Despite having retired from the pulpit in 1998, Rev. Lance Morgan was still deeply connected to First Baptist Church.
"He's the grandfather, he's the patriarch of our community," said associate pastor Kimi Orton. "And so people think of this as his church and people still ask me 'Oh, is that Lance Morgan's church?'"
Morgan, who effectively built the house of worship at Fifth Avenue and Gillett Street, died Jan. 4 at the age of 79. He is survived by his wife Pat, their four children and grandchildren.
The memorial service for Morgan will be held on Jan. 19 at 11:30 a.m. at the First Baptist Church - the place where his Prince George journey began.
"I expect that his service will be a celebration of a life well lived," said Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond, who has shared a close family connection to the Morgans for more than 40 years. "I think there will be many there who share the same sentiments that [my husband] Bill and I do."
The Jamaican-born pastor came to the city with his wife in 1962 from Brantford, Ont., to take over the Central Baptist Church.
The city inspector was about to condemn the old church due to the use of sawdust building blocks and the Baptist Union had asked the small congregation to disband.
Morgan convinced the Baptist Union to assume the mortgage of the condemned church and grant one-third of the money to build the new one on the basis the congregation would commit the remaining funds of the capital costs.
On Easter Sunday 1964, dedication services were held for the new First Baptist Church and it continued to grow.
Orton, who has been a member of the church for the past 17 years, said that as a church leader Morgan was "accepting, inclusive, friendly, just absolutely lovable." That warmth was what led many residents, regardless of what denomination they practiced, to think of him as their community pastor.
Bond described Lance and Pat as a rare, selfless and strong team and that their home was also always open to anyone who needed help.
"He and his wife, they were incredible," Orton said. "People would show up and he would just be bringing home people and she would just figure out a way to love them and feed them and take care of them. And then off he would go to somewhere else and bring home more people."
And everyone who came into their home was treated as family, especially on the Friday nights where Morgan presided as chief storyteller in a tent city created out of bed sheets in his living room.
"It didn't matter if you were an adult or a child, if you came to visit on Friday night, you got in the tent," Bond laughed.
Morgan was named the 1984 Citizen of the Year and in 1988, he was given city council's highest honour and bestowed Freedom of the City.
"The honour reflects the unanimous decision of council to recognize the exceptional contributions of a community member," explained Mayor Shari Green, noting during Monday night's council meeting that the city flag had been lowered to half-mast in recognition of Morgan's passing. "We are indeed fortunate that Pastor Morgan made Prince George his home and all members of council join me in expressing our condolences to his wife Pat."
Morgan served as the city's honorary chaplain in 2001 was singled out by the Baptist Union of Western Canada for his 36 years of service, the longest period of service for a pastor.
"He was a close friend to several mayors and councillors, presided over many swearing-in ceremonies, often called upon to share a blessing or prayer at civic events," recalled Green.
But more special than those accomplishments, Morgan also shared personal connections with many local residents.
"Lance and his wife Pat have been a part of every major milestone in our family's lives," said Bond, who had Morgan there for the birth and dedication of her children, her marriage, her daughters' weddings and the funerals of her parents.
"What's really amazing is that we're not the only family in our community for whom that is true. There are many families who he was linked to through all of those major good and tough times in families," Bond. "I feel overwhelming sadness but I'm also unbelievably grateful that he made the difference that he did in our lives."