Fifty-three years is a long term of service; yet Charles W. KELLEY at the time of this death, on November 1, 1939, had received his fifty-fourth appointment as minister in the Holston Conference. He was vigorously active until the end of his life. I do not know of any man that surpassed him in practical-hard-working-long-houred religious work. He was a builder of churches; he could not stand to see one in bad repair; he was jealous for the house of God. He always left a church in better condition than he found it; spiritually, physically and financially. He was a seeker of men: he sought men of all stations and conditions: he went after men of large affairs on equal footing, making no apologies for Christ, the Church, nor his mission. He brought some of the most influential men of Holston Conference into the Church, or led them to a fuller realization of their duty to their Church.
Memoirs are written on the hearts of people; and I am sure that there are hundreds who share the feeling of the writer as he uses a verse of Scripture to express his sentiment: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you!” Philippians-3.
I was just a child over thirty years ago, when I first learned to know and love Brother Charles W. KELLEY. He served Trinity Church of Chattanooga for four years on his first appointment to that church. During this time I gave my heart to God, and Brother KELLEY baptized me. He preached my father’s funeral. He became the pastor of Trinity Church on another occasion, and this pastorate was terminated when he entered the war service. When I entered the Conference on Trial, I was appointed to assist him at Magnolia Avenue Church in Knoxville. He was the officiating minister at my wedding, he was my friend. He stood by when sorrow seemed to blight my soul: he helped us when we lost our baby; he took us into his home when we were homesick and farthest away from home. He preached my wife’s father’s funeral; he was our pastor, we might say, when we were acting as pastor for other people. “I thank my God upon every remembrance of him.”
I have told this personal relationship with him to say: that service so intimate and so real and beneficial to one (even the least) has been multiplied many times, over the wide span of his service. Many have been influenced into the ministry; many have been comforted; many have been joined in holy wedlock, and many have found the Lord precious to their souls by the consecrated diligent work of this man of God. We used to sing a song very often at Magnolia Avenue Church in Knoxville; it comes to my memory at this moment. I am sure that this expresses his experience in his years of service better than my feeble words could do –
“Of Jesus’ love that sought me,
When I was lost in sin;
Of wondrous grace that brought me
Back to His fold again;
Of heights and depths of mercy,
Far deeper than the sea,
And higher than the heavens,
My theme shall ever be.
Sweeter as the years go by,
Richer, fuller, deeper,
Jesus’ love is sweeter,
Sweeter as the years go by.”
He was sick at the meeting of the Annual Conference and debated whether or not to retire from the active ministry; but after certain pressure was brought to bear on him by the officials of his Richlands Church, he agreed to return. Personally, I am glad he was active until: “He made his last move.”
Charles W. KELLEY was born in Giles County, Virginia, January 4, 1864. He received his elementary education in the schools of his county, after which he entered Emory and Henry College. He was received on Trial into the Holston Conference at Knoxville, Tennessee in 1886 while Bishop McTYEIRE was presiding. He was married to Miss Ella PROFFITT at Floyd, Virginia, October 1, 1889 and to this union two sons were born, namely, Charles Joseph KELLEY and Paul Sayers KELLEY.
He served fourteen churches as pastor in the Holston Conference; these churches were: East Wytheville, Floyd, Bland, Bramwell, Pulaski, Elk Garden, Centenary (Knoxville – twice), Trinity (Chattanooga – twice), Fountain City, Magnolia Avenue Grace, Bluefield-Virginia Church, Anderson Street, and Richlands. He was Presiding Elder of the Tazewell and Wytheville Districts and during the World War, he served over seas with the Y.M.C.A. In this “Y” service he was with the Thirty-seventh Division for thirteen months, and when this sailed for America, he remained at Le Mons, France, as Religious and Educational Director at the demobilization camp until our boys all sailed for home; he returned with the last contingent.
After his war service he returned to Chattanooga where he was elected General Secretary of the local Y.M.C.A., he held this position for one year. But one could not be content with any other position than that of the ministry, so, he returned to his first love.
His entire life was given to his work, his family and his home. He was not a man of varied interests; he did not go in nor out for sports. His family and his work were alike his vocation and his avocation; his creation and recreation. While he was pastor of Trinity Church in Chattanooga, his older son, Charles Joseph was accidentally killed by a street car. This blow left a scar upon his heart until his dying day.
He was a hard worker, and a hard preacher; unshamed of the Gospel, proud of his calling; devoted to his family; loyal to his friends and faithful to his task.
“Now the laborer’s task is o’er;
Now the battle day is past;
Now upon the farther short
Lands the voyager at last.
Father, in Thy gracious keeping,
Leave we now Thy servant sleeping.”
Memoir by T. Paul SIMS
Source: Methodist Episcopal Church. Official Journal of the Holston Annual Conference of the Methodist Church. 1940.