“Championing the Future Through Faith” was the theme for the Eugene Waller Scholarship Prayer Breakfast, which was held at the Holiday Inn-University of Memphis last weekend. More than 300 guests gathered to pay homage to the late Rev. Eugene Waller, former pastor of Cummings Street Baptist Church, and the scholarship’s namesake.
The guests celebrated the legacy of Waller’s faith, scholarship, and service. The Rev. Bonnie Oliver-Brandon of Mt. Zion Baptist Church set the tone of the program by preparing the audience for the “auspicious, substantive, but brief” event.
Minister Barbara Tolbert followed with the devotion/invocation, followed by the occasion by Waller’s granddaughters, Atty. Kristi Faulkner and Kimberli Waller. They shared their grandfather’s devotion to scholarship and his conviction that all people should prepare for their calling in life.
Church deacon Henry Ford Jr. uplifted the audience with his version of “melodies from heaven.” Accompanied by Kevin Willis, Ford shared new and old favorites as well. The occasion was somewhat of a reunion.
Two special tributes highlighted the morning: one to the late Dr. David L. Boyle and another to the recipients of both the Eugene Waller Faithfulness Award and the Aurelia Waller Virtuous Woman Award.
The Missionary Society rolled out its tribute to the late Dr. Boyle for planning and supporting the prayer breakfast from its initiation until his passing. The Rev. Oliver-Brandon extolled Dr. Boyle’s scholarship, pastorships, and devotion to Waller and his principles. And Peggy Faulkner added that he was truly a friend and a “Testament of Faith.”
The Eugene Waller and Aurelia Waller awards were designed to spotlight individuals who exemplify Christian principles, personal integrity and loyalty to the customs and traditions that support the Cummings Street Baptist Church family.
Kenneth Waller, Waller’s son from Atlanta, Ga., presented Deacon Maynard Montgomery with the Eugene Waller Faithfulness Award. He spoke of Montgomery’s devotion to duty, call to service, and strength of character. A lifetime member of Cummings Street, he has served as Sunday School teacher, Bible School teacher, and currently serves on the deacon board.
The 2014 recipient of the Aurelia Waller Virtuous Woman Award was Vernice Jones. The 91-year-old member of the Missionary Society was lauded for her beauty, warmth, cooperation and longevity. She is soft-spoken, independent and active in church ministries. The Montgomery and Jones families joined the audience in congratulating all the recipients as they received the coveted awards.
The Rev. William Watson of the historic First Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn. reminded the audience that, “We’ve come this far by faith.” Mirroring the program’s theme, Watson shared several scriptures and scenarios proclaiming the value of faith in our personal, spiritual, and professional lives.
Ada Westbrooks, the Missionary Society president, was presented with red roses for exemplary leadership and fortitude. Beatrice Clark, the event chairperson, concluded the morning with words of gratitude and for the continued support of the scholarship program.
More than 75 students have benefited from The Eugene Waller Scholarship, thus launching their college careers. The event remains a monument to Waller’s belief in the value of excellence, the rewards of service, and the strength of faith.
The Rev. Gary L. Faulkner is senior pastor of Cummings Street Baptist Church.