Pastors' Memoirs

Herman Miller Elam, 1912-1997

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  "But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers. . ." James 1:22

The Rev. Herman M. Elam heard God calling him to be an ordained minister at the age of 23. He accepted that call and used his gentle and persuasive personality to build, strengthen, and motivate the church for the rest of his life on earth. He conscientiously prepared himself to be a servant of Christ, graduating from Randolph-Macon College, receiving his Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in 1942, and a Master of Sacred Theology from Wesley Theological Seminary in 1965. He was awarded the Professional Certificate of Church Management by the American University of Business Management in 1966.

Herman was blessed with a partner-in-ministry. He married Mary Yeaman in 1942. She shared his ministry with active participation and constant support.

A "doer" and a faithful servant of the Virginia conference, Herman served 14 appointments in four districts. A "doer" because things happened where he served. His first appointment (1936-student) was to Corinth which had little hope of surviving since the Sandston government was ready to close the church for nonpayment of delinquent sewer fees. Herman learned the bad news in regard to the demand of payment of the sewer fees. His first order of business was to raise the funds outside of the church. Then he rented out the parsonage, lived with an aunt in Richmond, boarded with a church family, and used the funds from the rent to meet church obligations. At the end of his pastorate, the church was alive and growing with all apportionments paid in full.

A "doer" as a four-year pastorate (1941-45) realized the organization of Lakeside Church (Richmond). This was during the war years and the church history records the following: "On the night of October 23, 1941, sounds of hammers and saws began to ring from the corner of Hilliard Road and Lawrence Avenue where the pastor and members of the congregation commenced the remodeling of the old two story stucco building on the six lots which had been purchased by the church." An appeal to the War Production Board to build a church building was rejected. Only noncritical material could be used for construction. Herman was not deterred. The growing community at Lakeside needed a church. Herman found some old boxcars standing on a railroad track. These were acquired and the lumber from these was used to build the church. Two years later he found a prefabricated building at Fort Lee which was purchased from the government. The pastor and members dismantled, transported, and rebuilt it for classrooms and other activities. When his pastorate was ended, Lakeside had over 200 members, adequate church facilities, and was debt free.

A "doer" as a second congregation was organized under his leadership. During his pastorate (1952-55), Culmore Church (Falls Church) was organized and on Palm Sunday, April 11, 1954, the first service was held in the new chapel and educational building with over 200 members.

Wherever Elam served, things happened. A three-point charge grew and separated into single appointments, churches were remodeled and renovated for more effective ministries, a new sanctuary was built at Lincolnia, existing debts were paid off, plans for future building projects were started and always the word of God was preached, taught, and demonstrated.

Herman retired from the appointed ministry in 1977. He then had more time to enjoy his two daughters, Mary Pat Strowell and Betty White and their families, especially the two grandchildren. During his retirement he was an important person to every Winchester district superintendent as he was available to come out of the "bull pen" to do short term relief in serving churches. For the past 15 years he has been known as "Barnabas" because he was an enabler/encourager to a neighborhood interfaith Bible study group which met in their home.

Yes, Herman Elam’s life fulfilled James 1:22 as he heard the WORD of God and lived it through his life as a DOER.

- Lee B. Sheaffer



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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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