Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer
Webster’s Dictionary defines “hospitality” as “generous and friendly treatment of visitors and guests” and from the stories that I have heard this past weekend, the picture next to that definition should be of the late Rev. Jim Holderness.
This past Sunday, I was honored to represent the Union Presbyterian Seminary community at a special event to honor Jim at his last church, First Presbyterian Church in Wilmington. As I listened to the “New Life Band” practice for the 9am worship service, I wandered Gilmour Hall and read reflections about what members love most about this church. Hospitality, love, and grace were some of the more repeated characteristics. I can attest to this as I reflect on the warm welcome that my husband and I received from the minute we walked into the building.
I fully believe that characteristics like hospitality are innately within us, however they need to be nurtured so that they can come to full fruition. As Congregational Leaders, Ministers of Word and Sacrament, and Teaching and/or Ruling Elders we are called to help guide and nurture our parishioners and provide opportunities for growth. From everything I have heard, Rev. Jim Holderness did just that for all whom he met, truly embodying the teachings of Christ to love our neighbors.
In a video made especially for this weekend’s event, YouTube star Penn Holderness (Jim’s nephew) highlights what makes Jim special as he asks “Don’t you want to be like Jim?” and on Sunday evening, roughly 100 family members and friends of Jim gathered together around the table for dinner and celebration, showing how they are each like Jim in their own ways. Upon their arrival, each person was given a button that says “I Am Jim” in an effort to encourage each person to think about how they can continue embody the lessons that Jim taught in new ways. Laughter and excitement filled the room as all were welcomed in and God’s grace and love enveloped all as they remembered a man who was a living example of just that. There was no stranger in the room as “new family members” were quickly introduced and welcomed to the table.
Union Presbyterian Seminary is a community of congregational leaders in all stages of formation. As Rev. Haywood Holderness (Jim’s brother) mentioned at the dinner on Sunday evening, one of the greatest ways in which these future leaders will grow is through fellowship around the table. A space for community development and hospitality to occur is not only desirable, but a vital part of a congregational leader’s development. Family and friends of Rev. Jim Holderness, including First Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, are honoring all that Jim represented by giving to the fund for Union’s new dining room that will be named “The James B. Holderness Dining Room.” Our future students may not know who Jim was, but they will learn all that he represented as they gather in “Holderness” for their daily meals, studying, and fellowship events. All that they learn in this special space will help to form who they are as congregational leaders in the future.
In a world where differences can cause great collisions, we sometimes need reminders of how to be hospitable and examples of God’s love and grace. Rev. Jim Holderness, his family, his friends, and the members of First Presbyterian Church in Wilmington are just a few of many that offer that reminder and example of how to be hospitable, gracious, and loving. It has been an honor to get to know Jim through these people, and it is my hope and prayer that I am not the only person who learns a new way of living from the stories that they share.
For more than 45 years, the Rev. Dr. James (Jim) B. Holderness faithfully served the church of Jesus Christ as a pastor, mentor, leader, teacher, and friend. Born and raised in Tarboro, NC, Jim graduated from Woodberry Forest School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Union Theological Seminary in Virginia (now Union Presbyterian Seminary), where he earned both the Master of Divinity (1967) and Doctor of Ministry (1982) degrees.
He was ordained into ministry in the Presbyterian Church in October 1967 and began a distinguished pastoral career marked by his passion and gift for preaching and teaching the Bible, particularly the good news of the gospel. His ministry was also deeply influenced by his recognition of the importance of Christian community.
If you would like to donate to “The Holderness Dining Room”, please visit imjim.org.
First Presbyterian Church in Wimington, NC is located in Downtown Wilmington, only a few blocks from the river. Three of their four ministers are Union alums (Rev. Ernie Thompson, M. Div. 1988; Rev. Kathy Beach, M. Div. 1997; and Rev. Jay Atkinson, M. Div. 2014.) Visit http://www.firstonthird.org to learn more about their ministry!