Washington column for June 6

A special man in many ways

This week’s Washington column is dedicated to Pastor Phil Bailey, who has been the pastor of the Washington Baptist Church for 17 years. His last day is June 30.

There are special people who come in and touch our lives, like precious jewels among life’s treasures. They shine on us and leave a lasting impression, an unique mark on our heart, a gift without measure.

Pastor Phil Bailey and wife Karyl pose outside Washington Baptist Church, their longtime home. Bailey’s last day will be Sunday, June 30. Photo by Jan Clatterbuck.
Pastor Phil Bailey and wife Karyl pose outside Washington Baptist Church, their longtime home. Bailey’s last day will be Sunday, June 30. Photo by Jan Clatterbuck.

One of the most valuable principles a person may ever learn in their lifetime is that every person that is in their life, is there for a reason. Some people are in your life to be your genuine friend, and to help you become the best you possible.

Some people are in your life to teach you. Sometimes we are full of gifts and talents that we have no clue are inside of us. Some are put in our lives to help us to see these gifts out of our hearts and to develop them.

One of those special people is Pastor Phil Bailey. He has touched so many lives in so many ways.

He was there to assist people through difficult times, to provide people with guidance and support, to aid them physically, emotionally or spiritually. He was a godsend in many eyes.

After 40 years of pastoral ministry, Pastor Phil Bailey is retiring to Bedford, Va., near his family in Lynchburg. His last day will be Sunday, June 30.

Pastor Bailey describes his time in Rappahannock is his own words:

A brief testimony to our appreciation to God for allowing us to live and minister in this area was hard to write because there is so much good I would like to say. We will forever carry you all in our hearts and prayers.

I will never forget my first Sunday here in Rappahannock County and in the town of Washington, Va. It was Jan. 7, 1996 and we had three feet of snow on the ground. Ellen Mustoe and I (we both lived in town) trudged up to Trinity Episcopal Church where only Bill and Betty Bunting, along with Rev. Hobson, were able to attend and worship. It was a beautiful sunny day and I remember thinking to myself how much like a Currier and Ives picture everything looked. It was simply enchanting.

Karyl and I have loved living in Rappahannock County and will miss the beauty of this area along with our many wonderful friends. When family or distant friends would come to visit, our greatest pleasure was to drive them from town on Harris Hollow Road and make the loop back on Gid Brown Hollow Road to U.S. 211. The views of the mountains, streams and fields with cows grazing are breathtaking. Of course, on leaving town, we would delightfully point out the world famous Inn at Little Washington. But nothing compares in our stay here for 17 years to the friendliness of the people of this area.

Our church family at Washington Baptist has been so good to us and they are truly our family in the Lord. We have also been blessed with a larger Christian community, especially through the annual Ecumenical Lenten Services which we hosted at our church. We have enjoyed those occasions so much. People in general here in Rappahannock County have been so giving and caring. I don’t know of any other area that has displayed such a volunteer spirit among its people as those living here. Karyl and I will miss you all. I hope many of you will be able to visit us there. May God bless you all!

From Sam Snead, a longtime church member:

He has been our pastor and friend for over 17 years – the longest serving pastor in our church history. It is hard to imagine the church without Phil and Karyl in it. We have taken them for granted so long. He has virtually been a “do-it-all” pastor – everything from visitations, missions, funerals, weddings, church business, community service, youth ministry. You name it he did it. Phil has been outstanding in all areas of pastoral care.

The one thing that stands out with me about Phil Bailey is his love for people. He lives his faith and wears his heart on his sleeve! He has a genuine interest in people and they respond to him. He ranks at the top of my list in terms of spiritual leaders. The Bible teaches us that the greatest command of God is that we honor and love him and that we love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Phil lives by those commands and sets an example for others to do the same.

I know that our church will go through a long grieving process as Phil and Karyl leave us. It will be hard to fill his shoes. I know the whole church wants to wish them well in their retirement. They will be moving to Bedford County. I am grateful they are not moving too far away, so we can still call on them from time to time. I know that Phil has had some health issues and hasn’t had the energy level he once had. I think in his mind he thinks it is time to step down and allow new leadership to come in our church. I want to tell them it’s all right: We will take you just the way you are!

I know I speak for all of our church when I say we wish you Godspeed and all his blessings as you enter this new phase in your life. We will miss you and continue to love you no matter where you go.

Pastor Jon Heddleston from Reynolds Memorial Baptist Church:

Phil Bailey has, by his Christ-like concern for others, made his name a household word among many Rappahannock residents. Phil is a humble servant of our most-high God who has distinguished his ministry by meeting people where they are and prayerfully, patiently meeting both spiritual and physical needs. Phil is equally at home with elementary school children as he is with senior adults. He has been, to me, a great mentor and constant friend. We love him and wish him every blessing in retirement.

In the church we frequently talk about the relationship between pastor and people as one of “family” and, especially when pastoral relationships are long, affection runs deep between a congregation and the pastor who has been with them during times of crisis and of joy. It can be difficult for church members to understand that the relationship must change significantly when a pastor leaves his or her position, and that they must share their faith journey with another pastor whom God has called to fill that role.

There will be a reception from 1 to 4 p.m. June 30 at the Washington Baptist Church. This will be an special occasion to stop by and help to celebrate Pastor Bailey’s ministry among us and to bid him and his wife farewell.

It is said that friendship is clairvoyant. You both are a unique mark on our heart, a gift without measure. Thank you Pastor Bailey and Karyl for being a part of our community. We will miss you both.