Pastors' Memoirs

Roland Parker Riddick, 1902-1987

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Devotion, energy, decisiveness, perseverance, fearlessness -- these words characterize the life and ministry of Roland P. Riddick.

Devotion - to Christ and his church; to a well-rounded ministry, scanting no aspect or emphasis of the church; to the needs of those committed to his care.

Energy - the 16-hour day; 1,000 to 3,000 pastoral calls a year; the constant pursuit of ways to serve, always testing new structures but never abandoning the best of proven ways.

Decisiveness -accepting the responsibilities of leadership, realizing that not to decide is itself a decision; willing to risk criticism or failure rather than to abdicate responsibility.

Perseverance -always determined to try again; to give others a chance to make a new start; never to give up on his churches or his colleagues.

Fearlessness -intimidated neither by public clamor nor by official pronouncement; always determined to do the right as God gave him the power to discern the right.

Few people have had so great an impact on the life of the Virginia conference. Three times a district superintendent (beginning at age 35), pastor of the largest churches, member of 10 General Conferences and the Uniting Conferences of 1939 and 1968, president or chairman of 14 conference agencies, first director of the Conference Council on Ministries, he left his stamp of his devotion and energy on every aspect of the church's life in Virginia.

Roland Parker Riddick was born April 7, 1902 at Nimmo, in Princess Anne County (now Virginia Beach), Virginia, the son of the Rev. William Henry and Nannie Whitehurst Riddick. He died October 22, 1987 in Richmond. He was married to Catherine Haydon of Urbanna, who died in 1984. Their daughter and two sons survive them: Nancy Camden (Mrs. John T.) Witt, Roland P. Riddick, Jr., and Dr. David H. Riddick.

In 1922 Roland Riddick was graduated from Randolph-Macon College, which honored him with the degree of Doctor of Divinity in 1942. The next year he taught and coached football at Randolph-Macon Academy. He was admitted into the Virginia conference in 1924. After receiving the degrees of Bachelor and Master of Theology from Princeton in 1927, he served eight pastorates and three districts before becoming Conference Program Director, 1967-1973.

He then served one year as executive director of the Association of Educational Institutions of the conference. In 1974 he had reached the age of mandatory retirement, but as active as ever, he embarked on another pastorate and the leadership of the campaign to renovate and expand the Virginia United Methodist Assembly Center at Blackstone.

His pastorates were Urbanna, 1927-31; Franktown-Johnsons, 1931-35; South Hill, 1935-36; Fort Hill in Lynchburg, 1936-37; Memorial in Lynchburg, 1939-42; Barton Heights in Richmond, 1948-50; Park Place in Norfolk, 1950-56; Arlington in Arlington, 1962-67; and Brookland in Richmond, 1974-87. He was presiding elder of the Eastern Shore District, 1937-39, and superintendent of the Roanoke District, 1942-48, and of the Alexandria District, 1956-62.

In the Virginia conference at least seven monuments stand as witnesses to the unusual leadership and concern of this man. These are:

1. Ferrum College. Roland Riddick was for 16 years (1943-58) chairman of the board of trustees of Ferrum College, during which time the course of the college was completely reversed. He was instrumental in bringing C. Ralph Arthur as president to Ferrum. Under their joint leadership, enrollment, which had been decreasing, rose to more than 1,000. New buildings began to appear on campus, one of them named Riddick Hall, and Ferrum took its place as a leader in junior college education.

2. The Alexandria District. During Roland Riddick's six years as superintendent, church membership in this district grew by 43 percent, outdistancing the population growth in what was one of the fastest growing areas of the nation. Twelve new congregations were organized, and pastoral charges increased from 63 to 84, making it necessary to form two districts from what had be- come Methodism's largest district at the end of his term in 1962.

3. Blackstone. As chairman of the board of trustees of Blackstone College and then as director of the campaign to raise funds for the remodeling and expansion of the college property to serve as a new and improved Virginia United Methodist Assembly Center, he was instrumental in assuring the conference of a suitable facility for assemblies and conferences.

4. Council on Ministries. As the first director of the Conference Council on Ministries, he was, more than anyone else, responsible for its organization into an effective programming agency of the conference. He provided a strong staff and basis of operation that has made it possible for the council to grow and serve through the years.

5. Minimum Salaries. As chairman of the Town and Country Commission, he was the author of the first minimum salary plan of the Virginia conference.

6. Pensions. During his eight years as chairman, the Board of Conference Claimants raised the pension rate of the conference by 131 percent, thus embarking on a course which was to lead the conference for the first time into a funded pension program.

7. People. Throughout his ministry people were Roland Riddick's first concern. During his 39 years as a pastor, he received 1,201 persons into the church on profession of faith and 2,828 by all means. He had a pastor's concern for the ministers who served in the districts where he was superintendent. As a result of his encouragement and counsel, 48 men from the Alexandria District were added to the ministry of the Virginia conference during his six years as district superintendent there.

Roland Riddick gave his best to his Christ and his church, and expected all who were associated with him to do the same. He was never willing to settle for less. All of God's programs had first priority; all of God's children deserved the best. From Roland Riddick, they got it.

-Raymond Fitzhugh Wrenn



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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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