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In Memory of John Sylvester Johnson – A Giver of Love

John A. Sylvester-Johnson

John A. Sylvester-Johnson (62) beloved adult child of God, husband of Joy, father of Anders and Stephanie, Jon Kara and Andrew, grandfather of Eli, Emy, Jillian, and Peter, son of Peggy, brother to Suzanne, friend of Ray Deyerle, patient of Dr. John Priddy, friend, pastor, companion and mentor to many and master of “Bailey the Good Dog” died peacefully on the evening of Tuesday, May 3d at Roanoke Memorial Hospital following complications from a traumatic brain injury sustained December 27th, 2010.

John was born in Gadsden, Alabama  to Peggy and John Sylvester.  He grew up in Birmingham, Alabama where he later attended Sanford University. He served as a Missionary Journeyman in Hong Kong, teaching at Hong Kong Baptist College before attending Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY where he earned an MDiv degree and later completed a PhD in Patristics under the guidance of  Dr. Glenn Henson.

John loved the church.  He served as pastor of 23rd and Broadway Church in Louisville and Richboro Baptist in Staten Island and as a professional  interim pastor of Floyd Baptist, Mill Creek Baptist, Buena Vista Baptist, First Baptist Danville, and Mount Olivet Baptist churches.  He served as Spiritual Director for the ecumenical Southwest Virginia Emmaus Community.

John taught courses at both Virginia Western Community College and Bluefield College.  John was the first director of RAM House, the first Director of Outreach for St. John’s Episcopal Church, and the first Director of Programs for the Rescue Mission where he designed and implemented the Adult Learning Center, the Residential Recovery Program for Men and Women and the practice of Spiritual Formations.

At the time of his death John was a candidate for the Anglican priesthood in the Diocese of Southwest Virginia completing Anglican Studies at Virginia Theological Seminary. He also continued to serve as the Director of Programs at the Rescue Mission where he has been involved for 25 years.  John was a scholar as well as a teacher.  He loved books and was a life-long learner.

John was a man of great compassion and understanding who strove to unite a life of service and living consciously, rejoicingly, and reflectively in the presence of God. He aspired to love everyone whom he encountered as a child of God, especially those who felt they were unlovable.  John often found his greatest ministry in the ‘interruptions.’  He listened.

John held certain principles of faith that guided his life:

1. God created the world in order to create a family with which to share love.

2. A Christian is someone who believes “Jesus is Lord.”

3. Words have usage not meaning.

4. Where you stand determines what you see.

5. The questions you ask determine the answers you find.

6. There is one God.

7.  I am not God.

8. God’s unconditional love and grace are inclusive.

9. The Lord’s Table is open to all who hunger.

10. Jesus always stands with the poor.

John’s family is grateful for the many expressions of kindness we have received.  The prayers of many have supported and sustained us through these challenging times.

A celebration of John’s life and ministry among us will be held St John’s Episcopal Church on Sunday at 1:30.

The family suggests to those who wish to send a memorial gift that they make a donation to the Recovery Program of the Rescue Mission supporting the men and women who are working to break free from  the bondage of addiction and embrace, with God’s help, a new life in recovery.

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