Rev Horace Russell hailed as a master pastor

REV Dr Horace Russell who died on Easter Monday will be remembered for his intellectual prowess and significant contribution to theology across the Caribbean, according to his former Baptist colleagues.

Elisabeth Russell-McKenzie said her dad suffered a minor stroke in January and was readmitted to hospital to do some tests at a hospital in Pennsylvania, United States, on March 30. He died on Monday, April 5.

Rev Russell, who was from the parish of Clarendon, had been living in Pennsylvania since 1989.

Baptist World Alliance (BWA) which is a fellowship consisting of 241 conventions and unions in 126 countries and territories, earlier this week expressed sadness for the passing of Rev Russell on its Facebook page.

“We are saddened [about] Dr Horace Russell’s [passing]. He leaves a truly global legacy of academic brilliance, pastoral care, and genuine love,” the alliance said, adding that he led in the development of Caribbean theology for more than 50 years.

The BWA said Rev Russell was a member of different aspects of the alliance, which included BWA Baptist Heritage and Identity Commission, Baptists Against Racism Commission, and BWA Academic & Theological Education Work Group.

Rev Russell, who died at age 91, served as pastor at East Queen Street Baptist Church in Kingston from 1976 to 1989. But, prior to serving as pastor, he was the president of the United Theological College (UTC) from 1972 to 1976, and was recognised as the first Jamaican to be engaged in theological education full-time and also the first black person to serve as president at the college.

Rev Devon Dick of Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew, who lost his sister Roenna Lopez, only two days before the passing of Rev Russell, told the Jamaica Observer that he was in double grief.

“I was very sad when I heard. Rev Russell’s sister [Dorleen Williams], who is a founding member of the Boulevard Baptist church called me, and I thought she was calling to express condolences about the death of my sister who died last Saturday. Well, in addition, she told me that her brother Rev Russell died on Easter Monday.”

Rev Dick described Rev Russell as a “master pastor”, a brilliant, confident and caring man who mastered the art of counselling others.

“I remember when he told me, over 40 years ago, that if he died at that time a lot of knowledge would have died with him. It might have sounded as if he was boasting but it was true, and he has written so many books and articles that we are benefiting from,” said Rev Dick.

Rev Dr Burchell Taylor, retired pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in St Andrew, said he was shocked when he heard the news of Rev Russell’s passing.

“I was in shock, I did not really expect him to have gone so suddenly, because some weeks ago I spoke with him and he was recovering from a stroke. I thought he was alright; Rev Russell has been a mentor to me and many others,” he said.

“I recalled that he preached at my ordination, and I can remember the passage that he preached from – that is to indicate that he really was very close to me and he did have an impact on me,” said Rev Taylor.

“I regard him as a path finder, one who has pioneered entry and establishment of influence in many areas of church life and theological thinking, which at one point it was not thought that people like us were capable of. He has been very supportive and was an enabler for those of us who were behind him,” Rev Taylor added.

Among the books written by Rev Russell are The Baptist Witness: A Concise Baptist History, which was published in 1983 and The Missionary Outreach of the West Indian Church: Jamaican Baptist Missions to West Africa in the Nineteenth Century, Foundations and Anticipations, which was published in 2000.

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