Excerpts by Henry Lane Hull

In 1980, I was invited to have dinner at the International Club in Washington with Bishop Abel Muzorewa, who was serving as the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Rhodesia, then in transition to full independence from the United Kingdom.   During the dinner he told me that he wanted his country to be like America, a democracy with the rights of the people enshrined in law, this from a man who, as a seminary student, had experienced our country under the height of segregation, but he could appreciate the emergence of American freedom during the civil rights movement.

Shortly thereafter, his government came to an end as the long darkness of Robert Mugabe’s brutal dictatorship began to unfold. The Bishop spent most of the rest of his life under house arrest until his death in 2010.

When I read that he had died, I decided to write an item about him. As I finished the column, I said to my Good Wife, “No one in the Northern Neck likely will relate to him, but he was a noble figure, and I can tell folks that during our dinner, which was buffet style, he recommended the chicken livers, which he found to be quite tasty.” I was wrong.

Two days after the Record appeared, I received a letter from my friend, the Reverend Larry Adams, who, with his wife, Karen, had retired several years earlier back to the Northern Neck after having pastored a number of churches both in Mississippi and Virginia, one of which had been Bethel United Methodist Church in Lively. Larry explained that he had spent a year during his seminary training in Rhodesia as an intern learning ministry under the tutelage of the good Bishop.

He described the course of his year there and how much working with Bishop Muzorewa had meant to him. The experience had been quite formative in shaping Larry’s own ecclesiastical sojourn that unfolded as he served his various Methodist congregations.

Larry was a superlative preacher, gifted both with words and with insights into the human condition. He understood mankind’s relationship with the creator, and he knew how to phrase that bond in such a way as to send people away thinking about what he had said, Sunday to Sunday. I think that those who ever heard him would agree that he was one of the most eloquent preachers they had experienced.

The community meal that Bethel Church hosted each Lent drew people from all across the Northern Neck. In his years as pastor, I do not think Larry ever had the opportunity to eat. After he gave one of his thoughtful blessings, he would spend the remainder of the evening table-hopping to make certain not only that the patrons were pleased with the meal, but also that they knew that he appreciated their having come to dine at his church.

During the time of his active ministry, he delivered some of the annual Lenten luncheon sermons that also served to bring believing Christians together. Building community was natural to Larry. He genuinely liked constructing bridges and fostering oneness among the members of his congregations and in the larger diaspora.

Larry was a native of Summit, Mississippi, and a graduate of Millsaps College, a Methodist school in Jackson. From there he went on to seminary and his distinguished career preaching across the South. In retirement, as he reminisced about his early days in Summit, he set forth to write a memoir that he entitled, Sounds of Summit, and which appeared in the past year.

The week before Christmas, he sent me a copy of the book, and I have been enjoying perusing its pages, noticing the similarities with our small town, country life here in the Northern Neck. The book is illustrated with wonderful drawings by his son, Christian, all of which add to its universal, hometown, rural appeal. The book makes for truly enjoyable reading.

Before I had finished the book, Larry died four days before Christmas at the age of 78. He came to this area as a stranger, but soon became one of the local flock. In every respect his was a purposefully lived life, sharing his faith, his hope, and his charity with everyone he met. The Northern Neck is richer because he lived among us.

The Reverend Larry Elliott Adams, September 21, 1944 – December 21, 2022. R.I.P.

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In the spirit in which Larry lived his life, let us hope for peace in the New Year.