Er­rol D. Gil­liard

Greater Har­vest Bap­tist pas­tor took lead­er­ship role af­ter 2015 un­rest to urge calm in streets of West Bal­ti­more

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES - By Jac­ques Kelly jac­ques.kelly@balt­sun.com

The Rev. Er­rol Dwain Gil­liard Sr., a Bap­tist min­is­ter and pas­tor of West Bal­ti­more’s Greater Har­vest Bap­tist Church who was a vo­cal pro­po­nent for peace dur­ing Bal­ti­more’s 2015 un­rest, died of can­cer Sat­ur­day at the Sea­sons Hospice at Si­nai Hos­pi­tal. The Sev­ern res­i­dent was 58.

Born in Bal­ti­more and raised on Fair­mount Av­enue, he was the son of Hugh T. Gil­liard, a la­borer, and Mamie Gil­liard.

He at­tended Fan­nie L. Bar­bour School and was a 1976 grad­u­ate of Carver Vo­ca­tional-Tech­ni­cal High School, where he stud­ied print­ing and pub­li­ca­tion.

Fam­ily mem­bers said he had wanted to be­come a preacher since he was a child.

“He would go to church and come home and repreach the ser­mon,” re­called a sis­ter, Bar­bara Gil­liard of Bal­ti­more.

“When a pet died, a cat or a gold­fish, he held a fu­neral in our back­yard,” she said. “We knew it was just a mat­ter of time be­fore he would have his own church.”

She said her brother briefly worked as a printer at Har­bor Print­ing on East Bal­ti­more Street.

“My brother was hon­est, lov­able, am­bi­tious, tal­ented, kind­hearted, funny and fear­less,” said his sis­ter. “He could en­cour­age you, mo­ti­vate you, teach you and nur­ture you, all at the same time.

“He was one of a kind. He would say — when preach­ing a fu­neral — that no one has a ‘host’ of friends. If you can find two good ones, you are blessed,” she said.

Even be­fore he was or­dained, Mr. Gil­liard be­gan vis­it­ing Mary­land pris­ons with a fel­low church mem­ber Lois Proc­tor.

“He taught the in­mates and brought them the word of God,” said his sis­ter.

He de­cided to be­come a preacher and earned a de­gree at the Vir­ginia Union Univer­sity in Rich­mond.

He went on to re­ceive an hon­orary doc­tor­ate from Eastern The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary in Lynch­burg, Va., as well as an hon­orary de­gree from the De­ter­mined Bi­b­li­cal and The­o­log­i­cal In­sti­tute of Bal­ti­more.

At the time of his death, he was study­ing at Palmer The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary in Penn­syl­va­nia.

“He was a no-non­sense pas­tor, even though he was a jovial per­son,” said a col­league, the Rev. Jesse Young of the Si­las First Bap­tist Church of Sev­erna Park. “He hit straight from the hip and didn’t back down. He was also an ex­cel­lent men­tor to young pas­tors.”

The Rev. Sa­muel Ray, pas­tor of the Morn­ing Star Bap­tist Church of Christ, who died in 2015, was a child­hood friend of Mr. Gil­liard’s and trained him in pub­lic speak­ing and di­rected him in church prac­tices.

In 1981, Mr. Gil­liard be­came pas­tor of the New Mount Carmel Bap­tist Church. He was named pas­tor of Greater Har­vest Bap­tist Church in 1985 and served its con­gre­ga­tion for 31 years.

Friends said that un­der his lead­er­ship, at­ten­dance grew at the church, at Saratoga and Vin­cent streets. Dur­ing his ten­ure, he also added church-spon­sored hous­ing and a recre­ation cen­ter.

Af­ter last year’s civil un­rest in the city, Mr. Gil­liard joined other mem­bers of the clergy in a march on North Av­enue.

“He was in­stru­men­tal in get­ting the Bap­tist Min­is­ters Con­fer­ence in sol­i­dar­ity with other clergy to get in one ac­cord to fight the sit­u­a­tion head-on,” said the Rev. John Lunn, pas­tor of Berean Bap­tist Church in North­west Bal­ti­more.

“He was an or­ga­nizer and a leader for hu­man­ity,” said Mr. Lunn. “He loved preach­ing. He had a com­mand­ing voice — and he could re­ally sing.”

Bishop Regi­nald Kennedy, pas­tor of the Gospel Taber­na­cle Bap­tist Church, de­scribed his col­league as a “peo­ple’s pas­tor.” He said he was con­tem­po­rary in his think­ing, and had a way of reach­ing through his ser­mons.

“He was a great or­a­tor,” said Bishop Kennedy. “He was gifted and had a fresh un­der­stand­ing of the Bi­ble. He had a skill in the art of preach­ing and he could keep your at­ten­tion. He just made the mes­sage plain, a mes­sage that was com­pre­hended by all walks of life.”

In early 2015, Mr. Gil­liard be­came pres­i­dent of the Bap­tist Min­is­ters Con­fer­ence of Bal­ti­more and Vicin­ity.

In 2012, The Bal­ti­more Sun re­ported that Mr. Gil­liard “is­sued a call to arms” as same-sex mar­riage was be­ing dis­cussed in the Mary­land House of Del­e­gates. “‘They took your tax dol­lars to push an im­moral bill,’ Gil­liard preached into his mi­cro­phone,” The Sun re­ported.

Fu­neral ser­vices will be held at 10 a.m. Sat­ur­day at the Greater Har­vest Bap­tist Church, 1617 W. Saratoga St.

In ad­di­tion to his sis­ter, sur­vivors in­clude a son, Er­rol Dwain Gil­liard Jr.; four broth­ers, James Lester Gil­liard Sr., Robert Lee Gil­liard, Ray­mond Eu­gene Gil­liard and Wayne Leake; an­other sis­ter, Rosa Gil­liard; and a grand­son — all of Bal­ti­more. His mar­riage to Brenda Cooper ended in di­vorce. The Rev. Er­rol D. Gil­liard “was an or­ga­nizer and a leader for hu­man­ity,” a fel­low pas­tor said.

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