In Memoriam - Rev. Dr. Daniel L. Garrett

These remembrances were delivered in worship on Sunday, May 2, 2021 by Kerry Campbell, Chair of Church Council.

The selection Mary just played was the Navy Hymn. Dan Garrett who we remember today was a proud four year Navy Veteran, a Lieutenant and Executive Officer on the USS Coconino in Vietnam. The first verse reads:

Eternal Father, strong to save,

Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,

Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep,

Its own appointed limits keep.

Oh hear us when we cry to Thee,

For those in peril on the sea!

The Rev. Dr. Daniel Lee Garrett who served Fincastle Charge from 1974-78 passed away a week ago today. A remembrance posted on his Facebook page describes a man:

whose sense of humor was a huge part of his personality… a man who never met a stranger. Dan was a Navy Lieutenant, a Vietnam veteran, a dedicated United Methodist minister, a serious theologian, a lively teacher, a golfer, a sports fan, an amateur (meaning one who loves doing something) singer, a Salvation Army volunteer, and a dedicated University of Virginia, Yale Divinity School, and Wesley Seminary alumnus. But more than any of these, Dan was a man who loved his wife Susan and his family dearly—and he was wholly loved by them.

Dan Garrett came here after an assignment at which he and the membership had not meshed. Fincastle welcomed a dynamic, enthusiastic, progressive young minister. For Dan, Fincastle provided an opportunity to work with people who were welcoming and cooperative, to demonstrate leadership and build confidence. This was a time of youthful joy with young sons David and Joshua, who was born during the Fincastle appointment and a decidedly non-traditional “minster’s wife,” the Vassar educated, outgoing Susan. While in Fincastle she and other young mothers were the driving force behind the founding of the Fincastle Pre-school. It was our pleasure as a Church, to sponsor Susan as a candidate for the ministry, helping to launch her own long and highly distinguished pastoral career.

Dan graduated from UVA in 1963. Following his Navy service he attended Yale Divinity School, and then served as a United Methodist minister and seminary professor in Virginia for the next 40 years. During that time he obtained a Doctorate in Ministry and sacramental Theology and taught United Methodist Studies at three Virginia seminaries. In retirement, he wrote five books on United Methodist ministry, practical theology, and history.

Our friend and fellow congregant, Rev. Bill Dawson was a particular friend of Dan’s. Bill, who regrets he cannot be here today, offered these words “a wonderful theologian and teacher. During my 13 years as pastor at Duncan Memorial UMC we had many opportunities to share stories about our individual experiences in ministry … I’m thankful that Dan was surrounded by his wife, children and grandchildren at the time of his passing.”

Dan was in Fincastle during difficult but exciting times. He and Susan, of course had the challenge of her taking classes and having two young children at home. During Dan’s time here we went from a three Church Charge to a one Church station, a most significant event but a major and controversial undertaking. Suffice it to say, not everyone thought we could successfully pull that off. We were soon to pay off our debt on the parsonage, again, a happy occasion but one that had involved much hard work and sacrifice. We apparently made strides in improving the pastor’s compensation, recognizing that having a young, dynamic seminary graduate with a family, required commensurate pay!

When much is being accomplished there can be friction. When a young, progressive, Yale graduate with a Vassar wife hits a small town in Western Virginia, there is the potential for a lot of friction.

Yet Dan loved Fincastle. I said he came from an appointment where he and the membership had “not meshed.” Actually, my father was chair of what was then called the “Pastor Parish” committee. He told me that when he called this new minister to tell him we were glad to have him in Fincastle, Dan got emotional and said it had been a long time since anyone had told him they were glad to have him.

In his book “Charges to Keep,” Dan republishes pastoral reports from all the appointments he served including 1975, 6 and 7 in Fincastle. He fondly notes our Church’s role in sponsoring Susan as a candidate for the ministry. He writes that: “[her] decision to … seek ordination has been based in large part upon her involvement in the life and work of the congregation in Fincastle… never underestimate the value of the … expressions of faithfulness you have made …. They have been sources of encouragement …. To share the work with you in Fincastle has been the greatest experience of our lives.

Dan’s family mentioned his sense of humor and it was wry and wickedly keen with a twinkle in his eye. In one report he wrote of the frustration arising from having a large number of members living nearby but apparently little involved with our Church. You will recall that as members we promise to support the Church with our prayers, our presence our gifts and our service. Of those members he noted: They offer nothing in service, they give no financial support, they never gather with the congregation. As to their vow to support the Church by their prayers, only God knows about that!” Rev. Dan Garrett was exactly the servant we needed from God at that time in our long history. He was one of the finest men it has ever been my privilege to know.

Again from his friend Rev. Bill Dawson:

Daniel Garrett has died under the reign of God in history. The completion of God’s reign was the hope and promise in which Daniel trusted and believed. Daniel now rests from his labors, his love and memory is forever with us. With thanksgiving we commend his spirit to God’s eternal keeping.”