By Jessica Brodie
GREENVILLE—In an Annual Conference memorial service June 4 remembering the lives of 52 clergy, spouses and others who have gone on to heaven in the past year, Dr. B. McIver Alexander Jr. brought a message of hope and faith despite a sorrowful, painful loss.
In his sermon, “I Know You Don’t Want to Be Here, But … ,” Alexander drew from John 11:20-26a, when Jesus brought his friend Lazarus back from the dead.
Alexander pointed out how Jesus loved Lazarus dearly. Still, when he got the call his friend was ill, Jesus didn’t go to Lazarus right away. Instead of being healed, Lazarus died. It was a blow for many—especially for Lazarus’s sister, Martha.
Just like many gathered to remember loved ones at Annual Conference, Alexander said, Scripture recounts how Martha was anguished at the death, even bitter that Jesus didn’t get there in time to save her brother. As she told the Lord, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Perhaps that is why Jesus tarried, Alexander noted—to show how, even in death, God overcomes and is glorified; to show all of us we must “trust God in life, death and in life beyond death.”
Just like Martha, “Some of you may be bitter today; I understand,” Alexander said. “Today is a day of grief and pain. It is a most sorrowful way. You had hoped for a little more time together.”
But as Jesus says to Martha, “Your brother will rise again.”
Alexander shared how his brother, Wiley, has pressed on after the 2010 loss of a college-aged son. Alexander described Wiley’s son, Karl, as an extremely gifted young man who had just finished his first year at Wofford College. But on Monday, July 12, 2010, Karl was suddenly gone.
“He was the life of the family, life of any party,” Alexander said. “All loved him. He was focused on going to medical school to become a cardiologist to help others, but then in the twinkling of an eye his earthly life was over. I remember asking myself as I drove to my brother’s house that day, ‘How in the world can I help my brother and my family see God is good in life and in death?’ There was little I could do.”
But in the years that have passed, he’s watched his brother come to grips with his loss by saying over and over: “Give me Jesus.”
That’s all we can do, really, Alexander said—cling to faith.
And in the faith, the beautiful can happen.
Since Karl’s death, Wiley Alexander has helped raise $271,830 through an annual golf tournament in Lydia and a fun run in Spartanburg. Each year at least two Wofford students are assisted financially.
“The point is this: my brother Wiley is living proof that whoever lives and believes in Jesus will not … die but will live,” Alexander said to applause.
And never forget: Jesus holds your loved one this very moment.
All is really well.
Just like his brother Wiley, Alexander urged, “Fall at the feet of Jesus, believe He is the resurrection and the life, and keep saying over and over, ‘Give me Jesus. Give me Jesus.’”
Memorial banners, bells and candles helped symbolize the saints during the service. The Covenant Worship Choir provided music.
“O God of both the living and the dead, we praise your holy name for all your servants who have faithfully lived and died,” prayed Bishop Jonathan Holston at the close of the service. “We thank you for the sacred ties that bind us to those unseen who encompass us as a cloud of witnesses.”
Active minister honored during the service was Paul Milton Cheezem Sr. Retired ministers honored during the service were John Deleon Boone Jr., James Boyd Chewning, William Kelly Cross III, James Solomon Gadsden Sr., William Murray Gibbons, L. Junior Graham, James Allen Grigsby, Eugene James Harper, James Otis Harper, Doris Nordan Hovis, James Elmo Hunter III, Norman Lee Knight, Patricia Caldwell “Pat” McCain, Edward Homer Lee McDowell Sr., Jerry Paul Nelson, Clarence Odell Pittman, Caroline Adams Salmans, Talmage Boyd Skinner Jr., Edward James Stiltz, Robert Williams Tanner and Clark Thomas Wilson. Clergy spouses honored during the service were Barbara Ann Gowan Alley, Charles Jeffery “Jeff” Altman, Jeanne Anne Amick Bobo, Jean Casey Brittain, George Victor Kulik, Brenda L. Parker, Madora Holder Pittman, John Daniel “Danny” Summey, Anne Whitehead Bassford Townsend, Dawn Elizabeth “Dee Dee” Albig Warwick and Mary Leslie Williams. Surviving spouses honored during the service were Birdadean Jamison Calhoun, Elizabeth Burnett Christopher, Caroline Anne Owens Clary, Jane Wilkerson Covington, Elizabeth Candler Johnson, Geneva Allen Jones, Emily Claire Funderburk Love, Margie Elizabeth Jones Page, Queen Elizabeth Cooper Pinckney, Margaret Perry Smith and Jennye Ellis Taylor.
Others honored during the service were Rebecca Massabeau Parrott Colvin, Delphia Blankenship Fizer, Cecil Ernest “Ernie” Nivens, Barbara Jean Rollins, Thomas Raymond Smith, Paul Y. Thomas, Lois Watts Harper Vaught and Geneva Belton Williams.