• Pastor Mary Brown gives the invocation at Erlanger’s Memorial Day ceremony May 30. Photo by Ben Katz
    Pastor Mary Brown gives the invocation at Erlanger’s Memorial Day ceremony May 30. Photo by Ben Katz

SCOUTING AROUND: Pastor Brown unified community during brief tenure

   Andrews – When Andrews United Methodist Church needed a new leader about six years ago, the Rev. Dr. Mary Brown answered the call. She became much more than just a church leader – she became a community leader.

    “She’s been a tremendous asset to this community,” said Jan Olson, executive director of the Andrews Chamber of Commerce. She would know, because Brown has been a member of the chamber’s board for the last few years.
    Sunday will be her last sermon at the church, as she has been called to lead First United Methodist Church in Sylva. After Sunday’s worship, the church will host a potluck lunch for the Brown family.
    “We are grateful and blessed to have had pastor Mary and her family for six years,” said Cheryl Kelley, a church member and longtime church treasurer. “Mary did so much. It will be hard to walk in her shoes.”
    Brown was the first female pastor of the church, and one of the youngest when she arrived. Kelley said some people were leery at first of the idea of a female pastor, but when they met her they grew to love her.
    “She’s a very positive individual, and she attracts people because of that,” Kelley said.
    Alaina Ledford said Brown was very open and reached out to a lot of people. Her sermons included a lot of pop culture references, making her relatable.
    “She’s a pastor you could talk to,” Ledford said. “She was just cool.”
    Over the years, Kelley said Brown helped the church grow in many ways, including implementing programs to help young mothers, plus getting the church a Duke grant that allowed them to bring in someone to extend their missions. She brought more people into the church and got other churches involved in the Welcome Table, a weekly free meal for all.
    Andrews Valley historian and church member Kandy Barnard said Brown was different from other pastors who have moved here over the years, calling her a “breath of fresh air.”
    “Pastor Mary is involved in this community in a personal way that other pastors were not,” Barnard said.
    Barnard said her involvement and accessibility got people who did not have a church home to go to Andrews United Methodist. She even got church members involved in community events, like volunteering at Spring Fling and Oktoberfest.
    “I thought it was good,” Kelley said. “I think it enhanced the ministry we had going.”
    Olson saw Brown’s contributions to the community as an extension of her faith.
    “She lives her faith,” Olson said. “It’s more, how can I show I have God within me?”
    Olson said that in chamber meetings, Brown was proactive, coming up with suggestions and voicing her opinions. One of the biggest challenges for organizations is finding volunteers, and Brown often volunteered her church to help. She even volunteered herself to write a post about hiking in the area for the chamber’s website, which has become one of the most popular articles online.
    Olson appreciated that Brown did another very important thing for the community – she shopped local. Olson said Brown would purchase gifts for family at her business, FernCrest Winery, and was often seen supporting other local businesses.
    “I know she was at Scoops quite a bit,” Olson said. “I would pass her going in or going out, and she would be armed with numerous things of either ice cream or coffee.”
    Another business owner, Margo Locust of Locust Trading Co., said it will be hard not seeing Brown “running around town.” Locust got to know Brown as a neighbor of the church, and through her grandchildren being in the same school classes as Brown’s children.
    Even though she wasn’t a member of the church, Locust said Brown was always there for her and her family in their times of need, and even traveled out of town to support them.
    “She portrays God,” Locust said. “I really feel she is God’s hands here on Earth.”
    The Rev. Volley Hanson of St. Andrew Lutheran Church said Brown was “a unifying force” in the community. She was a pleasure to work with in the Cherokee County Ministerial Association, and on the opportunities for the community to worship together that she helped create, like Vespers in the Valley.
    “She was the one who would get things started,” Hanson said. “She loved to bring people together.”
    Kelley said that while Brown was always full of ideas, but she also listened and wanted to see growth.
    “I feel like she learned a lot herself,” Kelley said.
    The Rev. Tom Jolly will move from Greensboro to be the church’s next pastor. In a message to church members, Brown said she would continue to be their friend.

Ride the Rails returns
    Mineral Bluff, Ga. – The Ride the Rails Festival will be held Saturday and Sunday at the Historic Mineral Bluff L&N Depot. The Tri-State Model Railroaders will host activities families from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days.
    Visitors will get to take a 5-mile round trip railroad motor car ride. The ride travels west, over the iron bridge that crosses the Toccoa River, and returns back to the depot after reaching the Murphy Junction. Each ride is 35-40 minutes long.
    Families will also get to try to travel down the track using a replica hand-pump car. The depot will also have a “Trains for Kids” play area, and vendors selling food and drinks.
    Inside the depot, visitors can view the construction progress of the HO scale model railroad layout, which depicts the route of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad’s “Old Line” that ran from Etowah, Tenn., through north Georgia and into Murphy.
    The event is a fundraiser for the model railroad club and depot. The group suggests donations of $6 for children, up to $12 for adults to ride the motor car, and $2 to try the hand car.
    For details, visit tsmri.org or call 706-455-8903. The depot is at 150 Railroad Ave.
    Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email, scoutingaround@cherokeescout.com; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message in the office at 837-5122.

The Cherokee Scout

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