Pastors' Memoirs

Wendell Clark Blevins, 1914-2003

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  What do you say about a man who never aspired to greatness but who greatly loved his Lord, who never accumulated wealth or fortune but who gave away a wealth of love to those fortunate enough to have crossed his path? What do you say about a man who lived every moment of his earthly existence for nothing better than to bring into existence God’s Kingdom of love and life that he had dedicated his life to proclaim? Indeed, what do you say about Wendell Clark Blevins?

  He was born on Sept. 5, 1914, in Herndon, Virginia, but before he had reached adolescence his dentist father died, and his one-room-schoolhouse teacher mom had to begin the difficult task of raising two young boys by herself on a farm that would later be incorporated into the expansive Dulles International Airport. He and his brother grew up at Pleasant Valley Methodist Church in Chantilly, Virginia, where their strong, yet gentle, mother planted within them the seeds of ever-deepening faith.

  Clark met his wife, Millie Commack, in 1934 Chicago. She was a nursing student at Cook County Hospital where she encountered more than her share of gangsters who had encountered the wrong end of a Tommy gun. He, on the other hand, had gone to the windy city to attend Coyn Electrical School and, after returning to Virginia, continued their courtship by jumping freight trains to hasten their reunions. They married on Aug. 14, 1935, at her home in Idaho when the death of her Quaker father (her mother had already passed away) necessitated a hastily arranged wedding and the raising of her four younger siblings (ages 5 to 16). Their ready-made family, and the sacrifices it required, would not be their last foray into the world of selfless giving.

  The young family returned to the Blevins farm where new children were added to the family mix as Millie gave birth to two sons and a daughter. All the while, Clark was putting his mark on the Pleasant Valley congregation as a dedicated lay leader. In 1948, he entered Virginia Polytechnic Institute, now Virginia Tech, to work on a degree in agriculture. The young couple had set their eyes on the mission field, and what better way to do God’s work, they thought, than to send a nurse and a farmer to plant the seeds of faith in faraway soil. While in college, Clark received his first charge as a local pastor, serving the six churches of the Riner Parish until his graduation in 1952.

  From there he took his family to Hillsdale, New York, where he entered Drew Theological Seminary and served as student pastor of the two churches on the Hillsdale Charge. He returned to the Virginia Conference in 1956, when he graduated from seminary, to serve the five churches of the West Brunswick Charge near Alberta, Virginia. In 1961, he was appointed pastor of Market Street Church in Onancock on the Eastern Shore. Throughout all those years he was fine-tuning his sharp sensitivity to the needs of other people. Perhaps that is what drew Dr. James L. Robertson, then administrator of the Hermitage in Northern Virginia, to urge Clark to join him in an effort to start a mission church amidst the pawnshops and bars of Rosslyn, Virginia.

  In 1962, Clark was appointed associate pastor of Arlington Temple Church and Community Center, where he and Dr. Robertson attempted to build a congregation, literally, from ground up. Meeting in the basement of a motel, the congregation would eventually build a magnificent steeple-topped sanctuary, complete with theater seating and massive oil paintings of the life of Christ, that today sits majestically atop a service station at the entrance to one of the busiest subway stations in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Clark would pound the pavement, embracing the lives of prostitutes and bankers alike, and he forged a reputation as one of the most caring souls that ever graced the streets of Arlington County.

  In 1966, Clark and Millie began their third family as they took into their home two young boys when their father died of a heart attack. One would eventually become a forester and the other a pastor in the Virginia Conference, serving as editor of the Virginia United Methodist Advocate for some 15 years. Both look upon this time they shared with these very special people as some of the most formative and faith-building years of their lives.

  In 1974, finally with an empty nest, Clark was appointed to serve as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Lynchburg where he retired in 1979. Moving to Chesapeake, Virginia, the Blevins became active at Deep Creek United Methodist Church where Clark began his final battle with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He died on March 31, 2003. His five-year, valiant struggle with this crippling disease was an inspiration to many; and the devoted caring of the congregation and his wife became such an example to others that even the local newspaper was compelled to share the story.

  To the very end, he was a man of faith and love; he was truly a servant of Christ. "Well done, good and faithful servant," you can almost hear Jesus saying to the man I have always called, quite affectionately, Mr. B, "enter into the joy of your master" (Matthew 25:21). If ever someone deserved to hear these words from his Master, it is the man called Wendell Clark Blevins.

— Alvin J. Horton



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