Christ Memorial celebrates 50 years with its pastor - Word&Way

Christ Memorial celebrates 50 years with its pastor

COOL VALLEY — Christ Memorial Baptist Church in suburban St. Louis pulled out the stops to celebrate Bill Little’s 50 years as the congregation’s pastor on May 31.

Bill Little and his wife, Gay, acknowledge the audience at a May 31 celebration of his 50 years as pastor of Christ Memorial Baptist Church in Cool Valley.

Little graduated from East Texas Baptist College, where he had been a basketball scoring leader in 1958 and made his way to the pastorate of Nor­mandy Baptist Church a year later.

The congregation merged with West Park Baptist Church in 1962 and took the name Christ Memorial, and Little continued as pastor.

The church was supportive of the young pastor’s desire to  continue his education and enroll at Midwestern Baptist Theologi­cal Seminary.

“They didn’t want to interrupt my educational process,” the pastor said, enabling him to leave on Monday night for Kansas City and return on Friday.

Little earned a master’s degree from the seminary, then earned another master’s — this one in counseling — at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, followed by a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Washington University in St. Louis.

He recalls that when the church was constructing its build­ings, he and the congregation agreed he would not take a salary increase but would be free to lead outside seminars and conferences to supplement his income.

The result was that the pastor was able to extend his own ministry and that of the church in several new areas.

He taught for seven years at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington Univesrity and, for one year, a course in psychology at Missouri Baptist College.

For 17 years, he broadcast a counseling program on KMOX radio. He became the first sports psychologist employed by a major league baseball teamwhen he worked for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1978 to 1982. From 1984 to 1988, he worked part time with the Seattle Mariners.

Little has written a half-dozen books, including The Secret and Spirituality, Eight Ways to Take an Active Role in Your Health and Firewalking. He has written more than 3,000 poems.

After working with cancer patients at Barnes Hospital, he organized and cofounded the Cancer Support Center of St. Louis, which he served as executive director. He produced a set of audiotapes for cancer patients and a set of videotapes to help others form cancer support groups.

Little has developed lectures and seminars and presented them across the country in areas like team-building, communication, values clarification, assertiveness training, and balancing work and family.

The veteran pastor remains active in sports, still playing Senior Olympics basketball.

“Most of the people in the church have encouraged me to do all I do,” he told Word&Way. “Their ministry to me has enabled me to extend the ministry of the church” to thousands of people.On May 31, the celebration began with a full sanctuary for morning services with proclamations declaring the Rev. Dr. Bill Little Day in both Cool Valley and St. Louis County, and framed congratulations sent by Gov. Jay Nixon and Sec­re­tary of State Robin Carnahan.

And four speakers took turns roasting and praising the pastor, including golf partner Ed Viau and George Hutch­ings, who recalled how the pastor made sure he received the last $500 needed to make a mission trip to Kenya that has resulted in a continuing ministry to the country.

Harold Phillips, coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Missouri, re­called when the congregation became dually aligned with the predomiantly black National Baptist Convention USA, Inc., and was subsequently booted from the Missouri Baptist Convention for violating its single alignment clause.

For 17 years, the congregation has sponsored a Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance.

Longtime associate pastor David Everly brought the morning message and recalled his 18 years with Little. He spoke of efforts to improve race relations in the community, Little’s emphasis on the spiritual life, service projects, counseling and crisis ministry.

Following an afternoon lunch at the Maryland Heights Community Center, about 300 people heard recollections from several other friends and church members.

Jackie Fletcher, 50th Anni­ver­sary Committee chairperson, presented Little and his wife, Gay, with a check to fulfill some travel plans.

B.T. Rice, pastor of New Horizon Seventh Day Christian Church, which uses Christ Memorial’s facilities each Saturday, presented Little a gift of $1,000 from that congregation.

“I was very pleased with what the church did,” Little said. “I don’t know any pastor/member relationship that is better than in that church.”

He noted he was particularly pleased that his mother, four children and their families were all able to be present.

He singled out Gay, whom he married in 2002. “My wife is a wonderful gift in my life,” he said.

The afternoon speakers in­cluded Hutchings; Everly; physician Roy Eaton; friend of 55 years, Harles Cone; businessman Brad Hornberg; church member and educator Barbara Davis; Little’s son, Bill Jr.; and Margaret Pyles, former vice president for Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Special music for the day was provided by music director Laurie Fletcher, Judy Little, Marlissa Hudson, the church choir and Larry Byars. Celerstine Johnson served as mistress of ceremonies for the afternoon.

Bill Webb is editor of Word&Way.