REV. D. W. PERRY passed away on the morning of January 26, at his home in McKenzie, Tennessee. Perhaps no man was respected more in the entire Church for his conscientiousness, his love for the cause, and his eagerness to have the Church pull forward in a united, progressive way.
Educated for an electrical engineer, a career in which he was most successful as a young man, Brother Perry gave up a most promising, most lucrative position to enter the seminary at Bethel College in 1921, where he studied for three years in order to receive his B.D. degree. From that time on he was a leader in the Church, spending many years of his ministerial life working with young people, serving on both the Young Peoples Board and then on the Board of Christian Education which succeeded it. He was pastor at South Pittsburg, Tennessee, after leaving the seminary, only to be called back as an instructor in the school from which he had so recently been graduated. Later he was pastor at McKenzie, Tennessee, and the Jackson Street Church, Paducah, Kentucky, for a while, only to return to Bethel as an instructor, where he served out the remaining days of his active life as an instructor. Failing health prevented his returning to the schoolroom this fall.
Brother Perry left his mark upon all those who knew him and the younger ministers of the Church speak often of his contribution to their start in the ministerial world. He was a man who was understanding and most progressive but a man who would not compromise one Christian principle of life under any condition. The Church has lost one of the greatest spirits it has ever known.
Brother Perry's background was Cumberland from away back. Dr. J. Y. Barnett, one of the earlier figures in the Church who made himself known far and near, was one of Perry's ancestors. His father, Rev. Frank Perry, was a minister in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
Born near Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Brother Perry received his first educational training there, later going to the University of Kentucky where he graduated with honors. He maintained his interests in the Hopkinsville Church all his life and in the old home place which he owned. He will be buried in the Hopkinsville Cemetery.
Brother Perry married rather late in life, but he lived deeply during those years. His wife, Elizabeth Fooks Perry, and two daughters, Elizabeth Anne, seven years of age, and Edna Ellen, two years of age, knew the real happiness of a home that a husband and father can give. They, with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. T. D. Fooks, lived in a beautiful home they had constructed together at McKenzie.
The funeral was a McKenzie, on Thursday, morning, with Rev. Ewell K. Reagin, president of Bethel College, officiating, Rev. E. R. Ramer, local pastor, and Rev. Clark Williamson, general Secretary of Board of Christian Education, assisted.
The Church has given up another of her greatest souls. May the things for which Rev. D. W. Perry stood soon be realized in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
Below is a message Brother Perry dictated to his wife one night about 1:30 when he awoke her while he was at his weakest stage of life some days ago. At the time he thought that he would live but a few days. In it he poured out his heart in an earnest appeal to the Church, particularly to its ministers whom he lived with all his heart and for whom he aspired for the greatest possible consecration to the Lord. It is his farewell message to the Church for which he gave up more than the average minister gives up to serve in and for which he literally gave his life. May the spirit of this message bear fruit commensurate with the dedication with which he sent it forth to the Church in the Spirit of Christ.
Dear Friends and Brethren:
I wish to take this means of expressing to you my heartfelt appreciation for all that you have done for me during my illness. You have filled my room with flowers and you have sent letters. Your cards have been deeply appreciated. Your letters have made me wonder if you were not writing with the wrong man in mind because of the things you have said. I have appreciated them all. I have appreciated particularly the letters from the younger men who have been kind enough to say that I had some small part in helping them in their preparation for the gospel ministry. I have appreciated the visits of those who have taken their time to stop by and see me. Some have traveled long distances to do so. I wish I might tell you individually just how much these things mean to me. I realize that it is the great faith and confidence in Christ which you have that has prompted you to take this action in response to a small part you may have seen in me. It is simply an expression of your Christian faith and hope. This has made your visits and letters mean much to me.
I have been led to think of the minister as pictured in the New Testament and have wondered if I have not failed almost altogether in doing the work that I now feel the minister should do. Above all he is and should be the man in the community who most exemplifies the life of Jesus. He is the man who should always be ready and glad to talk of spiritual things to anyone in his parish. He should be able to talk to the lowest man in the community and in turn should be able to converse with the most profound scholar with whom he comes in contact.
We see Christ as He talked with Nicodemus on subjects so profound that the world has not been able to plumb the depth of all that He said. We find Him ever ready to minister to the needs of those about Him no matter how humble or lowly they may have been. No call was ever so urgent, no business so pressing, no circumstances ever made such demands upon His time and talents that He did not have time to minister to those in need.
I am afraid that sometimes we present-day ministers get a distorted view of the really important part of our work. We allow ourselves to be burdened down with organizations and social duties so that we often forget the need of those about us. As one looks in upon our Church courts he is compelled, if he is a student of the Bible, to wonder if the world can get anything like the proper conception of Christ. We are reminded of James and John's request that they might be first upon His right hand and his left hand when He came to the kingdom and of the hurt, disappointed reply of the Master indicating that no followers of His could correctly represent Him with any such wishes and aspiration on their minds. We hear Him say, "He who would be chiefest of all, must be servant of all."
We constantly hear men speaking of the need for a greater, more expansive program for our Church. As we read the Book of Acts we find a simple, easily followed plan, yet so profound and expansive in its scope that if followed today it would solve the problems of the world. We see a church in which the pastor and people were constantly seeking to reveal to the world a Christ who had done so much for them. That seems to have been their chief purpose in getting together. Christ had saved them, and they yearned with a compassion that made them have to tell others of Christ.
I am afraid that we present-day ministers fail to realize how close the problems that face the Church really are to us. Take the matter of love about which Paul spoke so beautifully in I Corinthians 13. The problem which faces the minister is not the task of getting the world to accept this teaching. His task is that of seeing that his congregation learns and practices this lesson. It is not the task of seeing that the Chinese and Japanese people love one another but of seeing that the people of his own church love one another first of all and then that this love reaches out to include all. How can we hope to preach this doctrine effectively to a world until our own people accept and practice it? There can be no rich and poor, no black and white sections in our churches and communities if we wish to preach effectively a doctrine of love.
We read of a census that has been taken in some large community, showing the great degree of youthful delinquencies and of places of vice, and we are prone to preach upon this terrible evil, but the problem which faces the pastor and his people is the stand which they are taking against this seat of vice which exists in the local community. Too often the pastor finds when he begins his investigation that some of his most influential members are in some way connected with these places of vice. If his church is to be the church of Christ here upon earth, he nor it can cease to fight for its young people until such things have been removed from their community.
It is evident that in many cases politics are very closely tied up in this evil ring. If politics are to be cleaned up, if our local, state, and national political situations are to be cleaned up, it must begin with some church or group of churches who are fearless enough to stand for right and the cause of Christ. But first there must be a willingness to face the trouble it may cause in cleaning up the local church session and moving fearlessly from there on.
Then there is the matter of the church as a dispenser of charities and benevolences. This is the church's rightful heritage, but unfortunately, instead of being the source of such benevolences, she is looked upon as being the greatest beggar of them all. Too frequently the only motive stressed in giving is "we've got to pay the preacher." If the church would only realize the great joy in Christian giving, and if only a small portion of the money which church people give for candy, chewing gum, shows, and drinks in a year were turned through the church channels, that church could assume the rightful role as a giver of good gifts.
I have said nothing that is new. What I have said has been said many times before and even better than I have been able to express it, but it is my firm conviction that unless the ministry and laity of the Church can realize the need for beginning and pressing to a conclusion the all-important things, the Church will fail in her efforts to meet the problems which so present and will more forcefully present themselves to her in a postwar world. She will fail!
And yet the Church has all the power necessary to do what she was meant to do. God can work through it if He can have those who lead it through whom He will be allowed to work.
Brethren, think on these things, and may the grace of God be
with you all.
[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, February 3, 1944, pages 1, 9 & 15]
Perry, D.W., Mayfield Presbytery, age 51. Died January 26, 1944. Active.
[Source: Minutes of the General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, 1944, page 100]