Sounding Forth: Big Orange Country

Oct 04, 2017

Two recently graduated seminarians, who are both former members of our church as well as of our staff, are serving at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Andrew Keasling is the Executive Pastor and Sarah Braden is the Associate Director of High School Ministry.

Andrew, who received a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary, had an atypical seminary experience in that it was a 12-year process of taking classes part-time while also being in ministry full-time, ultimately as Second’s youth pastor. He states, “One of the advantages was that I was able to immediately put into practice those things I was learning along the way. Specifically, it has helped me as I have led the worship in liturgy on Sunday mornings as well as counseling folks in crisis.”

Andrew is currently serving over all of the ministries of the church as Executive Pastor, as well as leading the church through a transition to its next Senior Pastor, who will replace John Wood who is retiring in April 2018. He is specifically tasked with shepherding and caring for members in their 30s.  Andrew said, “I truly feel like I get to use my gifts on a daily basis and I am grateful to help lead my home church through a very important season of transition. It is especially a joy to lead Communion and Baptisms.”

While Andrew’s home church is Cedar Springs, Second Presbyterian Church is Sarah’s. Sarah is the daughter of Ralph and Genie Braden and her sister is Elizabeth Beck. Sarah served on staff at Second as a two-year intern before heading to Columbia, SC at First Presbyterian Church and subsequently Birmingham, AL at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church to work in youth ministry.

Sarah spent two years getting a Masters in Theological Studies at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. Her degree allowed her to take classes that centered on Biblical studies. She says, “Overall my biggest takeaway was gaining a greater understanding of the Biblical story and the importance of context in studying and teaching from scripture. My time spent studying God’s word has equipped me for ministry - specifically teaching and helping to equip my volunteers and interns to teach. I also learned from my professors through how they taught classes and gained new tools for leading small groups.” Sarah also currently serves on the Edge Conference Planning Team, which the youth from Second participate in annually.

Andrew, along with family members M.J., Zachary, and Bryson, and Sarah continue in another part of our state to deeply minister to others. We have benefitted from their time among us and rejoice for their ministry in Big Orange country.