The Rev. Harold McKeithen Jr. was a marvelous, good person.
His preaching was way above par; his ministering was sincere and evocative; and his pastoring was meaningful, heartwarming and nurturing. McKeithen was all you could expect from a man of the cloth.
Last Sunday was his last Sabbath, as he died surrounded by family and caregivers at age 84. McKeithen had been in the business of Presbyterian Church ministry for about 60 years and had served pastorates in West Virginia, Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia. He had been pastor of Hidenwood Presbyterian Church in Newport News for 22 years when he “retired.”
But honestly, McKeithen never retired. The Williamsburg Presbyterian Church was looking for an interim associate pastor in 2003, and he was still on the staff 15 years later as Covenant Pastor for Congregational Care when he passed away. His responsibility was the care of the church, ministering to those in need. And what a grand job he did.
McKeithen also wanted to continue to preach, and Williamsburg Presbyterian Church offered him that opportunity on an occasional basis. He loved to preach and did not mince words. Yet those same words were uttered with an abundance of grace; he wanted the congregation to understand what he truly believed.
As a member of Williamsburg Presbyterian Church, I had as unique connection with McKeithen, who received his undergraduate degree at Davidson College, just outside Charlotte, N.C., where I was born and reared. There was 10 years difference in our ages, but at the end of college, McKeithen knew he would be a minister and began associations with various ministers and churches in the Charlotte area. My grandfather knew those same churches and ministers and introduced me to a dozen or more of them. Therefore, years later, when McKeithen and I realized that connection, we enjoyed reminiscing about ministers and churches we both knew. No matter the subject of our meeting, we would always at some time, touch on one of those men or churches. It was delightful!
That was the man Harold McKeithen was: thoughtful, engaging, intellectual, spiritual and above all, a friend. McKeithen was a marvelous person and, unfortunately, we will not see the likes of him again.
James City County