In today’s mail I received an issue of Preacher Talk. It’s a small occasional publication that’s been around for a long time (this issue says Vol. 31, No. 2). It’s aimed, obviously at preachers and always has several short, interesting, pithy articles and observations. On page three is always an article all set up to be used in a church bulletin. The editor and sole writer is Cecil May, Jr., who is the Dean Emeritus and Professor, College of Biblical Studies at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama.
I found the timing of the arrival of this publication striking. At the time it was mailed, the Preacher could not have known that he would be saying goodbye to the Lady.
Winnie May passed away on the morning of July 17, 2016. For 62 years it was the Preacher and the Lady. You seldom saw one without the other. Although some in my family knew them when Cecil preached in Vicksburg, Mississippi, I didn’t meet them until the Spring of 1981. That’s when I entered Magnolia Bible College at age 17. They had just arrived to Kosciusko so that he could be President of the college.
So my relationship with them was one of School Administrator to Student, but it never felt that way. Abundant with kindness, I always felt that they were there for me if I needed them. Their children became my friends. Cecil III’s last semester was my first semester. Roslyn and Richard were still in high school. I only met Betty years later. There was something about the May family that made me feel like I was a part of their family. For a teenage boy away from home for the first time, that was a good feeling. It still is.
I’m sure there are many students at colleges and universities who never get to know their administrators on a personal level. But I knew the Preacher and the Lady well, and even worked for the college for a few years after graduation. Winnie was a strong lady with an unyielding loyalty to the Preacher. I don’t know how many church bulletins came through the mail at Magnolia Bible College, but she looked at every one and could pretty much tell you who was preaching in any church in Mississippi and how it seemed they were doing. It was one of the ways she partnered with Cecil in his influential work.
Winnie had strong opinions and viewpoints and never minded sharing them with you. Even so, I never knew her to be unkind if she disagreed with you. This was the way of the Preacher and the Lady … committed, convicted, and kind.
On the day that my son died, I received a message from Cecil that said how sorry they were. That he and Winnie had cried and then prayed for us.
I haven’t seen her in several years, but being friends with her children I knew her health was declining. I don’t know what the Preacher will do now that the chair where the Lady sat is empty. He’s a man of faith and I know he will lean on His Lord… but a broken heart will now be a part of that relationship.
There was a memorial service in Montgomery yesterday which was very encouraging to the family. The funeral will be in Fulton, Mississippi Thursday. I pray for my friends as they say goodbye to their mother and wife. They are going to miss her strong presence in their family.
And I wonder what the next issue of Preacher Talk will look like. I hope it’s all about Winnie.
Thanks for reading, JD