By Leon Williams,
After 10 years of dedicated service as pastor at College Hill Baptist Church in Jackson’s Washington Addition, Dr. Michael T. Williams bid farewell to the congregation, associates and friends Sunday, October 11. A socially distanced celebration with mask wearing was held in the College Hill sanctuary at 4 p.m. Due to COVID-19, only a limited number was in attendance.
The retirement program was preceded by a surprise drive-by parade at the church Saturday, October 10 at 11 a.m. Williams was visibly moved by the festive parade, led by city and county police cruisers, sirens blaring; followed by a host of decorative vehicles containing church members and friends. Williams said, “I will cherish the moment for as long as God allows me to remain on earth.”
Also, prior to the retirement program held at College Hill on Sunday, Williams was given a farewell luncheon sponsored by Westhaven Memorial Funeral Home. It was held at the Westhaven Reception Hall on Raymond Road where the College Hill Hostess Ministry served as hosts.
Church members and friends throughout the nation were able to view the Sunday celebration via a live webcast. The celebration was sponsored by the College Hill Pastoral Support Ministry, the theme being “Celebrating a Season of Service: A Sacred Commitment.” It was hosted by College Hill member Cianna Hope Reeves. She said she was very happy to be asked by the Pastoral Ministry to serve as hostess.
She said, “It was a memorable moment for me to host pastor’s retirement ceremony. It was a full circle moment. When I met him, I was just 11 years old – shy and nervous, yet committed to growing in Christ. He taught me so many lessons that I will forever cherish through his sermons, encouragement and wisdom.” Reeves, who is a digital reporter at WJTV continued, “I am truly blessed to have been in his presence because it played a crucial role in the Christian woman I am today.”
Rosie Davis, a member of the College Hill Combined Choir, provided a moving musical tribute singing The Battle is Not Yours. Davis said she was honored to be singing for the first time in the new College Hill sanctuary, which due to COVID-19, members have not been able to worship together since completion of the new edifice.
Davis said, “I am so thankful to God that I was asked to sing at the pastor’s retirement celebration. I am beyond grateful.”
Several pastors gave tribute to Williams. Dr. Jerry Young, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, in Jackson and current president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., after commenting on Williams’ various talents, characterized the situation not as a retirement, but “a reassignment to work in the context of God’s kingdom.”
Dr. Isiac Jackson, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Canton and president of the General Missionary Baptist State Convention said, “You are blessed to have labored in the vineyard of the Lord.” He referenced the gospel of Matthew, saying, many are called but few are chosen. “God called you and remember He loves you and will be with you.”
Dr. John Wicks, pastor of Mount Nebo Baptist Church in Jackson gave a powerful prayer for the pastor as well as a tribute. In his tribute he said, “When you are extremely successful in life many want to claim you as a cousin. I am happy to claim you as my friend and wish I could claim you as my cousin.” Wicks said that Williams made such a great impact at College Hill and in the west Jackson community.
Several College Hill members gave special tributes. Frank Yates, president of the Deacon’s Ministry represented the College Hill Family in a special tribute. He said, “We feel the love you have for the College Hill family, we honor you for the happiness you have brought us and for what you have done for Christ, and we thank you for being real and humble.”
Tributes representing the Young People’s Ministry were given by Blake Hansberry of the Children’s Ministry, Leah Clark and her brother Robert Clark IV representing the Youth Division and Treasure Fisher, representing the College Ministry. Williams said the children touched his heart immensely.
Brandon Mitchell and his wife Trinity gave a surprise tribute. Mitchell served as music director for College Hill nine of the ten years Williams served as pastor.
Additional surprise tributes were given remotely by two of Williams’ childhood friends. Dwayne Bynum and Carol Walker have known him since elementary school. Those who were able to see the surprise on Williams’ face agreed that even though he was wearing a mask, Williams seemed to be ‘blown away.’ They each shared information about Williams regarding his intellect and their personal friendship. Both marticulated with him at Mississippi State University where Bynum was his roommate. Bynum resides in Atlanta, Georgia and Walker resides in Northern Virginia.
Prior to acknowledgements and remarks from Jackie Hampton, president of the Pastoral Ministry, Williams was given several gifts. He received a memory book with a collection of written tributes from church members and friends throughout the nation. The beautifully bound book was titled, ‘A Lasting Impression: A Collection of Tributes in Honor of Michael Titus Williams Upon His Retirement.’ It was presented by Denise Griffin-Whittington, who served as church secretary for nine of the ten years Williams served as pastor. Other gifts included a special plaque, presented by Malena W. Dow, who served as president of Pastoral Support for seven years. Williams also received a photo album presented by Jay Johnson, College Hill’s photographer. It included ten years of photographs he had taken of events held at College Hill under Williams’ leadership as pastor. The final gift was presented by Audrey B. Wiley, a trustee at College Hill and president of the College Hill Hostess Ministry. Wiley presented him monetary gifts from friends far and near and the College Hill family. She said, “Pastor Williams arrived at College Hill ten years ago ‘wrapped in a robe of humility.”
Hampton thanked the Pastoral Support Ministry and everyone else that played a part in the pastor’s retirement activities. She gave a special thank you to Rev. Andrew Lewis, director of Music at College Hill. Lewis was responsible for all the technology involved in coordinating the pre-recorded tributes and in-person celebration which was live streamed on Facebook and YouTube.
She thanked Williams for his ten years of service. She stated, “You have rejoiced with us in times of great happiness and stood with us in times of trials and tribulations. You have served the Lord and our church with gladness – tirelessly, faithfully and with great compassion.”
Williams leaves College Hill after having led the congregation in building a new sanctuary, nearly doubling College Hill’s seating capacity and increasing membership.
Williams told The Mississippi Link, “If I were given a bar of gold from Fort Knox, it would not be as valuable and special to me as the retirement celebration given me by the membership of College Hill Baptist Church. From start to finish, I was in awe of the multitude of tributes shared in my honor. As long as God has me on the face of this earth, I will forever cherish the auspicious and amazing celebration I was so blessed to be a part of. Thank you College Hill Family for ten beautiful and blessed years!”
Williams will be sorely missed as College Hill turns the page on a prosperous 10 years of service.