“Thank God we had Rev. Varnado.”
Speaker after speaker expressed their appreciation for the guidance and leadership of local pastor, Dr. Edward L. Varnado, as he retires after more than 50 years in ministry.
Macedonia Baptist Church lauded Dr. Varnado during a recent Lifetime Achievement Celebration. He’s led the church since October 24, 1973 when it merged with his previous spiritual home, Truevine Missionary Baptist Church, to become one.
Held at the North area church, the celebration featured remarks from several members of the local faith-based community, all of whom shared fond memories of how Dr. Varnado “poured into them,” touching their lives and that of others.
Rev. Tilman Wade, Jr. recalled as a young man the times that Rev. Varnado visited his father’s church, First Baptist Tabernacle. Rev. Varnado was ordained there in 1970. He himself went on to ordain other ministers over the years and send them into the community to spread the gospel.
He’s also been active with the First Northern District Association’s Congress of Christian Education, worked to “lead children up” as President of the Del Paso Elementary School District and served as a chaplain for the Sacramento Police Department.
Rev. Wade called Varnado an “awesome man of God” who has an “unusual anointing.”
“We live in a time where people don’t seek anointings anymore. We just want to (put) people up in front of the church to be cute and funny, but we need more people like Rev. Varnado that come to church with an anointing and ready to preach, teach and pontificate the word of God.”
Rev. Ronnie Howard, who also followed his father into the ministry at Trinity Missionary Baptist Church, thanked Varnado for the brief time he served Trinity as an assistant pastor. Rev. Howard said he watched and learned from the elder man, and it did “his heart good” to hear him sing and preach during services.
“I said, ‘one day if the Lord blesses me, I hope to get a little bit of that,’” Rev. Howard shared.
“One thing about Pastor Varnado, he’s real. That’s what we need more of today. We need down home country preachers,” he continued.
In Dr. Varnado’s absence, Macedonia’s deacons, led by Tommie K. Hall, are leading in his stead. Vince Mack, another long-time deacon spoke during the celebration, touching on the 30 plus years he served alongside Dr. Varnado.
“We’ve really been through trying times here. We’ve had trials and tribulations, we’ve had ups and downs, but we went on and we’re here,” Mack said of Varnado’s resilience and ability to lead through adversity.
“It’s a gift to be able to preach, teach and pastor and Pastor Varnado has used that to the best of his ability in order to grow us into what we are now,” he shared.
City Councilmember Allen Warren, whose district includes Macedonia, presented the Varnados with a special resolution. For Warren, the gesture was more than a mere formality. The local developer was baptized by Rev. Varnado in 1978 and credited him with helping him through the difficult time he experienced after his father was killed by a drunk driver.
“I was going into adolescence, trying to find myself and this church was a guiding force for me,” Warren shared.
With his “first lady” seated beside him for the celebration, participants also took the opportunity to thank Evelyn Varnado for providing support to her husband and the women of the church throughout the years. Rev. Wade recalls First Lady Varnado, a former nurse, looking out for him when he was hospitalized with appendicitis as a child. Others called her the “perfect example of a Proverbs 31 woman.”
Former first lady Mary C. Hights was humorous and reverent in her remarks, recounting the “sweet fellowship” she and the Varnados have shared. She spoke of them travelling together to ministers and minister’s wives conferences across the country. The Varnados were also there for her, she said, when her husband, the late Rev. William E. Hights, was ill and later passed away.
She offered words of encouragement to them, as they did to her then, imploring them to remember that God’s grace is sufficient.
“As a retired pastor and wife you will have many challenges…Just remember that God is God enough,” she shared.
The celebration’s guest speaker was Center of Praise Ministries’ Bishop Parnell Lovelace. Bishop Lovelace urged Rev. Varnado’s congregation to honor the work he and his wife have done and the years they’ve dedicated to the church.
“We cannot just send him out into the pasture,” Bishop Lovelace said.
“If you’re going to walk in the blessings and the provisions of God, make sure you take care of this man and this woman as long as they live,” he said to the Macedonia congregation.
“Make sure they don’t want for anything.”
By Genoa Barrow | Senior Staff Writer
Video by Russell Stiger Jr.