience with weddings; a lot came his way when he was in the pulpit on Sunday and a Brantley County educator during the week.

Beckoning toward a row of Mount Calvary women, including some of his former students, Ferguson said, "When one of them would catch a boy, they'd bring him around."

The preacher wasn't the only one who worked cheap. Mount Calvary is a friendly little congregation. Southern Baptists routinely welcome new members with something called the right hand of fellowship. …

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