Margaret Ferguson's husband in moving tribute ahead of funeral
Hundreds of people are expected to attend the funeral of a popular Methodist minister whose death has touched people across the religious divide.
Rev Margaret Ferguson served as superintendent with the East Belfast Mission from 2014 until her death earlier this week at the Marie Curie hospice.
As her husband David and daughters Heather, Ruth and Clare prepare to lead mourners at her funeral at Mountpottinger Methodist Church this morning, Mr Ferguson paid his own tribute to the woman he described as his soulmate.
He recalled a life filled with love and a shared faith with the woman who was his childhood sweetheart.
"Margaret and I first met away back in 1970 when she was aged 14 and I was 15 and we have been together ever since," he said.
"She was a stunning woman, she was certainly the love of my life. There never was anyone else for either of us, we were soulmates and that was it.
"We got married when Margaret was 24 - she was a stunning looking woman and that didn't change throughout her life."
While raising their three children the couple also spent much of their busy lives helping out at their church, which eventually led to Margaret becoming a full-time Methodist minister.
"Her first posting for the Methodist Church was in Woodvale church when she was 50," he said.
"She thrived and loved the church and they loved her. She was fresh and new and sparky and wanted to do all sorts of wonderful things. Margaret also had a real heart for the community, and Woodvale was in the thick of very tough times. Everyone Margaret engaged with really took to her, she was even asked to be on the board of governors of St Mary's Christian Brothers School.
"She was so respected by them that she was chosen as one of the representatives to meet Mary McAleese when she was President of Ireland visiting the school. Margaret was also chosen to meet the Queen, but whether you were the Queen, President or someone struggling with life in Belfast, she treated everyone with equal respect."
He said his wife was diagnosed with lung cancer in March last year and while she responded well to chemotherapy she took ill again with meningitis this year and never recovered.
"I will always be so thankful to the Marie Currie doctors and nurses that looked after Margaret in the hospice during her final weeks," he added.
"My life without Margaret will be so difficult but I am comforted by the knowledge she is in Heaven and was loved by so many while she was with us."
Following the funeral service at 11am, Margaret's coffin will rest at East Belfast Mission to allow people to pay their respects.