Pastors' Memoirs

John Hiram Light, Jr., 1907-1987

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John Hiram Light Jr. was born January 18, 1907, in Fredericksburg, Virginia, the son of John Hiram and Edith Neel Light. His father was a Methodist preacher, so they rode the circuit of pastoral appointments, moving from place to place as parsonage families have been accustomed to doing since the beginning of Methodism. As a young man, John was very active in the Epworth League, which enabled him to grow in faith and in his love of the church.

Following high school graduation in Romney, West Virginia in 1924, John entered Randolph-Macon College. It was in 1925, while a college student, that he felt a definite call to the ministry. He received his local license shortly thereafter. He served the West Chesterfield Charge from 1926 to 1928. After completing his A.B. degree, he went on to Union Theological Seminary in New York City where he studied from 1928 to 1929 and then again in 1956 to 1958.

John was ordained deacon in 1934 and elder in 1936 in Baltimore's Methodist Episcopal Church, South. From 1929 to 1930 he served an appointment in Colesville, Maryland in the Baltimore MECS.

He married Verna Ruth Clemons on August 21, 1929. Ruth was his lifelong companion in ministry. Two children were born to them: Jean Ruth Light Pruitt on January 17, 1931, and Elizabeth Ann Light Byrd on July 7, 1936.

John's years of ministry spanned nearly 60 years. Before the unification of the Methodist Church in 1939, he served Levelton in West Virginia and Monterey in Virginia. Following unification, he became a member of the Virginia conference of the Methodist Church. During World War II, he served for two years with the Coast Guard Auxiliary while he was pastor in Irvington, Virginia. After the war, he served Tazewell Avenue in Roanoke, Parksley-Hunting Creek, Prospect, Oak Hall, St. Mark's in Manassas, Arcola, and Harmony Church in Hamilton. He retired from active ministry in 1978.

The word "retirement," however, was not in John Light's vocabulary. It was his desire and privilege to continue to be of service to his Lord in the church whenever and wherever called upon. Therefore, upon his retirement he was appointed to serve the Mt. Airy Charge, consisting of four churches in the Lynchburg District. He completed this appointment after four years of dedicated service. He and Ruth moved to her family home in Stephens City in 1982. But they did not move there to begin their retirement year together. John was appointed to serve the Fort Valley Charge in the Harrisonburg District and they traveled 45 minutes each way every Sunday to serve those two churches. In 1985, John retired again due to declining health.

John Light was gifted by God for ministry. He loved working with people. His greatest gifts were not necessarily his wonderful skill as preacher and teacher and administrator, but as pastor and caring friend. He always had time for people! Many of us pastors would do well to follow his example. He was a "country preacher" who knew how to help people when they needed help. He would give widows a hand with their gardens. He would take family members to visit their relatives in the hospitals. John Light loved people and he was there when they needed him.

He was a first cousin to my grandmother. I was privileged to know him as family and as a fellow minister of the Gospel. My first appointment in the Virginia conference was to the Arcola Church in 1977. John had served there previously for 12 years. When I shared with him that I was being assigned to Arcola, he called some of the folks and told them to be good to this new young pastor because he's family. And they were! John Light was much beloved by all who knew him. He not only preached the Gospel of our Lord Christ, he lived it. One of his former parishioners has said of him that next to her husband, John Light was the best man she ever knew.

John Light died May 25, 1987. He lived a life that for many people became the Gospel. His life was full of good works which he did to the glory of God. As Jesus our Lord said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

 -Matthew W. Jones IV



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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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