September 2014 Volume 11

Atlanta Memorial Service for Don Taylor – Holy Cross, Decatur, Georgia, June 2014

Rev. Dr. Barry Davies
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Prayer:  Gracious God, bless us, we pray as we recall the life and ministry of your faithful servant E. Don Taylor who answered your call and used the talents you had given him to spread the good news of your love for us.  Amen.

The text I have chosen for this eulogy is from the 2nd Epistle of Peter.  This epistle was written in the rather grand and loquacious style used for the last words of dying church leaders, and so it was a farewell address.  Brother Don did not leave us such final words, as far as I know, but his whole life was a convincing testament, and a clear example and pattern for us to claim and to follow for our own calling in the Christian journey. 

 Here now are the words from St. Peter: 

“My brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.  I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body,  because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.  And I will make every effort now to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. “
Our brother Don T was called and elected to ministry and faithfully followed that call and he pursued that call until the last few sad weeks of his being with us on this earth.  Through his ministry, as did St. Peter, Don did remind us of what we were to know about living our faith, but now he has departed this life, the best way of paying tribute to his work in ministry is to remember his teachings and learn from his example.

Most of you have already probably read some of the obituaries and tributes paid to Don so I won’t repeat them but what I want us to look at briefly in the next few minutes are the eight areas in which Brother Don was enabled to minister in one form or another - through his pastoral care of both present and former members of his congregations, through his great sermons that really touched the hearts and minds of his listeners, through his engaging personality, his sense of humor, and not least his love of pageantry and all the colorful scenery and costuming that went along with that. He really was into show business in a big way and his used his techniques to ensure success.

So we are going to look at those eight situations to see how he was enabled to minister in these different circumstances and to see some of what we can learn for our lives as Christians through his example.  Two things will be very clear.  First is his focus and consistency in doing the work God had called him to do; and the second is the way in which he always took the techniques he had developed through the experiences he had to new levels as he used them in each new call to ministry.

We'll start with the first time Don had to leave the protection of being a school boy and going out into the real world and getting his first job.  What was it?  Show business!  Don became a radio announcer at Radio Jamaica and Rediffusion -RJR.  How do I know?  Well, he and I did alternate shifts many times.  He was so successful because of his personality and use of his rich voice and immaculate articulation (all of which he later used in preaching).  He came across as a very warm and friendly person and soon got a new nickname - he was now "Uncle Don" to the thousands all across the Island who listened to the only broadcast source of information and entertainment there was in the 1950s.  The skills he learnt in that first job and his love for show business became part of the tools of his trade, as it were, as he moved from there, past his Seminary training at St. Peters College in Cross Roads, Kingston, and then for a second time out into the real world and into his first church - St. Mary's on Molynes Road.

At St. Mary's he was already known by the congregation because of his time at RJR.  They already knew his name, and his voice through his RJR work. St. Mary’s was a new church in a newly developed neighborhood and Don's ministry there resulted in a huge growth especially of younger people to whom he related so well.  The next step, building on the knowledge he had developed about young people and being an administrator/pastor at St. Mary's, and also the part-time teaching he was already doing at his alma mater, was to become the headmaster of Kingston College. As a personal note, Don now became my boss since I was still teaching there, whereas he had been one of the 6th formers I had taught.

Then came emigration from Jamaica. You may remember the old saying “You can take a man out of his country, but you can’t take the country out of the man.”  Don never forgot his origins and certainly remembered the importance of the choir at Kingston College, and so in his next post at a church in Buffalo, New York, amongst many other things, he was instrumental in developing a very good boy’s choir there.

Next came his ministry at Holy Cross and its mission church – Holy Comforter.  This was at a time when all the churches in South DeKalb were being faced with the unique challenge presented by the huge population shift of black persons into what had formerly been a largely white area.  The challenges, and he knew about them and faced them, were either to close a church as white flight took place, or to change a church to largely black, or the route that this church - Holy Cross - took under the leadership of Don Taylor.  With his Jamaican background and his experience of ministry in Buffalo, he turned Holy Cross into a place where black and white people worshiped and fellowshipped together comfortably.

Moving on to become bishop in the Virgin Islands Don used his still not forgotten experiences in radio and communication techniques to extend the church's ministry to the islands and even ships at sea by broadcasting his messages and sermons.

His next assignment - a bishop in New York - took him back home in the sense that his ministry there drew together the many churches where Jamaicans flourished.  But finally he literally went back home to his beloved Jamaica where, even after official retirement, he took on the pastorate of what must be one of the most difficult parishes in Jamaica - a parish which includes places like Trench Town and Tivoli Gardens, and where even to enter Kingston Parish Church itself, he and the members of the church had to wend their way through the street-side merchants - the higglers - and they were legion!

But Don's earthly work is over of course, but the memory of his devotion, his constant learning, practicing new experiences, his adapting to opportunities, his doing God's work until illness and death prevented him doing more - these are his legacy from which we must draw inspiration and encouragement in our own ways of doing God's work for as long as we are able.  In the text from the Epistle we heard at the beginning I emphasized St. Peter's words: "I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things."  With Don’s example ahead of us we can do that.  And then from the 1st Corinthians reading we heard earlier in the service there is the well known assurance:   "When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."  "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"  Brother Don’s work and teachings are not dead – his reputation and example as a faithful servant will live on in our lives and our memories.  

We will never forget the work of Don Taylor!

So, Brother Don, we know you are resting in peace. You had to die, as must all of us, but what you taught and how you taught it – how you enabled your flock to live their Christian lives to the fullest – these will remain and be your legacy. We can quite honestly and sincerely say to you “Well done thou faithful servant.” Brother Don, we can know that you are truly resting in peace.

Let us pray: Thank you, gracious God, for giving us this fine leader whom you had called to your service. Thank you for enabling him to enable us to try to live our own lives as you yourself taught us. We pray that the memory of the ministry of our brother Don may encourage us to follow, each in our own way, and to the best of our abilities, the example he set us and continue the ministries he pursued. And we make this prayer in the holy name of our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen

Editor’s note:

From 1955 until the late 1960’s, Barry Davies—the Reverend and Doctor titles came later—was the Concert Choir Director at Kingston College.  He was hired during the tenure of none other than Bishop Percival Gibson himself. His specific task was to develop a concert choir from the nucleus of the chapel choir formed by Douglas Forrest.  And during his tenure, the concert choir gave annual performances--the first Jamaican high school choir to do that--not only in Kingston but all over the island.  At the same time, the choir provided music regularly for the chapel services.  The choir was also used when there were diocesan events.  And it was also the first Jamaican high school choir to produce recordings for sale to the public.

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