Friends, family, followers and church members joined together at Hilton Head Presbyterian Church on Saturday to mourn the death of Hilton Head Island’s senior pastor, the Rev. Benjamin Williams.
Called “the Rev” by many in his congregation, Williams served 42 years as the head of Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church and was known by many as a leader who united native islanders, non-islanders and black churches on Hilton Head Island.
He died Monday at age 78 in Hilton Head Hospital, the same hospital he served as chaplain for many years.
Patricia Young, church secretary at Mount Calvary, said there must have been between 650 to 700 people in attendance at the memorial service. She ran out of about 600 programs. She said she was glad it was a nice day and was happy about the turnout.
“I'm pressing my way through,” she said. “I'm going to do it the way he would have wanted it to be done.”
When asked how the community of churches will stay united in the wake of Williams’ death, Young said they will follow the example he set.
“We will continue to do the things he has taught us to do,” she said.
The service was led by the Rev. Dr. Deonia Simmons, who Young said stepped up to take Williams’ role after he fell ill, and included several sermons by other pastors Williams collaborated with on the island.
“Thank you for giving him the ability to love all man kind,” said the Rev. Arthur D. Sims Sr. of Fellowship Baptist Church of Pine Hills.
Melvin Murray said he had grown up in Mount Calvary, attending sermons with his grandmother, Annabelle. He recalled how the reverend presided over his wedding in 2003 and how dedicated Williams was to teaching others, going so far as visiting churches a few states away.
“A real pillar of this island is gone away,” Murray said.
Many children who were raised in Williams’ congregation were in attendance, including Terry Grant, the first child he baptized in Skull Creek. Grant was also part of the last couple for which Williams performed a wedding ceremony for at his home in June.
After songs, reflections, prayers, cheers, laughter and tears, Pastor Kenneth C. Doe closed the ceremony with an emotional sermon. He said Williams was on an assignment from God, which was why he was on Hilton Head Island and rallied the community.
“You ain't getting another one of him,” he said.