I know I said I would touch on taking every thought captive, but I will get to that tomorrow. Today, I need to say goodbye to a friend.
Walter Elliott Pendleton. I have never meet a more kind, more gentle spirit, and one who loved his church more than Walter. I served with Walter for almost 10 years at my last church. He was the Minister of Music, the Worship Pastor, the music guy … but more than that, he was my friend.
Walter was called to be a music man about two weeks before I was born. And the church he started at – Friendship Baptist – was the church he also finished at. For almost as long as I have breathed, Walter served at various churches all around the Richmond metroplex. A year after he went to Friendship, the first time, he met someone … a special someone. Now Jeannette and Walter were married within a year or so. And they were one of the many couples at FBC that had been together for over 50 years and were still rolling. His love for her was evident in every manner I saw.
His degree in Sacred Music, from now VCU, was evident in how serious and reverently he took his responsibility. He saw music as worship, and it was important to make sure the music and the sermon aligned together as well as aligned with the Truth of the Word. Yes, our styles were a bit different (as George Beverly Shea differs from King & Country) but our hearts and our foundation were the same. He once kidded that people will surprised at the variety of styles of worship music there will be in heaven. Get used to Southern Gospel, Christian Rap, Country, and every style imaginable.
When I came to FBC, he was the only one that questioned me about certain theological issues, and issues circling the Baptist world. I didn’t know music guys knew theology. (jk). And when they finally joined, in his wonderful dry humor, his words were, “you’re not as bad as we thought you would be.” Those are words that blesses every pastor.
In spite of how that sounds, we had a wonderful relationship. We laughed together, mostly at me. Almost weekly, I would stick my head in the choir room door and start with, “Oh, by the way …” and then change the order or add something to the worship at the last minute. He never balked, never complained, and even came to expect it.
His influence on my wife, as a friend and as a member of his choir, is a deep one. At the sharing of his passing, she got alone and wept. She saw, even more than me, His compassion and patience with people, his love for music, and his desire for excellence. Mostly, she saw, as did any who knew him, his love for the Lord and the church.
I’ve said it before, pastors get to stop preaching in heaven. Our work as evangelist and under shepherds come to an end. But music guys still have work to do. Walter is back at it. I think he would love serving by George Beverly Shae, but I kind of think Jesus may team him up with Keith Green – they would hit it off well. I want to see Walter sing So You Wanna Go Back To Egypt.
Today, I heard Scotty McCreery’s song Five More Minutes. I wish I had five more minutes to share with you directly – Until we see each other again, every worship I have on this side of heaven will remind me of you. the man who loved music and loved our Lord. Every time a men’s quartet is singin’, I will secretly say it would be better if Walter was part of it. And every choir director I meet will be compared to you.
You are and always will be – my friend.
Good bye, for now.