I offer you the pastoral confession: Some funerals are more difficult than others.
They just are.
I have found myself in a bit of a fog this week.
[Admittedly, we have an exhilarating January “swell” of ministry in the life of our church. To name just a few…We are in the heart of a one-of-a-kind congregational experience known as the Worship Dialogues. We have just launched a new Sunday School term. Upward Basketball Season is now in a full-court-press. Our Presidio Mission Team is packing carry-on items. Our Youth will experience their annual Disciple Now Retreat, beginning in two days. More than 300 members will gather for a creative Connections fellowship event at the Atlanta Gladiators game on Friday. Our Children’s Ministry continues to expand with innovation and energy. Our staff is preparing for our annual long-range vision retreat in two weeks, and I am scratching out first drafts for our 2nd annual State of the Church Address, scheduled in two weeks.]
Indeed, much life and love is underway at JCBC.
But these things have not created the fog.
Losing Bill has.
I find myself humbled by the indescribable grace of a friendship that (for me) has made every difference in these first few critical years of leadership and love as your Senior Pastor.
While I will offer most of my personal reflections tomorrow, at the Memorial Service, I want to simply confess here, that in tangible ways, I feel the palpable vacancy of his absence already.
I’ll admit I am caught a little off guard by it.
I didn’t expect to miss him so soon.
But I do.
And if I (one who only shared life and love with him for three short years) can be caught in the fog of sadness to this degree, I can only imagine how much more you (who shared a significant stretch of this journey with him) can be dazed by the haze of your own sorrow.
It is for this reason, Beloved, that we gather tomorrow.
Tomorrow, we will gather as one body, to do two things: to grieve and to hope.
We will gather to groan and grieve the great loss we have known.
And with defiant joy, we will hold up a life that held up so many for so long.
Tomorrow we will look long and far (through the fog of now) to the eternal and mysterious One who resides within: “Christ in (us), the hope of Glory.” (Col.1:27)
For now, be comforted, my friends.
And never forget how much he loved you.
Johns Creek Baptist Church
I have know Bill since 1962. When he came to Atlanta to go to Weiuca, I was a resident chaplain at Georgia Baptist Hospital. I met him and Carolyn there..
I joined John’s Creek in 2000, but have not attended lately for health reasons.
I will attend the funeral with assistance from Harold Hyde who will drive me. I am grieving, but also as you said have hope.
My hope is stronger than my grief which will go away.
Rev. Oliver Chappell Wilson, Jr., ACPE Supervisor, Emeritus.
Beautifully put, Shaun. We were terribly saddened to hear the news of Dr. Self’s passing. It was his beautiful smile and spirit that drew us to JCBC when we first moved to Suwanee 9 years ago. I truly wish we could be there tomorrow to be with our friends and family. Instead, we’ll be thinking of you tomorrow from Greensboro, NC. Love to all, The Andersons
Absolutely beautiful words of feelings. Thank you for sharing. Sunday Morning it seemed as a tribute to Bill Self – the music was perfect and louder, all the words, the message was all for Bill Self! I felt it. And it was “Good”. Lesson learned: we loved and adored Bill Self and I can pay a tribute to him daily by living and sharing a life of faith and goodness.
I’ve been praying for the JCBC leadership and staff and look forward to being there tomorrow.
I am passing on one of Billy Graham’s quotes which has always “Uplifted” me:
“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the Presence of God.”
I first met Dr. Self when he was a young pastor and I was a Georgia Tech student in 1964 at a BSU convention at Rock Eagle. He was the guest speaker. He had a profound effect on my spiritual life. 36 years later Martha and I were members at JCBC until we moved in 2002. I cannot begin to describe how his ministry has profoundly enriched the lives of so many. I feel the loss very deeply.
Bill and Carolyn Self helped me raise my children. I joined Wieuca Road Baptist Church in 1979 as a single parent with three small daughters, broken from a terrible divorce. The love and encouragement from Bill and Carolyn actually got me through many difficult days. My children grew up in that church and still have many friends that they made then. One of Bill’s favorite hymns is “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” The words in this hymn perfectly describe the many blessings I have enjoyed over the years that he was my pastor. A greater man I have never known. I will miss him for the rest of my life
Words cannot adequately express our feelings of emotion at the loss of our dear friend and pastor, Bill Self. He has left an indelible footprint on the lives of all of us who have known, loved and served under him, first at Wieuca Rd., Chamblee and now at JCBC. Without his foresight and vision, we would not be where we are today in this great church. He has left a most important legacy behind with many quips and quotes that will remain with us forever. I hope that we will ALWAYS hold dear this legacy and heritage at JCBC and within our hearts. The greatest gift to him is that he no longer has to suffer with this dreadful disease and is in the hands of the loving God he so faithfully served so well for so many years. We will miss him greatly!
Dave & Jan Blankenship
A merciful Father has called Bill home much sooner than any of us expected…but praise God for that act. I will miss him, his preaching, his teaching, and that warm smile. My greatest spiritual growth came during his years at Wieuca Road Baptist. It was indeed an honor to be in his presence.
Bill Self was our wonderful pastor for many years. He has gone to be with the Lord. We are sorry that we will not be at the Service on Thursday. We are out in Dallas, Tx visiting family. Our prayers are with the family and friends.
In God’s love, Harry and Sylvia McElveen