Rev. Dr. Michael Phoenix
Michael comes to us from the First Presbyterian Church in Watertown, New York. Michael and his wife, Diane, have four children and seven grandchildren, who live in Wisconsin, Alabama, and Florida. Michael has a Ph.D. in Ministry from Luther Seminary and a Master of Divinity from Princeton, as well as a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Southern Illinois University.
Here is part of Michael’s story, as he tells it –
I came to America in 1954 through Ellis Island in New York City. I came with my mother to reside with my grandparents in Granite City, Illinois. We were part of a German enclave that worshipped in a German Lutheran Church. I learned to speak English in the 1st grade from a lovely teacher who was also a German immigrant. My mother worked in the garment industry of St. Louis by day and went to college at night. She learned data processing and computer science when we were still putting cards into a giant machine. From my grandparents and my mother, I learned about the reality of the “American Dream,” i.e. “get a good education and work hard and you can be anyone you want to be.”
From great teachers, pastors and scoutmasters, I learned to seek out a relationship with my heavenly father, who embraced me as I studied Luther’s Catechism. The loving people around me taught me that Jesus lives in the love that we receive from them. I memorized the shorter catechism and was confirmed in eighth grade. I began to feel called to the ministry of word and sacrament at about that time even though my inner worldly voice spoke to say “only a chump would become a pastor with doctor’s hours and teacher’s pay.” I spent too much time in college and graduate programs – ABDs thrice. I finally began a career in social work and counseling as the director of Lutheran Social Services in Pasadena, California. Working in community mental health in Bloomington, Illinois led us to becoming Presbyterians. The church sent me, all expenses paid, to Princeton Seminary.
I have served churches in Florida, Alabama and Wisconsin as an associate pastor and pastor. My background also involved teaching at colleges and maintaining a private counseling practice. Most recently, I have been a therapist for the University of Alabama’s Center for Psychiatric Medicine and Western Mental Health, both in Birmingham. I presently serve as the Director of the First Presbyterian Church Counseling Center in Watertown, New York and facilitate the small group ministry program for that church as an associate pastor.
I have come to a place in my life’s journey in which I look for the light in others and act as if that is all I see. I seek to consider and treat others as if they are more important than I am. I want my words and deeds to be like those actions and speech of Jesus as if he was living in me. I have come to realize that the significant ministry I have accomplished in this life has been through “the priesthood of all believers” working side-by-side with me.
Rev. Sherry Cothran, Associate, Families & Mission
Rev. Sherry Cothran is an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church and has been the Senior pastor at West Nashville UMC (2010 to 2017) and St. Johhn's UMC (Nashville-2016-2018), and Associate Pastor, West Nashville UMC (2008-2010). She and her husband, Patrick J. Woolsey moved to Chattanooga in 2018, Patrick teaches Bible at Soddy Daisy High School with the Bible in the Schools Program. Patrick is a graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary and has been a pastor and chaplain in the UMC for the past ten years.
Sherry graduated from Vanderbilt Divinity in 2010 and was ordained in 2013. She is serving as the Associate at Second Pres under appointment through the UMC's ecumenical communion program (Ad Interim status). Sherry serves as the pastoral liason with Mission, the St. Matthew's Shelter and programming and outreach to families in the church and community.
Sherry is also an author, singer/songwriter and in her former career, was the lead singer of the popular late 90's rock band, The Evinrudes. Sherry has worked closely with the homeless community at her urban church appointments in Nashville, and a couple of years ago relased a book about her stories called Tending Angels: Stories From the Frontlines of Heaven and Earth. She also worked with a local film maker and the homeless community to create a music video titled "Tending Angels" to show the sacred face of homelessness and the real reasons people spiral down. The video has been featured in several film festivals, both domestic and abroad.
Sherry has also been the Artist in Residence at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary (2015) and received two grants from the Louisville Institute to create books and music that aid the church. Her story has been featured in USA today, UMC.org, Interpreter Magazine, and her sermons and blogs have been featured in Good Preacher, Abingdon Women, Alive Now, Ministry Matters and other publications. Sherry continues to speak, perform, give workshops and preach as part of her expanding ministry.
Director of Music
Dr. Kevin Ford
Joseph Kevin Ford was born in Chickamauga, Georgia. He was granted the BS in Choral and Instrumental Music Education from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the MME, and the Ph.D. in Choral Music Education from The Florida State University. While at Florida State University he studied conducting with Rodney Eichenberger and served as his assistant conductor for two years. He has also studied conducting with Dr. Andrè Thomas and wind band conducting with Dr. James Croft. Dr. Ford has continued his conducting training through workshops with Robert Shaw, Roger Wagner, Dale Warland, Frederic Fennel, and Arnold Gabriel. Dr. Ford taught High School Chorus, Band and Middle School Band in Rossville, Georgia where his performance groups consistently made Superior ratings at festivals. He was formerly Music Program Coordinator and Choral Director at Chattanooga State Technical Community College in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was also teacher of conducting and choral music education at the Crane School of Music at The State University of New York College at Potsdam where he founded the Potsdam Community Chorus and formed and directed the chorus for the opening ceremony of the 2000 Goodwill Games in Lake Placid, NY. Dr. Ford also served on the faculty of The University of North Carolina at Charlotte as Director of Choral Activities and Coordinator of Vocal Music Education prior to his current appointment as Director of Choral Activities at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where his UTC Chamber Singers were the invited featured University Chorus at the 2005 Conference of the Tennessee Music Educators Association in Nashville, TN. He is a member of the Music Educators National Conference, the American Choral Directors Association, the Tennessee Music Educators Association, East Tennessee Vocal Association, College Music Society and the International Federation for Choral Music. He is a state officer in the Tennessee American Choral Directors Association where he is the Repertoire and Standards Chair for Community Choruses. Dr. Ford has guest conducted and adjudicated in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, New York, North Carolina and in Montreal, Canada.
Mr. David Friberg
Besides being the organist at Second Presbyterian, Mr. Friberg is also the keyboard accompanist for the UTC Master Chorale, and is a choral accompanist at UTC. He is a member of the American Guild of Organists, the Chattanooga Music Club, and the MacDowell Music Club.
He received his B.A. and M.A. in organ performance from Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC and went on to chair the organ department there. During his years in the Army, he served as organist at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. He has also served as the chairman of the Division of Fine Arts at Bryan College in Dayton, TN and as chairman of the music department at Covenant College, Lookout Mountain, GA.
He was privileged to be an artist-fellow in organ and harpsichord at the Bach Aria Summer Institute in Stonybrook, NY. One of the musical highlights of his life was participating in a Bach Organ Tour of Eastern Germany and playing some of the organs J. S. Bach had played.
Mrs. Sandra Franklin
Mr. Andrew Wilson