Colonial Heights’ John Patterson: Providing Comfort During A Reflective Part Of Life
In almost 19 years of being Minister Of Senior Adults for Colonial Heights Baptist Church, John Patterson has done a lot of good for those who probably need it most.
He himself might be too modest to say so; but it’s obvious in talking to the man that his tone, his mannerisms–and most importantly, his message–has probably no doubt touched many a member of the church’s congregation during a time when life’s passage takes on a new urgency. And meaning.
Colonial Heights Baptist Church in Ridgeland has been in its current location for 12 years but has been in existence for nearly 60 years. And many of its members are in or approaching their twilight years. We asked Mr. Patterson why the need for a Minister of Senior Adults existed–already having a good idea about his answer.
“When I first came here there was 650 senior members–classified as 60 or older–at Colonial Heights,” he recalls. “That number alone was already substantially bigger than any country church I had ever been previously involved with pastoring. The numbers have dwindled somewhat now as far as actual church attendees, but I do a good bit of work with the home bound and those members in nursing homes or hospices,” Mr. Patterson says. “I spend a lot of time in hospitals and have, sadly, had to conduct a lot of funerals.
I actual act as somewhat of a ‘go-between’ between the Church’s head pastor and our senior membership,” Mr. Patterson tells us. “I try to take care of their needs as best as I can unless the head pastor’s attention is needed.”
An Oklahoma-native and son of a Baptist preacher, Mr. Patterson’s father started nearly 30 Baptist churches for American Indians in that state so the younger Patterson was exposed to the ministry very early on.
“I myself started preaching when I was a senior in high school,” he relates, “and pastored a church that very year–which was 1964–and have been at it ever since. Besides that, I’ve been a janitor, a Youth Director, a Music Director–you just about name it, and I’ve done it if has to do with a Baptist church!” he chuckles.
What led Mr. Patterson to Ridgeland and Colonial Heights?
“I was pastoring a small church in Madison County,” he recalls, “and I had gone to seminary in Florida with Dr. Richard Powell who, at the time, was the pastor at Colonial Heights when I was at the country church. We had known each other for years, of course, and my church only held services on Sunday morning. So my family and I started coming to Colonial Heights on Sunday and Wednesday nights to hear Richard. Occasionally he would call upon me to fill in for him and I also would do some maintenance or carpentry work from time at Colonial Heights from time to time so, in effect, one thing led to another. Eventually, I started in a part-time position with the Church but then went full-time.”
The most fulfilling part of working with seniors in his current capacity? Mr. Patterson was quick to answer.
“At first I was afraid of this,” he admits. “But I can honestly say that, now, being around people who possess great faith and who are acutely aware that there time left here on Earth will be limited is incredible. You see their faith grow. It’s been a great blessing for me, personally, to be there and to see them unafraid and hear the witness they give. They are at peace–they experience joy. THAT has strengthened my own faith in ways I can hardly put into words.To be around those who are literally looking death in the face with unwavering faith that is not weakened is truly amazing.
I would not take anything for those experiences and moments,” Mr. Patterson admits.”Certainly, it is sad. But their courage and devotion is an inspiration to me.”
He even notes that the most consistent churchgoer and devout believer sometimes has doubts when they see that the end is near–and, subsequently, come to him with questions about having done enough or of being as righteous as possible.
“That, too, has been a joy,” Mr. Patterson says. “One person in particular comes to my mind: a very successful and wealthy businessman who discovered he had terminal cancer. He came to the church straight from the doctor’s office and asked me if he was ready for the other side and what he needed to do. I saw a man transformed–two different people, really, from who he had been. We became very close and it touched me deeply. I will never forget it. His faith grew as he struggled to the end; and it was an inspiring thing to see.”
Mr. Patterson says Colonial Heights does Bible studies every week at The Orchard and other retirement centers in the Ridgeland area and reach out to seniors at home in whatever ways needed, whether a ride to a doctor, a food delivery or even yard work.
“I also work with funeral homes in the area with family members who are not connected or affiliated with any church,” Mr. Patterson tells us. “That’s part of my outreach and that of Colonial Heights. We also work closely with the young people in the area schools and their teachers,” he says. “We have a strong commitment to Ridgeland, our current residents and those just moving in. That’s our mission and that’s our job.”
Mr. Patterson also has traveled the U.S. and the world on mission trips. “We do what we can and hope we are making a difference,” he sums up. “I think we are very relevant here in Ridgleand and are making a difference. We don’t just want to be a building with a sign up front.”
After talking with John Patterson, that’s probably not a problem he or Colonial Heights should be concerned with.