Orr ministered from First Baptist for more than 50 year

orrc07b.jpg (9370 bytes)Longtime First Baptist Church minister Charles Orr, 77, died Wednesday in Paris. Orr professed faith in Christ at age 9 at First Baptist Church, then served from that location for more than 50 years.

He was baptized at the church in 1939 by pastor H.H. Stembridge Jr.

While in college, he began working part-time at the local church filling the coal hopper of the furnace on Sunday mornings and working with the youth.

He studied teaching at Murray State University, graduating from there in the spring of 1951 with a bachelor’s degree and certification in secondary education.

He also attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, where he worked toward a master’s degree in religious education.

In January 1948, Orr began serving as First Baptist’s training union director. He became church clerk in 1950 and served in that capacity until 2003.

On June 1, 1951, Orr was hired as the church’s first minister of education. Years later Orr would credit the Rev. O.E. Turner, the church’s pastor at the time, as being the one the Lord used to motivate and encourage him.

As minister of education, he was in charge of the total education program of the church — Sunday school, discipleship training, missions, editing the weekly church newsletter, preparing lists of hospitalized church members, helping with visitation and teaching in Sunday school.

Orr continued to serve at the church through the pastorates of Carroll Owen, Thomas Walker and Jerry Massey.

He was a longtime fixture in First Baptist’s vacation Bible school, serving as its superintendent for 51 years. He also was ordained a deacon in the church in 1954.

Orr served in the Western District Baptist Association as business administrator for several years. He also was the association’s clerk for more than 30 years, the longest term since the association was founded in 1823.

In addition, he worked as the association’s training union director, also known as discipleship training director.

He was one-time state training union director and served on the journal committee for the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

In 1997, Orr’s service was recognized by the Baptist Sunday School Board. He and three other ministers received the Washburn-Piland-Taylor Director’s Award.

Awards were handed out in church, association, state and convention, with Orr receiving the church award.

In that same year, First Baptist opened its Family Life Center and honored Orr by naming the fellowship hall after him.

While Orr unofficially retired in 2000, he remained active in various ministries at the church and in the community. At his death he was minister of senior adults at the church.

Because of his lifelong connections with students from such Paris schools as Atkins-Porter and Grove, Orr was frequently asked to officiate at funerals of persons from many different denominations throughout the county.

Reprinted  from  the  PARIS   POST-INTELLIGENCER
Paris, Tennessee
May 18, 2007 Edition ~ Used by permission

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Orr’s death is ‘monumental’

Editorial by Jimmy Williams

First Baptist, community richer from his labors

The Rev. O.E. Turner, who was pastor of First Baptist Church here in the late 1940s, did a good day’s work when he suggested to young Charles Eaker Orr that he might be interested in a part-time job at the church after school and on Saturdays.

Orr, who was then a student at Grove High School, agreed to the proposal and began his duties at the church, firing the coal furnace and assisting with other menial tasks as needed.

Shortly thereafter, Orr graduated as valedictorian of the class of 1947 at Grove and enrolled at Murray State University, where he graduated in 1951.

His work at the church had already, however, become an all-consuming passion for him; he said he’d received a clear and unmistakable call to enter full-time Christian work. The rest is history.

Until precisely 6 p.m. Wednesday, when Charles Orr died, he had offered life-long service to God and his beloved First Baptist Church.

Even the most cursory perusal of Orr’s remarkable career reveals the story of a man’s dedication to the highest calling offered to a human being. To wit:

• An astounding 52 consecutive years as superintendent of summer vacation Bible schools at First Baptist, a record possibly unsurpassed in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention.

• Minister of Education at the church, under eight pastors and many interim pastors, for half a century.

• Church clerk for more than 53 years.

• Recording secretary for the church deacon body, 26 years.

• Church business administrator, 12 years.

• Minister of senior adults, since 2002.

• Church secretary for more than 50 years.

• Teacher of the Men’s Bible Class, since 1973, succeeding the late W.K. Porter.

The list could go on, but of higher note are the thousands of lives touched and spiritually influenced under Orr’s leadership and tutelage. Here, and indeed around the world, there are children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who have had lives enriched and edified by Charles Orr.

First Baptist Church was organized in 1833, and Charles Orr was a product of First Baptist Church. But in the past half-century, the church also has become a product of Charles Orr.

Among his most noted achievements during his long career has been First Baptist’s thriving and energetic Sunday school, his pride and joy. Numerous awards came his way over the years from the Tennessee Baptist Convention concerning meritorious Sunday school work.

Charles Orr’s service wasn’t confined to First Baptist Church. He has been a community fixture all his adult life and has probably spoken at more funerals than any clergyman in the history of the county.

Even numerous people of other denominations requested his services upon the death of loved ones. His deep knowledge and personal acquaintance with numerous Henry County families proved to be a great aid in his eloquent eulogies.

Perhaps two or three times a century, there appears on the scene in any small town a person with the stature of Charles Orr.

One Parisian, upon learning of his death, remarked that the loss to Henry County is “monumental.”

It is just about the only adjective adequate enough to tell the story.


Reprinted  from  the  PARIS   POST-INTELLIGENCER
Paris, Tennessee
May 18, 2007 Edition ~ Used by permission

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Charles Orr gave us all so much

Post Box by Richard Rankin Russell

To the editor:

When the news came that Charles Orr('47) had passed away, I simply could not believe it.

Charles was a fixture in the life of my family for as long as I can remember. We enjoyed seeing him throughout the year, but especially loved his Christmas visits when he brought us goodies he had often made himself.

My sister and I, my parents and my grandmother, Rachel Diggs, thought the world of him, as I know many others did. Charles was simply irrepressible, always full of hope and joy — qualities that sprang from his deep Christian faith.

When my mother suddenly passed away in 1996, Charles consoled me by giving me some audio tapes containing some uplifting sermons of his on suffering.

He delighted in the little things of life, too. I remember visiting him and my grandmother one time at Ridgecrest in North Carolina and he mentioned having just had a delicious chocolate malt like he had not had in years. Charles, like me, loved to eat.

Just recently, my wife and I were touched to receive a beautiful picture frame from Charles to hold a picture of our new baby son.

This gesture was typical of Charles — he gave and gave and gave. He may well have been the most unselfish person I have ever known.

Growing up in the small town of Paris has immeasurably enriched my life, particularly because people like Charles Orr — and Don Ramsey and Ruby Krider and Joanie Jones, among others — took such an interest in me and my intellectual and spiritual development.

Charles really did live a wonderful life, much like Frank Capra's George Bailey. I always wished that he could have had children of his own. Now I know how many he did have — generations upon generations of Parisians whose lives he indelibly touched.

Well done, good and faithful servant. Heaven rejoices at your entrance.

Richard Rankin Russell

(Editor's note: Dr. Richard Rankin Russell is associate professor of English at Baylor University in Waco.)

Reprinted  from  the  PARIS   POST-INTELLIGENCER
Paris, Tennessee
June 19, 2007 Edition ~ Used by permission

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