by Rev. John Farmer
Visit the Irvington Baptist Church website
I have been wonderfully blessed to have known four of my 13 pastoral predecessors, pastors William Wiatt Wright (serving 1947-1956), William O. Dillard Jr. (1962-1966), Richard C. Newlon (1967-1981) and Harvey Tildon Myers (1982-1986).
Another pastoral blessing was the Rev. V.R. Wheeler, who once pastored White Stone Baptist Church (1958-1975) and my home church at Webber Memorial, now in Chester, across the road from the former farm of my great-grandfather.
When I arrived here in 1986 Vivian had retired to the Northern Neck. I only hold one grudge against Rev. Wheeler. He once asked that I relieve him of his weekly Rappahannock Record column whilst he vacationed in Florida. When he returned I tried, really tried, to hand it back. He just grinned and walked away issuing congratulations and best wishes…
Unbeknownst to us, the Rev. Mr. William Wright and I had a bit of a tangled history. As a lad here on occasional Sundays, I worshipped at the Corrottoman Church. On River Road (Route 354, Mollusk) sits Woodbine, home of pastor Wright’s grandparents. He too had worshipped at Corrottoman, his dad’s home church. Bill was raised in Norfolk and ordained at the Park Avenue Baptist Church (later Temple Baptist).
After mustering out of the U.S. Army’s Chaplain Corps, Bill came to Irvington in 1947 with his wife, Madge Henley, and moved into the 1911 Goodwin Hall, our former parsonage across from the post office. They had a special needs son W.W.W. Jr. By the way, that is how our church became a duPont eligible congregation. Mrs. duPont learned of their son’s situation. She’d stopped in for a visit and found our sanctuary under renovation for the upcoming wedding of Shirley Benson and Joe W. Forrester. She gave funds for lights and a pew (under the balcony). Her generosity also prevailed in that she funded the pastor’s son’s upkeep at the Woods School, Philadelphia. Thus, when her estate was formulating perimeters for distribution, IBC fell within the calendar periods established.
Sadness visited the Wrights. Returning home from a 1953 visit to their son at Woods School they suffered a tragic accident. Madge Henley Wright died and the mangled pastor returned home to heal. In a letter to the flock he wrote, “God has been good to me, having sustained me and given me the strength and grace to endure. My physical recovery has been almost miraculous and the doctors believe it will be complete. ‘Would that the wounds of the spirit could be as easily healed…’”
The united congregations of the Claybrook and Irvington churches adored Madge Henley Wright.
Pastor Wright did heal and in 1955 married our organist, Miss Camille Wilder Meekins. They honeymooned in Italy. Previously she’d only ever travelled to and from Irvington to Lancaster Courthouse by bus and Carter Creek to Baltimore and back by steamboat.
Bill accepted a call to the Skipwith Church, Richmond, where he mentored a young student named Richard C. Newlon, who became our 12th IBC pastor in 1967.
Later pastor Wright accepted the call to two churches in Chesterfield; and later still chaplain at the Hunter McGuire Veterans Hospital, Richmond (my medical home away-from-home much of 2018-2019). Bill and I shared an ironic moment when we discovered that my dad’s older sister, Gertrude F. Cartier, was pastor Wright’s secretary there.
In 1999, William Wiatt Wright Jr. was buried beside his mom, Madge. Camille Wilder Meekins Wright died on my birthday, January 24th (2002). Pastor Bill died on September 16, 2002, ending 55 years of ministerial service. All were interred at IBC.
The Wrights left our church a lovely Chickering grand piano and boxes of Bill’s preacher memorabilia. We’ve greatly enjoyed the piano in our Memorial Hall.
Across the years I have stumbled upon, caused, or been invited into a church conflict or two… yes, even here at IBC. I found this in the box of Wright memorabilia and over the years since, have sent copies to whomsoever I felt it might elucidate. Allow me to share it with you.
Ten little Christians
“Ten little Christians standing in a line, one disliked the pastor, then there were nine.
Nine little Christians stayed up very late, one slept in on Sunday, then there were eight.
Eight little Christians on their way to heaven, one took the low road, then there were seven.
Seven little Christians chirping like chicks, one disliked the music, then there were six.
Six little Christians seemed very much alive, but one lost his interest, then there were five.
Five little Christians pulling for Heaven’s shore, but one stopped to rest, then there were four.
Four little Christians, each busy as a bee, one got her feelings hurt, then there were three.
Three little Christians knew what to do, one joined the sports crowd, then there were two.
Two little Christians, our rhyme is nearly done, differed with each other, then there was one.
One little Christian can’t do much ’tis true; brought his friend to Bible study, then there were two.
Two earnest Christians, each won one more, that doubled their number, then there were four.
Four sincere Christians worked early and late, each won another, then there were eight.
Eight little Christians, if they doubled as before, in just a few short weeks, we’d have 1,024.
In this little jingle, there’s a lesson true, you belong to the building, or the wrecking crew.”