Tommy Millirons, born April 29, 1964 and passed thru death to life April 22, 2015. He was baptized into Christ on April 20, 2014. Tommy was a hard worker and jack of many trades. There was very little he couldn’t repair. He loved riding long bike rides and was awakened everyday at 5am for his morning ride. He was generous and loyal friend. Above all Tommy loved the Lord and read the Scriptures daily.
Over the past five years I have lost three dear friends for three very different reasons. All were formerly homeless. All were thrust in to making difficult choices under difficult circumstances. All did the best with what they had. All were ushered in to my life and the lives of God’s people. All were truly loved and became an integral part of my church family. All experienced incredible victories along the way. All died knowing and believing they weren’t alone. But all died.
Over the past 19 years of loving and walking with many who spent much of their lives living through social displacement, I’ve learned a lot. They have not only been my friends and a part of my family, they have been my teachers.
Of all the lessons I’ve learned it’s that there is an inherent vulnerability in taking Jesus seriously when it comes to friendships of love and gracious hospitality. When a friend passes I am reminded that love and gracious hospitality is a life or death matter.
Doug Maness, born November 7, 1953 and passed thru death to life October 29, 2015. He was baptized into Christ March 31, 2013. Doug was a talented writer, avid reader and jovial rambler From authors like Wendell Berry, Herman Melville, Leo Tolstoy and William Shakespeare, Doug has read them all. He was a student of history, so much so he taught history for ten years. He loved hiking and camping. Doug was a good and thoughtful friend.
There is also a peculiar kind of fragility present in a friendship of love and gracious hospitality. It is fragile because recovery from addictions, life-reorientation, and healing from the trauma of social displacement is, at times, fragile. But this beautiful and hard, joyous and sorrowful friendship is understood when we are determined to enter into the suffering and find our way home, together. Home becomes more than four walls and food. It becomes a place where experiences are shared, new stories are written, memories are made, and friendships are found. Home is a place of inhabitation where life is oriented toward a life-giving narrative where restoration is made possible in every way.
In a society committed to filing each one of us away in categories of separation and belonging–race, class, etc–people can never be become projects to be fixed, problems to solve, or prospects to save. People must be seen as image-bearers of God who are to be welcomed just as they are and not as they should be. What I am learning is if I am willing to see them as God’s beloved, His love and gracious hospitality will become tangible to all of us as the reign of Christ breaks in.
I, along with my church family, have loved these friends in life and we have loved them in death. And though it is has been heartbreaking to see their lives come to such an abrupt and unexpected end, we are grateful to have loved them.
So we press in and pray onward. We have many neighbors living on the margins of our cities that are still alive. Some are thriving because of friendships of love and gracious hospitality. Others are still struggling to keep one foot in front of the other. Either way, God’s Spirit is out ahead of His Church calling us to join Him.
Lonnie Dove, born December 5, 1961 and passed thru death to life July 7, 2017. He loved the Lord and read the Scriptures daily. Lonnie enjoyed long walks. He was a big fan of R&B music, especially Luther Vandross. He was also a gifted poet. Finally, he was a faithful friend. Lonnie was a member of the Williamsburg Christian Church family.
Fred came to serve greater Williamsburg and WCC as lead pastor in October of 2010 and is grateful to be a part of the family. He is a husband, father, certified trauma professional, S.T.A.R. (strategies for trauma awareness & resilience) practitioner, community organizer, TEDx alum, founder of 3e Restoration, Inc. and co-owner of Philoxenia Culture LLC. He received his B.S. in Ministry/Bible at Amridge University and his Master’s of Religious Education in Missional Leadership from Rochester University. Currently he is a candidate for a Doctorate of Ministry in Contextual Theology in at Northern Seminary in Chicago. Fred has also served as an adjunct professor for Rochester University and Regent University where taught courses in philosophy, ethics, leadership, pastoral care, intro to Christianity, and ethnography. He has also served as a guest lecturer on the subjects of racialized cultural systems, poverty, and missiology at various universities, such as William & Mary and Oklahoma Christian University. Fred has authored on book (Racialized Cultural Systems, Social Displacement and Christian Hospitality) and several curriculum offerings, including The FloorPlan: Living Toward Restoration & Resilience.
Fred enjoys hanging out with his family anytime, anywhere. He is deeply grateful for how God graciously works through the Church in all her various forms, despite our brokenness. He is passionate about seeing the last, least, and lonely of every neighborhood, city and nation experience God’s in-breaking kingdom, and come to know Jesus as King. Oh, and his favorite season is Advent and Christmas.
Fred is a founding member of the board of directors for Virginia Racial Healing Institute, a member of the leadership team for Williamsburg's local chapter of Coming to the Table, and a member of Greater Williamsburg Trauma-Informed Community Network's Racial Trauma Committee and Training Committee.
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