Pastors' Memoirs

William Braxton Epps, 1917 – 2006

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"Do not let your hearts be troubled."

William Braxton Epps — ‘Bill’ to his fellow pastors and Braxton to his family; soldier, husband, father, grandfather, brother, friend, pastor, servant of the Lord. He touched many lives in different ways, at different times. He brought us hope, peace, and love when our hearts were troubled.

The Rev. William Braxton Epps, retired, died Dec. 19, 2006. He began his ministerial career in 1945 on the Philadelphia Charge. He went on to serve North Mathews, Powhatan, Phenix, Albemarle, King George, Shacklefords, North Patrick, Keysville, Fredericksburg, and Brucetown. He went on incapacity leave in 1980 and then retired in 1985. Survivors include his wife, Doris C. Epps, two daughters, Gail and Dana, son-in-law Randy, and three grandchildren, Jeremy, Justin and Crystal Allman.

A kind man, he started his career on the Philadelphia Charge, where he won the heart of Doris. The two of them took off on a life journey of 58 years that gave each of them a chance to minister to others in their own way, with their own gifts.

Being a pastor’s family is unique, sometimes difficult, with interrupted dinners or holiday celebrations or vacations, and the phone ringing out in the night, sending the pastor (Daddy) out again. When the time came to help his own children say goodbye to a beloved parakeet, Braxton delivered a eulogy, prayed an eloquent prayer, and led them in the only hymn they knew — O Come All Ye Faithful — over a bird wrapped in a handkerchief, and the bowed heads of two little barefoot girls in the heat of the summer. Braxton blessed "Budgie" and sent him on to his reward with all the proper seriousness of the occasion. That is the kind of pastor and father William Braxton Epps was.

Braxton lived what he preached. He was a witness to all how to be a member of God’s family and treat one’s brothers and sisters in Christ. He was not one to say a cross word, or anything negative about anybody. He was a person who never met a stranger, and who brought out the best in those he met. His laugh was goofy and infectious. His sweet unassuming voice wafted over each sanctuary great and small, and he led every hymn as if it was his favorite. While Braxton was a gifted pastor, his most special gift was his beautiful, meaningful, prayers. Even as his memory started to fade in the slow goodbye at the end of his life here, the ability to pray with power and wonder continued to be a part of his life and his ministry to those around him.

Braxton may have never mastered the two-step or an elegant waltz, but he certainly did master the dance of life, and if we follow his lead, we will encounter the living Christ. We will encounter salvation. We will understand why he chose to devote his life to the telling and the singing of the old, old story.

Braxton’s life had its challenges, but he met them with dignity and a trust that in truth, all is in God’s hands. He knew God’s dwelling places. He rested there from time to time. Now he dwells there.

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? . . . Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." Amen.

— Gail Epps




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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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