Church packed for final farewell to Margaret Ferguson
More than 1,000 mourners gathered in Mountpottinger Methodist Church yesterday morning for the funeral of a beloved minister with the "common touch".
Leading the service, retired minister Rev Jim Rea paid tribute to former Rev Margaret Ferguson, who he described as "a woman with a big personality".
"Margaret was fashion-conscious and always glamorous, but her life was defined by three things," he said.
"The first was family. She was loved by them and they were loved in return. Then there was her ministry, which crossed all sorts of divides. She was also a great people person who valued everyone equally."
As a former member of the board of governors at St Mary's Christian Brothers School, Rev Ferguson was chosen as a representative to meet Mary McAleese when she was President of Ireland. She also met the Queen.
Addressing the huge number of people who had packed into the pews, and the hundreds who had gathered in the overflow, Rev Rea referenced Rudyard Kipling's famous poem If to sum up Rev Ferguson's life.
"She was a woman who walked with kings but never lost the common touch," he said.
Rev Rea, a former president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, told mourners that Rev Ferguson's Christ-centred faith never faltered, even after she was diagnosed with lung cancer in March last year.
"She held on to it strongly, especially in the days when she knew she was dying," said the Shankill Road minster.
He also recalled how Rev Ferguson came to find faith.
"As a school girl at Carolan Grammar School [now Wellington College], she heard a woman talk about faith, but she showed no initial interest," he explained.
"But several years later, something made her think again and she prayed for a sign. Two days later, out of nowhere, that woman wrote her a letter urging to find Christ. That was the beginning of her faith."
Margaret was 50 when she took up her first posting at Woodvale Methodist Church. She served with the East Belfast Mission from 2014 until she died earlier this week at the Marie Curie Hospice.
Following the service, Rev Ferguson's coffin rested at East Belfast Mission to allow people to pay their respects before a cremation service at Roselawn.