Last night, Crystal and I attended the retirement banquet for Dr. Clarence J. Davis, Jr. It was a special event. And we were both honored to have been present. It was a “black-tie” event. I don’t have a tux, and didn’t think really be that dressed up. I was wrong. And I felt very under-dressed. It was a good thing we were seated toward the back of the room. Dr. Davis entered the room behind the rhythm section of the USC marching band, who made a special appearance to honor Dr. Davis. The MC for the evening was assemblyman Mark Ridley-Thomas. He did a good job of moving the service along (even though it was after 10 PM when we left, and they had at least 30 more minutes to go). I didn’t he had such a sense of humor. There was good music, warm fellowship, and Christ-centered celebration. I was honored to just be there.
Dr. Davis pastored the historic Calvary Baptist Church in Santa Monica from 1969-84. In 1985 he organized the Mt. Hebron Baptist Church, where he has served until his recent retirement. Receiving his Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, Dr. Davis is a bona fide scholar. But his preaching is theology is on fire. Yet, he is such a humble man. He is kind, gracious, and full of life. He heard me preach on January 2, at Mt. Moriah’s “Prayer Bowl.” I was so honored by the fact that he stayed for the rest of the meeting, in order to shake my hand and thank me personally for the message. Dr. Davis was friends with my father. And the fact that he has some level of respect for my work is very affirming.
The tributes to Dr. Davis were very special. Dr. Charles Walker, who pastors the 19th Street Baptist Church in Philadelphia, spoke of his longtime friendship with Dr. Davis. Dr. Walker succeeded Dr. Davis in the pulpit of 19th St. Church. And it’s rare to find two men to share the same pulpit to be so close. Along with several ministerial colleagues, friends Dr. Davis has made over the years from different walks of life spoke in tribute to him. Finally, his daughter gave a moving tribute to him on the behalf of herself and her three siblings, who were all present with their families. And the gifts and remembrances of the Mt. Hebron members testified of a faithful and loving pastor. Dr Davis’ wife, LaVerne, went all out in planning this banquet. And it was a wonderful way to end this season of full-time pastoral ministry for such a great man of God.
Pastor L. Daniel Williams, who is the President of the Baptist Ministers Conference of LA, was the keynote speaker. He rightly lamented the fact that there are very few sound models for us young preachers to look up to. And many of us young preachers are foolishly looking to the wrong models to emulate. Dr. Davis is a serious thinker, compassionate leader, and faithful preacher. I pray that God will help me to follow godly models like him. And that the Lord would help me to be a leader worth following until he calls me to my great retirement celebration in glory.