Pastors' Memoirs

John Alexander Burnley, 1921 – 2004

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 On Nov. 30, 2004, John Alexander Burnley died at 8:45 p.m. in the West Port Convalescent Center, located at 7300 Forest Avenue in Richmond, with family members surrounding him. His death came on the date of his birth in 1921. He was born in Buckingham County, but spent his earlier days in Appomattox and Lynchburg. During his earlier days, his faith was greatly influenced by his mother and maternal grandmother.

  While attending a tent revival meeting on 12th Street in Old City Stadium in Lynchburg, John was converted. Through his conversion, John left Louise (his wife for 61 years) and two of their daughters at home in order to attend Ferrum High School, graduating in 1950. In 1952, he graduated from Ferrum Junior College and transferred to Lynchburg College where he graduated with a B.A. degree in 1954. He was ordained a deacon in 1956 and an elder in 1960.

  John’s ministry began in 1952 in the Lynchburg District at Southview and continued even beyond his retirement in 1987 as he served Garys in the Petersburg District for seven years. In reviewing John’s appointments, one discovers that John stayed four years or more. While many of his appointments were for four years (which was expected of a pastor during that time of his ministry), there were two exceptions. They were Franktown-Johnsons on the Eastern Shore where he served for five years, and Garys in retirement. His appointments included: Southview, Middle Bedford, Mineral, Capeville, Onley, Bethel-St. Matthew, Franktown- Johnsons, Hillcrest, Ebenezer in the Rappahannock District, Highland Springs, and Garys. He was a true itinerate minister as he served on six districts.

  John, at the age of 27, went to Ferrum High School. Prior to responding to his call, John and Louise were married on Oct. 16, 1943, in Madison Heights, Va., by the Rev. Ernest K. Emurian. They were blessed with four daughters, 11 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. The daughters are Sandra B. Green, Mary Lou Dickens, Susan B. Parker, and Cynthia B. Trower.

  The family remembers John as a quiet, strong, gifted individual. John was athletic, competitive and had a desire for others to come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. He was a gifted horseshoe player, fisherman, bowler, and woodworker. There are many trophies and other awards that acknowledge his love in these areas. In his latter days, he won an award in the Virginia Golden Olympics playing horseshoes.

  Upon hearing of John’s death, the Rev. James W. Ward, who retired as an active minister from the annual conference last year, commented, "I have been a minister because of John’s relationship with me."

  His funeral service was held in Bliley’s Funeral Home on Hull Street in Richmond at 10 a.m., Friday, Dec. 3, 2004, with Dr. John B. Peters and the Rev. Wm. Anthony Layman, superintendent of the Petersburg District, officiating. Following the service at Bliley’s, the Rev. Joseph T. Carson III officiated at the internment in Fort Hill Cemetery in Lynchburg, Va.

  Out of John’s call in the ordained ministry, his life was refocused so that he spent the rest of his life centering himself in offering others the good news in Jesus Christ. As a faithful, loyal, and growing disciple of his Lord, with an ever present smile, John lived in Christ, died in Christ, and was at peace.

— Rev. Wm. Anthony Layman, District Superintendent



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