New Scholarship Honors Pastor Willie Jemison

Post a Comment » Written on February 2nd, 2006     
Filed under: News
By Don Meyer

CHICAGO, IL (February 2, 2006) – The Rev. Willie B. Jemison Book Scholarship was unveiled during a Wednesday evening event honoring the retired Evangelical Covenant Church pastor as part of the African American Ministers Association’s (AAMA) annual Midwinter Dinner.

The dinner and program took place in Anderson Chapel on the campus of North Park University and North Park Theological Seminary, which co-sponsored the recognition. Dr. Jemison is pastor emeritus of Oakdale Covenant Church in Chicago, where he served for more than 30 years, retiring in February 2000. (To read a moving tribute to Jemison written by retired Central Conference Associate Supt. Craig E. Anderson, please see Jemison Tribute.)

Jemison and Scholarship Recipients The chapel was filled to capacity for an evening of fun and serious reflection, including musical presentations by the gospel choir from Community Covenant Church and One Accord in Calumet City that had the audience on its feet and rattled the chapel’s glass windows.

Speaker after speaker recalled personal experiences with Jemison over the years, drawing attention to the manner in which he affected their spiritual journeys. “I grew up under his pastorate,” said Catherine Gilliard, who recited numerous family events over which Jemison presided, from her wedding to the funeral service for her father. It was under his spiritual leadership that Gilliard said she came to know Christ.

Jemison is living proof of the important truth that “good leaders produce other leaders,” Gilliard observed. She then asked individuals in the audience to stand who have been influenced in similar manner by the pastor’s ministry, and a significant number of people rose to their feet in affirmation of his faithful service.

Pastor Darrell Griffin, who succeeded Jemison at Oakdale, identified three attributes of successful leadership – identity, income and influence – and suggested that such gifts must be submitted to the Lord for his use before they can be transformed into powerful tools. “We’re here today because you were willing to put what was given to you before the Lord,” Griffin said in a personal note to Jemison.

“While you’re still alive and here on this side of the Jordan, we want to thank you for being a mighty oak that stands tall in this denomination and among our people,” Griffin continued to a background chorus of amens. “We ask a double portion of your spirit upon us.”

The AAMA leadership then presented Jemison with a cash gift as a token of appreciation for his support and leadership of the organization through the years.

“The Lord decided to use me,” Jemison said in his response as he reflected on 46 years of ministry. Now confined to a wheelchair – a day he said he never thought he’d see – he recalled many of the young people he has mentored over the years. “I taught them what it means to be a servant of God,” Jemison said.

“I never complained about what I didn’t have,” Jemison mused, “even when it looked to me like everyone around me had more. No, I took what I had and I kept running. I made it to the end.”

He told of his coming to Oakdale and the early years. “I had been there a year or two – the church had been used to preachers coming and going,” he recalled. “I came with all these grandiose ideas. They never said anything, but I could read their faces: ‘How long are you going to be here?’ they were asking.

“Well, I’m here for 20 years unless you want to fire me,” he advised the people. “And when that 20 years was up, I asked for 10 more.”

With the broad smile that has characterized the pastor for so many years, he told the audience, “you don’t owe me nothing. You don’t owe me a thing.” Then, with a twinkle in his eye, he continued, “that’s the down side. The up side is that I don’t owe you anything either,” much to the delight of the crowd that began applauding loudly.

Then, waxing serious again, he said, “I did what I could, when I could. I gave it my best. Do it while you can. Give it your best shot. Make God the object of your affection. Make him number one.”

And, almost as a benediction, he cautioned the pastors present not to be confused by all of the distractions in ministry. “You’re called to preach, teach and take care of God’s folk,” he admonished them. “All of these folk are God’s folk, all of them – the good, the bad and the ugly! Bless you all. Bless you all.”

The Jemison book scholarship, sponsored by the AAMA and the North Park University Office of Admissions, is awarded annually to African American students affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church. Two awards are granted up to $300 per student per semester per year and is used for the purchase of books.

The first recipients of the scholarship were introduced to the audience – Don Pittman of San Jose, California, and Valcyo M. Garrett of Chicago (see accompanying photo).

To read other stories about Jemison and Oakdale Covenant Church, as well as learn more about the AAMA, please select from the following links:

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

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