A Life Helping Others

Laurie Ferguson is the fourth generation to join the “family business” as she calls it. “My father, grandfather and great grandfather were all Presbyterian ministers, but I was the first woman,” she says. “None of my three younger brothers were interested. I wanted to be helpful in some way to the world. I considered various professions but decided becoming a minister was where I could be the most helpful.”

Born in Pittsburgh, Laurie grew up in various parts of eastern Pennsylvania. She graduated from Smith College then earned a Master of Divinity from Princeton. After working for two years at a church in Pennsylvania she was offered the position of minister at our Palisades Presbyterian Church in 1982. “I was pastor there for fifteen wonderful years,” she says. “We were one of the first parishes to ordain gay elders. I loved the community and how we reached beyond our doors. During the AIDS crisis we volunteered to make dinners with the organization GMHC in Greenwich Village. The clients asked if there was a way they could come out to the country, so we began hosting a summer picnic, bringing a busload of men to the church.”

“We did Midnight Runs as part of a homeless outreach, and through the leadership of Dorothy Davis and Cass Luddington, reconnected with a group in Harlem who also came out for a summer picnic. We had wonderful Christmas pageants. The weekly rhythms of worship and community fed my soul. I am forever grateful for all who were part of that time!”

While at Princeton, Laurie met Chris Iosso. They married in 1982 before coming to the Palisades church then separated in 1994. The couple lived at the manse across from the church where they raised their three children. Caleb, her oldest, lives in Palisades and works as a contractor. Jake, works in Nigeria for MSC Meraviglia Shipping. “We text daily, and he comes home three times a year, so he doesn't seem so far away.” Daughter Caroline joined Homes for the Homeless in NYC after finishing her master’s at NYU. In March, she presented Laurie with her first grandchild, a boy named Leonard. Laurie married William Saum in 1999. They met through their work in the Presbytery. Bill died in 2019 after a long illness.

After being pastor fifteen years, Laurie felt she had taken the church as far as she could. “I was ready to work one–to–one rather than to supervise a congregation.”

She bought an old 1740 house on Closter Road, settling her family there before going back to school to become a clinical psychologist. Laurie earned an MA and PhD from Adelphi University, graduating in 2004 with cognitive and Jungian training. “I was drawn to Jungian spirituality.” Her dissertation was on resilience.

She gave up her Kings Highway office during the pandemic and currently only sees clients on Zoom or the phone. “I focus on emotional and spiritual wellness in my therapy and coaching sessions. In therapy we explore why you do what you do. In coaching we find ways to put practical action into practice.” She writes a blog available through her website (info@laurieferguson.com ) and has plans to produce podcasts. In addition to her private patients, she works once a week with the Global Healthy Living Foundation in Nyack. Its goal is to improve the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses.

In her free time Laurie loves to garden. Travel is high on her list of favorite things. “The whole family went to the Galapagos in January; it was my favorite place to visit.” She is also a reader, “I especially love mysteries,” and has recently joined the Palisades Library board.