God’s Man: An Oral Biography

Mom&DadPhoto

This is the title of the book my parents wrote about the man I knew as “Uncle Lloyd.” It was published in 1985 while my dad served as the minister at the Presbyterian Church where Uncle Lloyd attended growing up. I previously wrote about how until I was an adult, I never lived near any of my cousins, aunts, or uncles and how Lloyd became Uncle Lloyd to my three siblings and me, one of our surrogate uncles growing up.

Sketch of Alabama Church by my sister

Sketch of Alabama Church by my sister on book cover

It is a short book, just about 100 pages and includes many photographs of Uncle Lloyd and the places he lived and served first as a Presbyterian minister, and then as a Presbytery executive. I read the book for the first time soon after my parents gave me an autographed copy. But that was almost 20 years ago and I don’t recall that I ever read it a second time, at least not until just recently. And this second reading was an eye opener of learnings and emotions.

Maybe I was just too young at the time to appreciate some of what was in my parent’s book but twenty years hence, it was as if I were reading it for the first time with a plethora of new knowledge.

In the Foreword written by my dad, I learned that were it not for a thank you note my dad sent in gratitude for scholarship funds allowing him to attend Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, that he might never have met Lloyd. But that note did find its way into Lloyd’s hands and the next summer my dad did his fieldwork prior to graduation in the Home Mission for which Lloyd was the superintendent. Had this chance encounter never occurred, I know my parent’s lives would have been different and possibly even mine as well since my dad served in two different churches early in his ministry in that Home Mission directed by Uncle Lloyd—the second being the town in which I was born.

As I read, I learned about Uncle Lloyd’s early childhood. I learned that, in spite of not having gone to high school, he attended the same college that I did graduating in the last class before it moved from Clarksville, TN to Memphis, TN. Forty-five years after he graduated, he received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from that same college.

The book tells the story of how Uncle Lloyd met his future wife, Alline (to us, “Aunt Alline”) when he was in his second year of seminary. And how before he even graduated, he left school to become pastor of a church in dire need of a full time minister. The book further chronicles all of the churches that Uncle Lloyd served early in his career. But it was the story beginning with the position he took in 1947— superintendent of Home Missions for the Red River Presbytery—that most captured my interest. For it was this work for which he was described as “God’s Man” by my parents.

It was also at this point where my parent’s lives began to interweave with Lloyd’s.   In his new position, Lloyd worked to supply new ministers to small churches in the Red River Presbytery in need of a minister. My dad was one of Lloyd’s early “catches,” as he became minister of Tallulah Presbyterian Church, the church where my parents were when my oldest sister was born.

Over this period of Lloyd’s service, he established 19 new churches, built 22 new churches, 17 new manses (ministers home) while filling over 100 pulpits. I smiled each time I read the name of fellow ministers that Uncle Lloyd helped place and guide in his career, as they were friends of my parents too. Uncle Lloyd was also instrumental in establishing Camp Alabama, the new church camp conference grounds just across the street from Alabama Church, a camp all of my siblings and I enjoyed growing up where our dad served at the third church thanks to Uncle Lloyd’s gentle guidance.

Camp Alabama

Camp Alabama

The book further describes how even after retirement, Lloyd tried to stay active in the church ministry, a service he never wanted to relinquish and one for which he was duly suited. He preached his last time, on Palm Sunday 1980 in the church he attended growing up, the church across from his retirement home, Alabama Presbyterian Church.

Lloyd

Sadly, Uncle Lloyd died the year after I got married so I was never able to introduce my own children to the man I would have gladly referred to as their “Great Uncle.” But it was a tribute that my oldest sister wrote that told of Uncle Lloyd’s greatness not in a generational sense. My dad included my sister’s tribute in his eulogy delivered at Lloyd’s funeral. Entitled “My Most Unforgettable Character”, it was a tribute that brought tears to my eyes even 35 years after Lloyd’s death. It tells of Uncle Lloyd’s greatness not in a generational sense but how Uncle Lloyd lovingly passed contributions of money to ministers in need. My sister wrote: “Young children in a manse, when told by their parents ‘the Lord will provide’, think of Uncle Lloyd, almost thinking them one and the same for Uncle Lloyd hardly ever lets them down.”

Truly as my parents suggested in their book, Uncle Lloyd was “God’s Man” as he touched so many lives throughout his ministry. I for one, being one of his “surrogate nephews”, was touched by his kindness and generosity, as I know my parents and siblings were. And I owe a debt of gratitude to my parents for writing this book and telling the story of this great man, God’s Man.

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