|Life cannot be reckoned by its days or by its decades, but rather in terms of its intensity, its character, its dedication and its usefulness. With the death of Dr. A. W. Townsend, Jr., in St. Petersburg, Florida, on October 16, 1978, a vital force for righteousness and a ready spirit of human helpfulness was lost to the United Methodist Church and the community in which he lived. The quality of his life and of his service to his generation shall long be remembered.
Born in Waycross, Georgia on October 26, 1908, A. W. was the grandson of a Methodist circuit rider in the South Georgia Conference, the Reverend Burell S. Key. From early childhood his desire was to be of helpful service to his fellowman, dreaming first of becoming a physician, then a concert pianist. While he was studying at the Asbury Conservatory of Music he was gloriously converted on August 24, 1925, and the following summer God called him to become a preacher of the Word. It was not easy for him to answer that “call,” for music was still a major part of his life, and it served as a blessing to his ministry in later years. But from the moment that he yielded to the “call to preach” he knew that this was the answer to his lofty aspirations and high ideals. A. W. always felt that in some small way his ministry was a continuation of the ministry of his circuit rider grandfather, who died at the age of 39.
When A. W. returned to Wilmore, Kentucky, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree at Asbury College and his theological training at Asbury Theological Seminary. During his college and seminary days, he preached in revival meetings in Georgia, Alabama, West Virginia, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Louisiana. His evangelistic fervor and zeal for preaching the Word put him in great demand as a revival preacher; and he never lost that zeal. Today the United Methodist Church is stronger and richer because many young men answered the “call to preach” under A. W.’s spiritual guidance.
He became a member on trial in the Louisiana Annual Conference on December 3, 1930. For 43 1/2 years he faithfully served pastorates in Louisiana, including Farmerville, Gretna and Reserve, Second and Gentilly in New Orleans, Hodge, Bunkie, Mangum in Shreveport, Superintendent of the Alexandria District, Munholland in Metairie, and Algiers in New Orleans. While serving the people in these pastorates he served the Louisiana Annual Conference on the Board of Education, the Board of Missions, the Board of Ministerial Training and Qualifications, and the Board of Evangelism. In 1958 he was one of 32 ministers from the United States to visit the Methodist mission stations in Panama, Bolivia, Peru and Chili. In 1961 he was a delegate to the World Methodist Conference at Oslo. In recognition of his faithful service, capable leadership, and evangelistic accomplishments, in 1967 Centenary College conferred upon this true and worthy man the Doctor of Divinity Degree.
He retired from the itinerant relation in 1974, but he did not retire from the ministry. In their retirement home, an apartment complex in St. Petersburg, Florida, he became a member of the Board of Directors and chaplain, a post which he held until death.
He was married to Florine Ross of Huntington, West Virginia, in 1931, and for 47 years and 4 months they enjoyed the true devotion of a family circle, unbroken by discord, and beautifully proportioned by affectionate esteem. One daughter, Jocelyn, and two grandchildren, Delaine and Guy, completed their family circle.
The central theme of his ministry and of his personal life was I Corinthians 13:8, “Love never fails.” Not only did he preach it, he truly lived it. He was an informed servant of Christ, deeply spiritual, and carrying about in his very being the evidence of the presence of God. He loved people, and especially did he love his brothers in the ministry. At no time was he more in his element than when he sat with a group of preachers and talked of God’s Kingdom.
If there is one word that might be used to characterize his life more than any other, it is the word “humility.” For truly he was a humble servant of the Father. He gave all that he had—and that was enough. So he is entitled to the plaudit, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Blessings on his memory.
|Source: Journal Louisiana Conference, 1978, p. 182 By Benedict A. Galloway|