Memorial Of Dr. Charles Pier Colmery, Pastor Of Edwards
Presbyterian Church, July 29, 1888, To May 2, 1938
With hearts beating with commingled emotions of love, grief, and admiration, we record as a Session the Home-going of our beloved Pastor, Dr. Charles Pier Colmery.
It is fitting that we record this event, which has touched the hearts not only of our congregation, but of our community, and of the Presbytery of Central Mississippi and of the Synod of Mississippi.
It would be vain for us to attempt to tell those who knew Dr. Colmery—those whom he served—what he was to them. The appraisement which loss brings has made that record in a more impressive way than we could possibly give it. In fact, when we think of trying to leave in t-he records of our Church something that would Indicate all that Dr. Colmery was in the relations of pastor, preacher, friend, and citizen, we have the feeling that was expressed by Bossuet when he was pronouncing his eulogy on the Prince of Conde: "We are equally overwhelmed by the greatness of the theme and the needlessness of the task."
It shall not be our purpose to give an appreciation of Dr. Colmery in formal resolutions, but rather to present him as he was, and to leave the simple story to make its own impression.
It has been said that "a tree is known by its fruit, and a noble house by a noble name." Dr. Colmery was of worthy lineage. His father, J. S. Colmery, was one of the pioneers In the educational life of Mississippi. He was born and reared in the Presbyterian stronghold of Washington County, Pennsylvania,, and came when a young man to be the head of a boys' school in Grenada, Mississippi. About the same time. Miss Geer came from Vermont to be the teacher of a girls' school in Grenada. After serving well in their respective places, these two united in marriage and together founded at Carrollton what Is said to be the first co-educational institution in Mississippi. Here they wrought a. fine work, and the influences of that school still abide among us.
From Carrollton, Mr. J. Colmery who had become an Elder in the Presbyterian Church, went to become the first President of what we know to-day as the French Camp Schools. He was later licensed to preach by Central Mississippi Presbytery. His high character as an educator,' 'his knowledge as a presbyter, and his devotion' as a Christian, left his impression not only upon the students who came under his tuition but upon the Church throughout the Presbytery.
Dr. Charles Pier Colmery was born January 6, 1859, at Carrollton, Mississippi. He received his early education in the schools which his father founded and conducted. He completed his education -by going to Southwestern Presbyterian University, from which he graduated with a B A degree June 6, 1888. Later his alma mater conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Divinity. He was called May, 1888, to become the pastor of the Edwards Church. This call was placed in his hand, and he was licensed to preach by Central Mississippi Presbytery on October 18, 1888 and ordained to the full work of the Gospel Ministry on October 19, 1888. The pastoral relation was established , between him and the Edwards, Osborne, and Yokena Churches. Later he organized and became the pastor of a Presbyterian Church at Bolton.
On June 7, 1888, he was marriedto Miss Clemmie Herring, daughter of a prominent physician. Dr. L. B. N. Herring, of Clarksville, Tennessee. Miss Herring's mother was Hester Elizabeth Willson, she being the daughter of a prominent Baptist Minister of Louisville, Kentucky. Dr and Mrs. Colmery after their marriage came at once to Edwards, Mississippi, and established their home in the Manse, where they lived together for a half century. They were to celebrate their Golden Wedding on June 7, 1938. The congregation was making preparation for this happy event, and Dr. Colmery was looking forward to it with great anticipation when he received his summons to the Home which is above.
There were born to Dr. and Mrs. Colmery three daughters: Anna (Mrs. W. B. Gibson of Atlanta, Ga.,) Hallie (Mrs. E. S. Hackler, Edwards, Miss.) Clemmie (Mrs. Pitman Sutton, Charlotte, N. C.), and three sons: William Gaither Colmery, Jacksonville, Fla., Ben Herring Colmery, Vicksburg, Miss and Charles Pier Colmery, Jr., of Vicksburg, Mississippi.
In the modest Manse in Edwards these children grew to manhood and womanhood. The income of that father was the meager salary of a. Home Mission. worker, and yet it would be difficult to find a family in which there was more real happiness and true joy, or a company of children to whom a richer heritage has come. They can truly say:
boast is not that I deduce my birth
From loins enthroned or rulers of the earth,
But higher far my proud intentions rise,
The child of parents passed into the skies."
The best picture of such a home is found in "The Cotter's Saturday Night,-" where the family is seen gathered for evening worship, forming a circle round the fireside, and the father having read a portion from the big Bible, and all together having sung a hymn, borne upward by "Dundee's wild warbling notes or Noble Elgin,"—
"Then kneeling down to Heaven's eternal king,
The saint, the husband and the father prays;
Hope springs exulting on triumphant wing,
That thus they all shall meet In future days;
No more to sigh or shed the bitter tear,
Together hymning their
In such society, yet still more dear,
While circling time moves round in an eternal sphere."
"Here is a picture of family worship and life whose outlines will never grow dim and whose colors will never fade." There is no more important contribution that a father and mother ever made to a community or a generation than to fashion a home like this. Well has it been said that from scenes like this "Scotia's grandeur springs." In a home like this, America's perpetuity is to be found.
Dr. Colmery .in the Church
Dr. Colmery's relation to this church and the churches of this group is unique in that he has given his entire ministry of a half century to this, his first and only pastorate. But his relationship to the church is unique hot only by reason of length of time, but by reason of the service which he rendered. As an Undershepherd he went in and out before this people, having it as his chief desire to walk in the footsteps of the Great Shepherd. His attainments In this high purpose were above those of most men. As a pastor and preacher he never attempted to present himself; he desired that his congregation should be like the chosen three on the Mount of Transfiguration: "So no man save Jesus only." Throughout his entire ministry there was freshness and a timeliness in the messages which Dr. Colmery brought to his people. It might seem that it would hardly be possible for this to be true where a minister was to remain so long in the same pulpit.' It would have been impossible for it to be true had not Dr Colmery been a student and a preacher of the Word of God. He had heard the inspired injunction: "Preach the Word." Therefore, in carrying out with fidelity this Injunction, his messages were instinct with; the freshness and power and life of the Word, the Living Word of a living God. Dr. Colmery was not only a preacher of the Word, but by the Holy Spirit he translated the Word into his life, and that life became "an epistle known and read of all men." It was his high and holy purpose, as a preacher, that his people should receive the Word, which is the power of God unto salvation; and that they should fashion their lives after the ideal given them in Him who is the Personal Word, the man Christ Jesus.
The fact that Dr. Colmery exalted the Word and preached the Word explains his power and abiding strength as a minister, and also became the basis of the confidence which his people and the people of his community had In him. He is a concrete example of the fact that the Calvlnlstic faith brings forth the highest of all fruitages. This faith cannot be bad when it yields a life like that of Dr. Colmery's. The Master has said, "We do not gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles." The need of the world today is for men who believe the Word, preach the word, and live the word.
There were some elements which appear in an eminent degree In the life of Dr. Colmery as a preacher, which are rarely conjoined in one person—conviction, courage, strength, gentleness, tenderness. Great convictions are the basis of great strength; but we are wont to think of conviction and strength as manifesting themselves in sternness rather than in tenderness. Dr. Colmery had the .strength which comes from conviction and with the strength had an unusual gentleness, tenderness, and joyousness of spirit. His jovial nature was like the vine that clings to the massive rock; he never forgot in his humor and jovial spirit that he was the Ambassador of Christ. The thinking of a pure heart manifested itself in the cleanness of his speech and in the considerateness he had for others. He carried out the inspired exhortation, "rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep" Like the Master, he was sought to sanctify the marriage and to ad to its glad anticipations ' and high joys; and, like the Master, he was sought to bring comfort and consolation in the time of trial and in the night of sorrow.
Through the viccissitudes of a half century he was true to his people in all the relations of life. In 1897, when the pestilence of yellow fever came and swept like a scourge over the entire community, he ministered to the sick and buried the dead, until he himself and his worthy companion both were stricken with the dread disease.
Dr. Colmery as a Citizen
The place that Dr. Colmery held in the life of the community was testified to by the confidence and esteem in which he was held by all classes and all conditions of the people. It could hardly be questioned that if a vote had been taken as to who was the first citizen of that section of the County in which he lived, that Dr. Colmery's name would have led all the rest. This was testified to by the throng that came to pay tribute at his funeral. The church m which he had preached so long could offer room for only a meager portion of the vast assembly of people. The following ministers of the Presbyterian Church were present: E. W. Ford, F. L. McCue, J. B. Hutton, R. E. Hough, W. A. Hall, G. T. Gillespie, R I. Lipsey, 0. M. Anderson, G. M. Smiley, J. M. Williams, C. G. Bruce, W. J. Caldwell, W. B. Hooker, T. B. Grafton, J. K. Parker, and Warren Niles Potts. Dr. W. T. Lowery of the Baptist Church and Dr. C. W. Crisler of the Methodist Church, together with local pastor, joined with the company of the ministers of his own church In bearing testimony to the worth and Influence of the life that had been lived and of their affection for him who had served his church and the generation in which he had lived, as an Ambassador for Christ.
When the services at the Church had been completed and Ills body was tenderly carried through the throng that gathered in the church yard, the sobs of the people reminded of the passage of Scripture which had been read from the 20th Chapter of the Acts, telling of the farewell of Paul to the Elders from Ephesus and the company of people that gathered at Miletus, in which it is said: "He kneeled down and prayed with them all, and they all wept sore . . . sorrowing most of all for the words which He spake that they should see His face no more." The weeping of the great throng was a testimony like that which Motley said the people of Holland gave their fallen hero, William the Silent:
"As long as he lived he was the guiding star of a whole brave nation, and when he died the little children cried in the streets."
The fidelity with which Dr. Colmery served his 'own church and people characterized his labors in the Presbytery. Here he was loyal to the great doctrines which his church had set forth as the system of doctrine taught in the Word of God. He had a vision of the lost and ruined condition of the world sunk in sin; be knew that the only remedy for sin was to be found In the atonement of Christ, and was ever ready to declare that the high mission of the church was to preach the Gospel for the salvation of sinners, for the glory of the Redeemer. Evangelism was an article in his creed, and evangelistic efforts were the practices of his life. By his messages in the Church Courts he told of the need and worth of family religion and of the privileges and sanctity of the we shall hear these chosen and meant to His resurrection from the dead, and by which He speaks to us of the Sabbath of Rest which remaineth for the people of God.
WE SHALL hear these chosen and sublime messages from Dr. Colmery's lips here no more, but we trust that they shall be given the reception which he and his Master desired them to have, by being translated Into the life of the leadership and membership of his own congregation and Into the life of the leadership and membership of all the churches, and shall be ours and our children's forever.
The Task is Finished
It was the plan of Dr. Colmery and of his people to have his min istry of fifty years summed up in a celebration to be held on the fifth Sunday In July. 1938, which would have marked the completion of his fifty years as pastor. The last thing he did was to meet with a committee appointed by Central Mississippi Presbytery and formulate the program for that day, which program Is as follows:
In Celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Pastorate of DR. C.
P. COLMERY At Edwards Presbyterian Church Edwards, Mississippi, Sunday, July
31, 1938, Sunday, July 29, 1888, Sunday, July 31, 1938.
MORNING SERVICE. 8:30 a. m.
3. Reading of Scripture.
Address: "Dr. Colmery as
Pastor for 50 Years." —By Mr.Hillard A. Cannada.
5. Solo: To be Selected.
6. Sermon: "Historical Review of 50 Years at Edwards Church,' By Dr. C. P. Colmery.
12:00 Noon to 1:30 p. m.
2:00 p. m.
8 Greetings: From-Churches of the Group, Individuals, and from other Denominations
9. Address: "Dr. Colmery as Minister" By Rev. F. L. McCue.
10. Address: "Dr. Colmery as Presbyter" By Dr. J. B. Hutton.
11. Address: "Dr. Colmery as Citizen" By Major W. Calvin Wells.
12. Address: Message From the Ministers of the Presbytery, By Rev. E. W. Ford.
The last words be said when the Committee bad completed the arrangement of the program, was that he wanted "everything to be for God's glory." Before this planning could come to its full fruition he had reached the end of the way and was called up to receive from the Lord of the Harvest, His commendation: "Well done, good, and faithful servant. Enter thou Into the joys of thy Lord."
God permitted him to know of the desires of his people to do him honor and to express to him and his their affection in glad celebration; but He saw that It was best for the congregation and friends who loved him to let his silent form tell with Impressive power the message, as with subdued hearts and tear-dimmed eyes they listened to him "being dead yet speaking."
In recording this story of the life and life of Dr. C. P. Colmery, although our hearts are filled with a deep sense of loss at his going, we would express to the Lord who gave him to us our gratitude and bless him and our God for all the years He permitted us to have his presence, love, and fellowship. The Session, In extending to the family their sympathy and love, would commend them to the husband's and the father's God, who will supply all their needs, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
The Session gives this memorial a prominent place in Its records, and requests the Clerk of the Session to send copies to Mrs. Colmery and the children, to The Christian Observer, and to the local papers.
Adopted by the Session of The Edwards Presbyterian Church June 1st, 1938.
P. C. BANKSTON, SR.,
W. A. WARD,
H. A. CANNADA,
A, J. LEWIS,
Members of the Session.
NOTE: This article was furnished to me by Mrs. Alice A. (Del) Robey.
It appeared in The Vicksburg Sunday Post on June 5 1938. Sonny Rule - April 5. 1997