A quar­ter-cen­tury of ser­vice

The Covington News - - Religion - By Chris Queen cqueen@cov­news.com

These days it seems rare for a pas­tor to ex­pe­ri­ence a long ten­ure at one church. A quar­ter-cen­tury of ser­vice is cer­tainly an oc­ca­sion worth cel­e­brat­ing, and one lo­cal church is mark­ing such an achieve­ment: First Pres­by­te­rian Church in Cov­ing­ton this week­end is com­mem­o­rat­ing the 25th an­niver­sary of its pas­tor, the Rev. Billy Wade.

Wade was born in Gas­to­nia, N.C., and raised in De­catur. He grad­u­ated from Pres­by­te­rian Col­lege and Columbia The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary be­fore pas­tor­ing a church in Charleston, S.C., for six years. In 1986, Wade be­gan his ten­ure at First Pres­by­te­rian. The Rev. Louly Hay, parish as­so­ci­ate and long­time First Pres­by­te­rian mem­ber, says that the church eas­ily voted him in as pas­tor.

“Billy Wade came to us early in his ca­reer, and he’s been here ever since,” said Jean Blair, a mem­ber of the church who is head­ing up the com­mit­tee in charge of the an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion.

Wade’s wife, Theo­dosia, re­mem­bers the early days, when the ladies of the church came over to help them un­pack boxes. Mem­bers of the church shared veg­eta­bles from their gar­dens and watched their sons while they took the youth group on trips.

“First Pres­by­te­rian has al­ways been such a nur­tur­ing con­gre­ga­tion,” she said. “These fam­i­lies were tak­ing care of us while we took care of their fam­i­lies.”

Dr. Joseph Moon, dean of cam­pus life at Ox­ford Col­lege, moved to the area in 1988. He says that at that time, Wade was al­ready build­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as a fine pas­tor and speaker.

“My fam­ily and I were shop­ping for churches, and we re­peat­edly heard that the best ser­mon in town came from Billy Wade at First Pres­by­te­rian Church,” said Moon. “We gave it a try and were im­pressed with Billy and his fam­ily.”

Wade’s rep­u­ta­tion as a pas­tor and leader grew, as did the his­toric con­gre­ga­tion un­der his lead­er­ship. Over the past 25 years, Wade has seen the church through two build­ing projects and has raised the value of out­reach in the church. Ad­di­tion­ally, peo­ple through­out the com­mu­nity view Wade as a leader and a man of great faith and ac­tion. In ad­di­tion to his work in the lo­cal church and com­mu­nity, Wade has served as moder­a­tor of the Pres­bytery of Greater At­lanta and on the boards of Pres­by­te­rian Col­lege and Columbia The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary.

“He’s been a tire­less ad­vo­cate for peo­ple on the pe­riph­ery in the com­mu­nity and in God’s world,” said Hay. “I view him as a per­son of com­mit­ment to the jus­tice and mercy of God with­out any bounds. He has never been afraid of speak­ing and act­ing out and do­ing his min­istry.”

“I feel he has al­ways been a strong leader in the com- mu­nity,” said Den­nis Cheek, di­rec­tor of FaithWorks in Cov­ing­ton. “Billy is a ‘doer,’ a man of ac­tion. He’s not one to just sit around and iden­tify prob­lems. He pro­vides so­lu­tions. He in­vests his time, en­ergy and re­sources to ben­e­fit oth­ers.

“He’s al­ways been in­volved in the com­mu­nity,” said Theo­dosia Wade. “From the start, he has had the idea of min­is­ter­ing to both the church and the com­mu­nity, and he’s de­vel­oped great re­la­tion­ships with peo­ple from all walks of life. It’s been such a great ex­pe­ri­ence.”

“Billy Wade has been a tremen­dous source of sup­port and en­cour­age­ment to me and the other mem­bers of the clergy in the Cov­ing­ton area,” said Ti­mothy Gra­ham, rec­tor at the Epis­co­pal Church of the Good Shep­herd in Cov­ing­ton. “He is the one we all look to for lead­er­ship on is­sues that bring our churches to­gether. This is partly be­cause he has been here longer, but more be­cause he is wise, car­ing and a uni­fy­ing pres­ence. He is a pas­tor with a deep in­tegrity and quiet strength. He has been a shin­ing ex­am­ple to me, other clergy, and hun­dreds of oth­ers by the way he lives the gospel of Je­sus Christ and cares for the least among us.”

“He pos­sesses abun­dant pa­tience and gen­uine love for peo­ple,” said Moon. “When he speaks, he speaks clearly thought­ful, heart­felt, and faith­ful words. He en­joys peo­ple, and the role of pas­tor comes nat­u­rally to him.”

Wade has worked tire­lessly to im­prove the lives of peo­ple through­out the com­mu­nity. He has been in­volved in the Com­mu­nity Food Bank, FaithWorks, and Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity. Many of his friends, as­so­ci­ates, and church mem­bers have seen tremen­dous growth in him over the years as he has reached out to the com­mu­nity.

“He has come to have an in­creas­ingly com­fort­able pres­ence in any cir­cum­stance,” said Hay. “He grows more and more beloved and ex­udes jus­tice, com­pas­sion, and love, and he points not to him­self, but to God.”

“He’s given more of him­self that a lot of peo­ple might know,” said Blair. “Billy is loved and re­spected in the church, and he’s a good, gen­tle per­son.”

“I con­tinue to ap­pre­ci­ate how his rep­u­ta­tion has grown,” said Moon. “You can see it his val­ues, in the way he reaches across racial and de­nom­i­na­tional lines, and in the way he works with min­is­ters through­out the county.”

“Billy has al­ways reached out to other churches, and that has helped him grow,” said Theo­dosia Wade. “He be­lieves that ev­ery­body should be in­cluded in build­ing the com­mu­nity.”

As he has es­tab­lished him­self in the com­mu­nity, Wade has made many friends, and there are plenty of sto­ries of what he means to those friends.

“Billy and I used to play church bas­ket­ball to­gether, and he was a crack three­p­oint shooter,” said Moon. “It was fun to watch other teams try to guard the pas­tor. He’s a good ath­lete and was great on the court.”

Hay put it most sim­ply and suc­cinctly when she said, “ev­ery­body loves Billy Wade.”

As the church cel­e­brates the first 25 years of Billy Wade’s lead­er­ship, many peo­ple in the com­mu­nity wish him and his fam­ily the best.

“Thank you for all you’ve done and all you do for our com­mu­nity,” said Cheek. “You have truly made Newton County a bet­ter place for all its res­i­dents. I pray that God will bless you abun­dantly as you have been such a bless­ing to oth­ers.”

“It is a joy and priv­i­lege to be his friend and col­league in min­istry,” said Gra­ham.

“I en­trust him and his vi­brant, won­der­ful fam­ily in his con­tin­u­ing min­istry to God’s grace and en­ergy and power,” said Hay.

“I want to share my best wishes,” said Moon. “I know he won’t be com­fort­able with the ac­co­lades, but he re­ally de­serves this pat on the back.”

Billy and Theo­dosia Wade have three sons. Gra­ham is a phys­i­cal ther­a­pist in Charleson, Cam works for Blunt Con­struc­tion in At­lanta, and Grady works for Locum Te­nens, a tem­po­rary agency for med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als in At­lanta. Their eight-year-old grand­son, Bryson, goes to school in Rock­dale County.

THE REV. BILLY WADE

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