An Ecumenical Funeral
Who would have thought anything of it? Mr. Willie Willis (husband of 51 years) Mr. Samuel Knight (son), Ms. Betty Willis Slater and a small group of about three hundred mourners met to pay their final respect to Mrs. Edmonia Willis at Bolton Street Baptist Church at 821 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in Savannah, Georgia. There were no city officials, no reporters, nothing to make anyone take notice; nevertheless, one of the most historical religious events happened.
On Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 11a.m. five ministers of diverse denominations participated in the funeral service of Mrs. Willis. Rev. Perry Tyson, Pastor of Bolton Street Baptist Church along with two associate ministers Rev. Belinda and Rev. Jimmie Harrington, Rev. George Moore of St. Philip Monumental AME Church and Rev. Brenda Lee of the Roman Catholic Church processed inside of the historical church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had spoken decades before.
The a typical group of ministers were drawn together because Mrs. Willis had been a member of Bolton Street Church for 81 years while Mr. Willis is a member of St. Philip Monumental AME Church where Rev. George Moore is the pastor. Rev. Brenda Lee, a Roman Catholic priestess is the daughter of Mr. Willis. The late Mrs. Willis had requested that Rev. Shipman be the Eulogist at her funeral; due to the funeral of a relative at the same hour Rev. Shipman was unable to give her Eulogy.
Rev. Matthew Southall Brown, Jr. of First Union Missionary Baptist Church was the first clergy to be reached by phone. He notified other clergy.
Mr. Burney Polite, Mrs. Ollie Frazier and Rev. George Moore were the first to arrive at the Willis home.
On Wednesday, January 23, 2013, Mrs. Shirley Chester and Mrs. Annette Warren arrived at the home of Mr. Willis to assist in the funeral arrangements. The International Christian Assoc. Of Messianic Jews, Catholics and Protestant believes in the presence of THE HOLY SPIRIT and everything is done by “The Lot System.” This being the case, Rev. Lee asked that this method be used in deciding the duties of clergy. Mrs. Warren and Mrs. Chester agreed and Rev. Lee lead the group in prayer and the names were pulled.
Rev. Perry Tyson and Rev. James Shipman arrived on Thursday, January 24th to give their condolences to Mr. Willis and to explain funeral procedures in the Baptist tradition. A few minor adjustments were made. Rev. Perry Tyson officiated, Rev. Jimmie Harrington gave the invocation, Rev. George A. Moore read the Old Testament reading, Rev. Belinda Harrington the New Testament reading, and music was rendered by the combine choirs of Bolton Baptist and Bynes-Royall. As I knew Her- Mrs. Shirley Chester, As A Godmother- Mrs. Donna Hamilton Johnson, As A Church Member - Mr. James Warren, Resolution by Mrs. Annette Warren, Acknowledgements by Mr. Vincent Hamilton of Ashbury Methodist Church. Rev. Brenda Lee in accordance with “The Lot System” gave the Eulogy.
The Pallbearers did their job with no fanfare, yet they were essential to plan of the day.
Chief Willie Lovett dispatched Sgt. Bobby Stewart; Sgt. Stewart pulled together Scpl. Gerard Fedak, Cpl. Rebecca Henry, Officer Benjamin Kersey, and Officer Steven Bland to escort the body of Mrs. Willis to its final resting place at Magnolia Gardens. These men gave of their time for it was their day off. Mrs. Ruby Brown, Mrs. Beverly Housey and Mrs. Sarah Holmes of Bolton Street Baptist cooked the food and served; the staff and members labored at St. Philip Monumental AME to decorate the hall for the Repast of Mrs. Willis no one knows their names, but they are the ones of whom JESUS spoke, “The last shall be first.” Matthew 19:30
Catholic Day at the Capitol in Atlanta was held on Tuesday, January 29th; Rev. Lee attended the noon MASS at the Shire of the Immaculate Conception which started 10 minutes late. Father Henry Gracz was the celebrant and sat directly behind Rev. Lee during MASS. Mrs. Marian Willingham sat next to her.
Catholic Day at the Capitol concluded with a closing briefing which was moderated by Mrs. Pat Chivers and Mrs. Mary Boyet. Rev. Lee asked that the church address sin in the church itself and how wives and children of Christian men are being treated in the face of the new sexual immorality. These issues were dismissed; the moderator quickly moved on to another person. Rev. Lee ended the day by standing at the visitor’s entrance dressed in the traditional cassock with a shepherd crook. Mrs. Mary Frazier took the photos at the capitol door and Dr. Burke questioned Rev. Lee about the staff as her grandson listened. She explained that sin was in the camp and JESUS views on HIS Church. The parking attendants across the street from the capital gave Rev. Lee the last parking place at 10:14 a.m. and were the last to greet her farewell at 2:57 p.m.
Were the events of the last few days preludes to the upcoming Ecumenical COMMUNION Services in March 2013; can all of GOD’S Children meet at the COMMUNION TABLE? Let’s hope so! Please pray for the upcoming services that they may go as well as the funeral and Repast of Mrs. Edmonia Willis.
Contact: Rev. Brenda Lee at (478) 320-4228 for details on the upcoming COMMUNION Services.