On Saturday at noon, the Rev. Joseph Scrivner and the Rev. Keith Norman will be in the pulpit at First Baptist Church-Broad focused on duty while also contending with a deep family loss.
Scrivner is the son of the late Rev. Ralph White, longtime pastor of Bloomfield Full Gospel Baptist Church in South Memphis. Norman is the host-church pastor. Mr. White was his uncle through marriage.
A servant-oriented pastor, Mr. White was officiating a funeral when he passed away Saturday. He was 77.
The home-going celebration at the church at 2835 Broad will follow three other observances. A visitation is set for Thursday at N.J. Ford Funeral Home, 12 S. Parkway West. On Friday (May 31) at Bloomfield, located at 123 South Parkway West, visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., with a memorial service from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Norman will officiate the funeral service. Scrivner will deliver the eulogy.
“My father became pastor of Bloomfield Baptist Church back in 1985,” said Scrivner. “But even before he became a pastor, he formed a group called Memphis Christian Community Action. He always believed that the church was called to go out to serve people who were in need. Church was not just a place where you go to worship on Sunday.
“Of course, he went to Carver, and he fought to keep Carver High School from closing,” Scrivner said Wednesday evening. “His Hands Around 201 (Poplar) showed just how much he loved his community and the people of Memphis. He spoke for those who didn’t have much of a voice.
“He was concerned about environmental issues. When companies were coming into the community, he wanted to know what their waste process was like because it could be detrimental on the health of South Memphis residents.”
South Memphis, said Scrivner, was Mr. White’s extended family.
“(W)e appreciate the outpour of love and sympathy as we all mourn his loss.”
Norman framed a reflection this way:
“The idea of justice emanates from the heart of God, and when the idea of justice flows through the heart of a man, it touches those closest to him. Pastor Ralph White did not go halfway across the world but his evangelism and activism was ministered right here in his own community. His family and friends were touched by his life. It is a life we will all miss.”
His reflections were joined with hundreds more from members, friends, community supporters and elected officials.
“I remember Rev. Ralph White as a warrior for District 86,” said State Rep. Barbara Cooper. “During almost 50 years, my memories will be that he always worked diligently on school and community issues. I could always count on him. The church doors were always open for events, and he provided spiritual guidance and committed leadership.”
Mr. White, Cooper observed, was a community advocate unafraid to confront those in power when necessary.
Citizens for Better Service President Johnnie Mosley held his 26th Annual Awards for Excellence Program at Bloomfield in January.
“His church was always open to the community because he wanted to always help any way he could. And, of course, Pastor was the ‘Mayor of South Memphis,’” Moseley said.
“Everything that went on in that community, he knew about. He grew up right there in South Memphis. I don’t think anyone was surprised that he became a pastor in that same community.”
Expressions of sympathy, photos, videos and special messages to his wife, Janet White, and their children have flooded social media.
Mr. White, one of ten children, worked in sales and management for Sears in Raleigh Springs Mall before accepting a call to pastor.
He organized prayer gatherings around the jail at 201 Poplar Ave. and often led a group of his members walking the streets at 2 a.m. to witness to prostitutes and drug dealers. For the past 17 years, Mr. White organized the popular fishing that provided young people the opportunity to learn how to fish from older men and women.
He was concerned about the crime that plagued South Memphis.
“We must do better individually, so we can be better together, said Mr. White in the wake of the fatal, drive-by shooting of a 10-year-old boy last year.
“It’s time that we actually go in these communities to see what their needs are, and what we can do to help. Remember, we’re all in this fight together.”