By John Pierce

News this morning that Dr. Wallace C. McGill had reached the end of his earthly journey at age 84 brought both a heaviness of heart and that wonderfully strange kind of lightness. There was grief, knowing how much he was loved and the deep void that he leaves.

Yet there was a remarkable sense of gratitude for having known someone whose time on earth was so well spent. If there was anyone who created a genuine pastoral presence, it was this kind man.

When he and his wife, Marjorie, would enter the sanctuary of Chattanooga’s First Baptist Church they made the place warmer and the worship experience more meaningful — just by being there. He brightened up other spaces with his presence as well, whether a living room, a classroom or a dinner table.  

For many years he led worship and tended to his own flocks with care, compassion and insight. Many have testified to that fact — from his pastoral days that included Second Avenue Baptist Church in Rome, Ga., First Baptist Church of Cartersville, Ga., and Flintstone Baptist Church in Northwest Georgia.

He served two congregations in Chattanooga, Tenn., including East Ridge Baptist Church where he retired after more than 60 years of effective and innovative pastoral ministry. Then the First Baptist Church of Chattanooga family benefited from his gifts and personality as a member.

Wallace was calming and reassuring even when he had little to say. And when he did speak, there was always humor and wisdom in the mix.

He will be missed. Yet he leaves a great legacy: a wonderful and gifted family — and a positive influence on countless others.

For his wonderful wife of 61 years and his beloved children and their families, in whom he found much delight, my prayers call out for the peace that passes understanding.

In some circles we talk about being the presence of Christ. Wallace McGill was that for many of us. Now he is experiencing and enjoying that greater Presence.

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