Will your life story be one to emulate? | Faith
by The Press and Standard | November 18, 2018 5:00 am
Last Updated: November 14, 2018 at 11:45 am
On the brisk Sunday morning of Nov. 4, 2018, Colleton County, among other places, received the heartbreaking news that the voice of a well-loved pillar of our community had been silenced. Social media was flooded by a storm, releasing this astounding news. Many, near and far, shared their feelings about the news of his demise and how much he was going to be sorely missed.
This man, this “devout soldier in the army of the Lord,” the late Bro. Rethel McKinley “Bubba” Williams, left an indelible print on this community, along with a story to be emulated.
Bro. McKinley, as I affectionately called him, most certainly lived his spiritual life as outlined in I Corinthians 16:13-14 (ESV), “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” He loved the Lord, his church, family and the community and served them until his earthly end. For those of us who knew Bro. McKinley, it was obvious that when he accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior, he was in it for the long haul, even though trials and tribulations may have come.
Countless numbers of family members, friends, and well-wishers gathered on Friday morning at New Life United Methodist Church in Walterboro to pay their last respects to this giant pillar of faith, hope and love. It was a very moving service.
For me, it was emotionally charged because I lost someone whom I considered a very close member of my family. It was through his parents, the late Rethel and Estelle Williams of the former Wesley U.M. Church, his siblings and other family members, that I grew to know and love Bro. McKinley. I always found him to be very humorous, always with a smile, and something kind to say. His niece, Brenda Williams, the daughter of his brother, the late Carlarue Williams, and I graduated together from Walterboro High School in 1973.
As I move forward with this story about Bro. McKinley, I want to share some of what took place at this befitting service for him. One thing that demonstrated the positive impact that he had on the lives of so many is that all of his living former pastors attended the service: Elder Dwight Nelson, Sr., who presided; Rev. Ernest Reece, Jr., who shared remarks as he knew him; and Rev. Anthony Hodge, who delivered a soul-stirring prayer. The pulpit was occupied by about 18 members of the clergy with others in the choir and the audience. What a testament to Bro. McKinley’s life living! As the service continued, the Scriptures were read by Rev. Vera M. Bodison, an assistant pastor of Canaan Baptist Church in Round O and retired Colleton County educator, and Rev. Marvin Jones, III, pastor of Jericho U.M. Church in Cottageville and an employee of the Colleton County Sheriff’s Department.
Beautiful, sometimes humorous, reflections were shared by Bro. Richard Varn (community), former Sheriff George A. Malone (friend), Sis. Rosa Singleton (church) and Bro. Charles S. Williams (family/his brother). All of the remarks most definitely fit Bro. McKinley, but I must share a few of those (some paraphrased) from his brother Charles. His focus was not only about his brother after he came on the Lord’s side, but also before that time.
Bro. Charles talked about the time that he boarded the bus to report to the military. He heard the gentleman who was calling the roll say, “McKinley Williams.” The gentleman said the name again. So Charles said he looked around because that was his brother’s name, but McKinley was not there. When he got the opportunity to talk to his brother, he let him know that his name was called to report to the military on that bus. Bro. McKinley was living up north at the time, so he told his brother Charles that the letter was sent south, and he was up north. He went on to tell his brother Charles that they never bothered him, and he never bothered them. What comic relief was this for the service! The church roared with laughter.
As Bro. Charles continued his remarks on behalf of the family, he used an attention-getting analogy about his brother’s spiritual service. His point was that there was a difference in Bro. McKinley’s being called to the military and being called to the service. Bro. McKinley was called to the service (of the Lord). Bro. Charles said that his brother was given an instruction manual that went from Genesis to Revelations, and God was his commander. My God, what an analogy!
Another moment of reflection that Bro. Charles mentioned was the last time that he talked to his brother. He said that his brother’s wife (Jacquelyn Ford Williams) held the phone to his brother’s ear so that he could talk with him when she got back to the hospital. He asked Bro. McKinley how he was doing. His response to Bro. Charles was, “Man, I’m shutting it down.” Bro. McKinley knew that the Master’s call was soon coming. As I listened to Bro. Charles reminisce about his brother on Friday, I could feel that the love shared between them was truly genuine.
Bro. McKinley was not one to complain, no matter the situation. When you heard him sing in church, his focus was usually “Thank You Lord for One More Day” and “Get Right with God.” He was always going to give the pastor support in his message or anyone else who testified by saying, “Tell your story.” He supported me whenever I preached in his presence, and for that I am thankful. One of his cousins, Minister Shirley Ferguson, let the congregants at the service know how thankful and strong Bro. McKinley was with her remarks and eloquent rendition of “I Won’t Complain.”
There were wonderful tributes by nieces and nephews from remarks to a musical selection. Sis. Kathleen Whay, a member of New Life and retired Colleton County educator, shared the acknowledgements. “McKinley Williams was the ‘soul’ of New Life U.M. Church,” said Sis. Whay. After an awesome medley of songs by Bro. Charles Folk, a former co-worker at Dayco with Bro. McKinley, who mentioned the prayer meetings that they would have every morning before beginning their workday, came the spirit-filled, electrifying eulogy from the Rev. Kenneth Carter, the pastor of New Life.
As Pastor Carter began the eulogy, he let everyone know that Bro. McKinley had already preached his own funeral. Therefore, his message, as are all sermons for a funeral, was for us: the living. Ecclesiastes 3:2 (KJV), “A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted” was the focal verse of the eulogy. Coupled with one of Bro. McKinley’s frequently used phrases during the pastor’s sermons, “Move on,” and the focal verse, the topic of discussion was “Time to Move On.”
In this eulogy Pastor Carter made two distinct points that were indicative of Bro. McKinley’s life: enjoy your labor in the Lord and discover the power of God. During the course of the service, uplifting music was provided by the following gifted musicians: Brothers Hiram Davis (organist), Joe Fred Glover (percussionist), John Cobb (saxophonist) and Sis. Lillie Singleton (pianist).
In closing, I would like to mention that Bro. McKinley was so good to our family that I cannot begin to enumerate the ways. If he passed our church, Friendship Liberty Baptist Church (founded by my late parents, Deacon Kalip and Rev. Dr. Evelyn Gelzer Stevens) and noticed that the yard needed manicuring, he would take care of it and never expected or accepted anything in return.
Bro. McKinley enjoyed his labor in the Lord. He attended and supported many of our services, including those at countless other churches in and out of Colleton County. Further, he would go to nursing homes, not only to visit, but also to bring some to church, including my uncle, the late Bro. Timothy Memminger.
To his widow, Sis. Jackie, my sister in Christ, friend, and former co-worker at Colleton County High School, I feel deep within my heart that God has a special blessing in store for you for the loving, devoted and supportive wife that you were to Bro. McKinley. To his siblings, Sis. Dorothy Roundtree, Sis. Mary Helen Fields, and Bro. Charles Williams, you have lost a great example of what a brother should be. All of you, just “hold on to God’s unchanging hand” to get you through.
To all of us who remain, I leave this question: will our stories be ones to emulate?
Have a wonderfully blessed week, and never leave home without Him!
(Anna Bright is a minister and educator in Walterboro. She can be reached at email@example.com)