Pastors' Memoirs

GlSidney Lane Willis, 1912-2002

Memoirs Home 

  Sidney was converted in 1923 during a revival in St. Paul Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in his hometown of Christiansburg, Virginia. He made a commitment to full-time Christian service at an Epworth League Assembly at Massenatta Springs in 1930.

  Sidney graduated from Christiansburg High School in 1930, Emory and Henry College (with honors) in 1934, and the School of Religion, Duke University (with honors) in 1937. During the summer of 1936, while assisting in rural churches near Mt. Olive, North Carolina, Sidney was afflicted with a partial paralysis of his right vocal cord. It kept him out of the active ministry for 20 years.

  While recuperating in Christiansburg, Sidney was very active in both church and community affairs. He taught a large Sunday school class of young people and served as their evening counselor from 1937 to 1958, save a period of 39 months when he served with Naval Intelligence during World War II. Several of these youth became outstanding leaders in the United Methodist Church.

  In October 1957, Sidney requested an appointment at the next session of the Virginia Annual Conference. His request was a major leap of faith, since he was uncertain his voice would hold up under the exacting requirements of the active ministry. However, before conference in February 1958, Sidney was appointed as pastor of Grace Methodist Church, Norfolk.

  His pastorates included Grace, Zion Grace, and Christ churches in Norfolk; Bassett Memorial in Bassett; Main Street in South Boston; and Haygood in Virginia Beach. After his retirement in 1978 he was assistant pastor of St. Paul United Methodist Church, Christiansburg, until June 1984, when he and his wife moved into an apartment at the Roanoke United Methodist Home.

  Sidney wrote of his wife, Mabel Collins Willis, also of Christiansburg, "Babs and I have always worked together as a team, both within and outside the home. I thank God for His guiding us in sharing our lives together in such beautiful spiritual relationships." They have one son and a daughter-in-law, Charles Land Willis and his wife, Sandra, of Easton, Pennsylvania.

  Sidney was an efficient and effective pastor. His background as an active layman accentuated his ability to perceive both lay and clerical viewpoints. His organizational ability was exceptional, which resulted in well trained and effectual leadership in the local churches he served.

  Theologically, Sidney was a student on the spiritual frontiers of faith. He believed faith is an ever-expanding experience of growth and deliverance. This powerful combination of organizational-spiritual orientation undergirded his effective God-centered ministry.

  One of his prized possessions was an engraved bronze plaque, affixed to a solid walnut shield, featuring the logo of the United Methodist Church. The plaque reads:

Haygood United Methodist Men

With Love and Appreciation to

Rev. Sidney L. Willis

"Happy are the eyes that see what you are seeing! I tell you, many prophets and kings wished to see what you now see, yet never saw it; to hear what you now hear, yet never heard it." Luke 10:23

— Family



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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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