Friday, April 26, 2013
One of the Central Savannah River Area's most prominent and longest-serving churchmen has completed a major chapter in his career and has a retirement event set for Sunday at 4 p.m.
The Rev. Nathaniel Irvin, senior pastor at Old Storm Branch Baptist Church, offered a few thoughts Friday afternoon on the road behind and ahead of him.
“Really, retiring from God's work is never, never something you would do, so ... we don't quit until God calls us home,” said the 84-year-old. “He gets all the glory and all the credit.”
He described his shift as one “from pastoring God's people to doing things for God's people that are not necessarily part of the local congregation.”
Irvin, also known from his years as a teacher and principal when local schools underwent integration, was baptized at Old Storm Branch in 1943, and became its pastor in 1980, following a 21-year stretch as pastor in Augusta at Greater Mount Canaan Baptist Church.
His career in education began in 1956, at Jefferson School (the facility now known as Jefferson Elementary), where Herman Fennell was principal. Irvin went on to serve at Langley-Bath-Clearwater High where Jerry Swing was principal.
Irvin expressed thanks for the influence of both men in his life.
“I was the chairman of the department of social studies in 1956, assistant high-school principal, counselor, student-council adviser and area adult-education adviser,” he said.
“I taught at a segregated school. I taught at an integrated school, and ... we integrated in 1971. At LBC, for nine years of integration, not one time did we have a racial problem ... I taught sociology, psychology and was a guidance counselor there, and I taught adult education at night. I taught blacks at night to begin with. When we integrated, then we taught blacks and whites together at night, but not one time in nine years did we have a racial slur that I heard of at LBC.”
“He's been busy all his life,” said Gene Gardner, a retired truck driver 10 years younger than Irvin.
“You're not going to find a better person, I don't care where you go. Plus, he's well-educated, too. He's a good person, and we're going to miss him down here.”
Irvin's longtime friends also include Frank Roberson, superintendent of public schools in Augusta-Richmond County. He chose the words “ageless” and “timeless” to describe Irvin.
Roberson added, “He's just extraordinary. ... He fits every single situation. Whatever the situation is, he can rise to a point to help you sort through it, and every person that I know knows this about him. You don't have to be a member of his church nor one of his former students. He's going to reach out to help you if he can.”