by Robert Earl Houston
I want to share a few thoughts on the passing of the Rev. Dr. Clay Evans, pastor emeritus/founder of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church of Chicago, IL, at the age of 94.
1) Dr. Evans inspired generations of churches, pastors, and musicians from his one pulpit via the mediums that are common place now – albums, recordings, TV, Radio . . . He proved that these mediums were nothing to fear but to be embraced. As a result, Fellowship’s pulpit was much larger and influential and he proved that gospel music – with authentic, meaningful lyrics – will never go out of style.
2) Dr. Evans was a mover and shaker in Chicago and beyond. His influence as a supporter of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. was admirable. He was often in settings where he represented the largest church, with the largest choir, often times with the largest budget – but his humility was something to behold. He didn’t walk with entourages – but he walked with the dignity of a great man of God. Doors opened to him as a result.
3) Dr. Evans was part of a family musical legacy – his brother, Pharis, preached revivals in my home town of Portland, Oregon; his sister, Lou Della, was one of the best choral arrangers and directors in her generation; his nephew, Wayne, is a fixture at GMWA and been a friend of mine well over 30 years. All of them espoused gospel music and each of them wrote it, sang it, played it, and never showed an ounce of jealousy or professional rivalry. He was cool enough that if you saw him in the hallway and said hello, he was polite enough to stop and engage you in a brief conversation.
4) Dr. Evans was a visionary. He brought in Rev. Charles Jenkins to succeed him and brought a new dimension to his beloved Fellowship. Rev. Jenkins, without a doubt, loved his pastor and that kind of father and son relationship is a model for pastors and those who follow after or currently follow their pastors today. Dr. Evans was WAY AHEAD of his time in crossing denominational and religious boundaries that others would not cross.
5) Finally, Dr. Evans was the quiet general. I think he understood that being a loud general was meaningless if you had nothing to back it up with. Dr. Evans was a multiple threat way before his time – a singer, a pray-er, a preacher, a writer, an arranger, a teacher, a lecturer, and on and on.
Mercy Seat and I are praying for Pastor Jenkins, Pastor-Elect Sharpe, the Evans Family, and his beloved Fellowship family. May his memory live on in our hearts.