Utah Reverend Holds Final Sermon After 45 Years Of Service
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Rev. France Davis preached his final sermon at Calvary Baptist Church after 45 years of a ministry that included becoming a community leader, working for better housing, jobs and education and being a teacher to thousands of University of Utah students.
Davis welcomed old friends and many guests Sunday morning, which marked the end of an era in Utah’s faith community.
“I hope that the legacy we’ve started will continue,” Davis said. “That we’ll continue to make a difference so that everybody feels like they’re somebody.”
The choir and congregation sang, offering praises to the Lord but dedicating the service to their beloved pastor.
One of the women leaders stood at the pulpit and declared, “We love Pastor Davis.” When the congregation did not respond strongly enough, she repeated it, saying, “Alright! Amen!”
Wesley Stinson, a member of the congregation for five years, said this is not the end.
“Today is his last day being pastor, it’s not his last day caring for the people. It’s not his last day loving the people,” Stinson said.
The day was historic but for those who know him, his message was familiar: the Lord is with you.
“When my load was heavy and my burden was more than I could carry, I turned to my friend, named Jesus,” Davis said.
And he urged anyone who does not know his friend to become acquainted.
Davis also told the congregation that after arriving in Salt Lake, his landlord changed his mind about renting to a black man.
However, he said race relations in our country are still not good.
“We still don’t have a handle on it, in fact, it’s a conversation we’ve got to have and we have to have that conversation so that everybody come to the table as equals,” Davis said.
During the service, children sang and danced and then surrounded Davis, saying, “We love you Pastor Davis and there’s nothing you can do about it!”
More than one of the children told KSL about how Davis has helped their families.
“I wanted to be here today for Pastor Davis because he’s done so many things for me and my family and he’s a nice, generous guy,” said young Joshua Ajayi.
Hundreds filled the Church hall following the service to personally greet the Davis and his wife, Sister Willene Davis.
One of the interfaith representatives was Elder Jack Gerard of the Quorum of the Seventy, who delivered a personal letter and gift from President Russell M. Nelson who paid tribute to Davis when he spoke to the NAACP convention in Detroit last July.
He said France Davis’s quiet dignity and tireless advocacy for unity have greatly enriched the fabric of our community.
“Pastor Davis has been a long-time friend of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He’s a remarkable community leader. He has a personal relationship with President Nelson,” Gerard said.
In turn, Davis paid tribute to all interfaith leaders who he has worked with over the years — Catholic, Episcopalian, Greek Orthodox and Latter-day Saints.
“It’s been relationships like that, that’s helped us to get things done and without them, it would not be possible,” he said.
Many people, some of them pastors of other denominations, traveled long distances just to be here today. Clarence and Geri Threats came from Oklahoma. She grew up at Calvary Baptist and her father served as a deacon.
“I remember his kindness,” she said. “You did not have to belong to his church in order for him to go and pray for you.”
Davis, now 73 years old, will take time and refocus his ministry. He said he always hoped to bring people of all ages and races together.
“Unless we are all talking and walking together, we’ll never get to a good end for all of us,” Davis said.
He is, his congregation says, the heart of the church.
Pastor Davis is still the chaplain for the University of Utah football team. He joined former coach and old friend, Ron McBride, on a flight Sunday evening to San Antonio ahead of the Alamo Bowl.
Utah plays the University of Texas in the postseason football game on Tuesday.
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