Nearly six years after drinking and a motorcycle crash, Ken Ferber has put the broken pieces of his life back together.
ST. CLOUD - When Ken Ferber flew off his motorcycle and landed in a ditch after a day of drinking, he smashed his helmet -- and he shattered the high-profile life he'd built as the founding pastor of a congregation that grew from 12 to 700 members under his leadership.
Nearly six years after the accident just down the road from Love of Christ Lutheran Church, where he had continued drinking in the office that Saturday evening in October 2006, Ferber stood in a second-floor art classroom at Recovery Plus, turning a piece of his pottery in his hands.
"Broken Yet Held," a jagged-edged, broken pot that fits into a sculpted, upturned hand, is the piece that Ferber said best represents his own recovery. Today -- after undergoing treatment and severing ties with his former church -- he is supporting others through a different ministry, his work with men in recovery and a newly published book as he prepares to teach pottery to Recovery Plus clients next month at the Paramount Theatre.
The way he tells it, he's not a new man but a recycled man.
"God takes all the pieces of our lives, and he makes something brand new," Ferber said.
"Sometimes people think, 'Oh, we've got to forget about the past, it's so shameful.' It can become brand new. Everything that happens to us in our life can be recycled. It can be used to make something brand new."
Ministry, art and writing
For Ferber, 58, that has meant combining his ministry, art and writing.
He spent 25 of his 31 years as a pastor with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. He resigned from Love of Christ Lutheran Church in December 2006 and from the synod in June 2007.
"I resigned because I knew eventually I wouldn't be allowed to be there anymore."
Today, Ferber leads Sunday morning services as the Protestant pastor at the Country Manor Campus, which includes a variety of senior housing options in Sartell.
He has spent 30-plus years as a potter, completing the coursework but falling just short of earning a master's degree from St. Cloud State University, where he was a campus pastor for six years. He has completed commissioned works -- among them a pair of goddess figures on view with about 12 other vessels in the Recovery Plus classroom space -- and created the baptismal font that was used at Love of Christ.
In "Beyond Humpty Dumpty," a 250-page paperback that traces his recovery and includes others' stories in a devotional format based on Alcoholics Anonymous' 12-step program, Ferber reveals details of growing up with an alcoholic father, facing the congregation at the church he had started and getting back on the road to continue drinking and riding after a previous motorcycle accident.
Half of the book was based on some of the 400-plus blog entries he posted on a recovery site. The rest draws on his experiences as a chaplain and as a man who continues to attend meetings as part of his recovery.
Since versions of the book became available in April and May, he has recovered the $900 spent to self-publish and distribute it. It is available in color, black and white and electronically. Ferber said he hoped to eventually make "Beyond Humpty Dumpty" available at recovery centers throughout the country.
When he soon leads the class of six Recovery Plus clients, Ferber said the focus will be on teaching them a skill. Loree Le Roux, staff psychotherapist and art coordinator at Recovery Plus, said clients who find something they love to do have a better chance of success. Creating art also allows them to express themselves and relieve stress.
"Ken has extensive experience, he is a great artist in his own right and he has a strong educational background and he has experience working with people with addictions," Le Roux said of her decision to make him one of the 12 artists who will lead monthlong classes.
More freedom, less stress
Ferber said while he wishes his former church continued success, he finds his current situation provides more latitude and less stress. In addition to leading the Sunday morning worship service, he works two days a week as a resident assistant at Recovery Plus, a St. Cloud Hospital-affiliated facility that offers services to adults dealing with chemical dependency.
"You have this high-profile, Christian job and it's like being Jesus all the time," Ferber said of his days as a full-time pastor.
Ferber's was not the only life changed by the accident. His wife, Joan, 55, a pastor's daughter whose life had centered on church work, was active in the music ministry at Love of Christ. When he resigned from the church, she went to work full time as a receptionist at a law firm.
"That's worked out really well, which was a shock, a surprise -- another one of those transition things where you think, 'This is going to be really miserable and hard,' but actually this is really a blessing, too," Joan Ferber said.
"I probably would have wanted my pieces to go back the way they were -- except one or two -- but every piece basically has been changed."
Joan Ferber said neither she nor her husband ever considered leaving their marriage. Reflecting her role in the recovery process, she said getting to the root of some of their problems has strengthened their bond.
"I feel like we're rowing the boat in the same direction. Both of us have an oar now. I think before, we might have been circling a pit that we didn't even know was there."