Pastors' Memoirs

William Neil Raney Sr., 1918 – 2007

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 Bill was born Feb. 24, 1918, in Drayton, N. D. He was the fifth of seven children. His father had migrated from Canada to the Red River Valley looking for fertile soil with no rocks. Here he homesteaded hundreds of acres of land still being farmed by his family. His mother was the first white child born in the Dakota Territory. The winters in North Dakota were severe, and his father took his young family to the Santa Clara Valley in California, where once again he began to acquire land. So, Bill and his four brothers and two sisters grew up sharing their summers in California and North Dakota.
 Bill brought his parents east on a trip when he was in junior college and decided to transfer to the University of Richmond where he graduated with a B.S. degree.
 When he entered Candler Theological School in Georgia he accepted a student pastorate in Flowery Branch, Ga. He loved his experience there but the following year he transferred to Union Theological Seminary in Richmond. Graduation took place in 1945. During his seminary time he again had a student pastorate at Sherbourne Avenue after which he served as the full-time pastor for two years. In 1946 he married Marjorie Jenning, his wife of 62 years.
 Once he was asked by a professor at Union why the Raneys don’t do interdenominational work. After all he was a Methodist, Marg was a Baptist and both of them were in a Presbyterian school.
 Dr. Jack Engle appointed them to the Spotsylvania Circuit of five churches. This was the first time a group ministry was tried in Virginia. With the help of two other pastors on Sundays, Hillcrest and Tabernacle became stations in two years. The charge covered 365 square miles. While there, Bill was asked to reopen Locust Grove, a church closed many years before. Bill found great joy in seeing all of these things happen in due time to the glory of our God.
 Scott Memorial at Oceana was the next appointment. Bill felt a great challenge to minister to the vacationers at the beach, so the first drive-in church in Virginia was born. The first summer all 50 states had been represented by people worshiping in their cars often in bathing suits. On Sunday afternoon he began services at Thalia in a fire station. One Sunday a large black snake came swinging from the rafters but, in spite of this, eventually, Thalia Methodist was born; then the Raney tribe went to Chestnut Hill in Lynchburg. He went on to serve Duncan Memorial in Berryville, where Sen. Harry Byrd was known to the parsonage children as Uncle Apple Byrd. Bill once again saw an opportunity to start another church as pastor of Wesley Church in Martinsville. Eventually, Chatham Heights was born to the glory of God. Bill loved the students of nearby Washington & Lee University and Virginia Military Institute who came to Trinity Church in Lexington. Then, came Christ Church, Richmond; Herndon in Herndon, Va.; Trinity in Smithfield and Skipwith in Richmond, after which he retired. He is survived by his wife, Marg, one daughter, Leslie Raney Dawley, and one son, C. Craig Raney. William Neil Raney, Jr. and Martha Raney Moore preceded him in death.
 Bill is sorely missed and his wonderful ever present smile cannot be forgotten. “And I thank Christ Jesus, our Lord, in that he counted me faithful putting me into the ministry.” 1 Timothy 1:12
— Marjorie J. Raney


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