In a life that spanned 79 years, Lance Morgan distinguished himself a charismatic non-judgmental pastor with an endearing sense of humour who always looked for the best in people as a humble servant of God.
He was never afraid to tell people about the humble part of his character, and wanted Shirley Bond to remind everybody of that when he asked her 12 years ago if she would agree to speak at his funeral
"Throughout those years he continually reminded me about the importance of saying wonderful things about him and he made me promise him I would be generous in my praise and explicit about his amazing qualities," said Bond, to roars of laughter from the crowd at Saturday's service to celebrate the Morgan's life.
"He warned me if I couldn't make that promise, I would be off the list. In particular, he wanted me to highlight the fact that he was an incredibly humble person, and I made that promise to Lance."
Since his death on Jan. 4, Bond said people have been sharing stories with her about Morgan, all of which carried a common theme. He cared about people, even strangers, and made time for them and made them feel special.
"Lance Morgan was a man who led with his heart -- he cried with us when we faced the loss of a loved one or when we heard the terrifying diagnosis of a doctor," said Bond.
A full house of about 600 gathered for his funeral service at First Baptist Church Saturday and several hundred more turned up at Vanier Hall to see the video broadcast.
Morgan's lighthearted approach to life and his ability to make people laugh made his Sunday sermons hugely popular during a 36-year career as senior pastor at the church. His mass appeal forced the church to construct a larger building in the 1980s and grew the congregation tenfold. Even after he retired in 1998, Morgan remained in high demand with his friends and acquaintances who wanted him and his unique blend of humour and compassion to conduct their weddings and funerals.
Bill Mains remembers the short, gregarious Jamaican pastor who welcomed him and his family into their church after he arrived in Prince George in 1976. It was the influence of Morgan and his wife Pat that convinced Mains to become involved as an interim pastor at the church.
"Lance was a very engaging creature and as well as having very good biblical knowledge, used all kinds of humorous and practical-like illustrations in his sermons, and we liked that," said Mains.
"Lance has taught us through example what it meant to be a Christian, to extend courtesy love and kindness to everyone he encountered, to not be judgmental and to see the very best in others. He was short in stature and yet I believe he was a giant in terms of his influence on many of us in this city. He will be greatly missed, but his contributions to the city and those he helped in so many ways will be remembered for a long time. "
Morgan, who lived in Prince George for 50 years, leaves behind his wife of 53 years, Pat, four children and seven grandchildren. In the final years of his life, Morgan suffered with kidney failure, but even in sickness he found a way to touch those around him and make them feel better about their lives.
"I never knew anyone who loved getting hooked up to dialysis because it was an opportunity to chat up strangers," said Vernaye Morgan, the wife of Morgan's son Kevin. "He was a people's pastor, loved by all."
Cal Malena, who took over from Morgan as senior pastor at the church, told the crowd of the difficulties Morgan faced as a one of few black people in the city when he and his wife arrived from Jamaica in 1962.
"He was an outsider when he came to Prince George but his sense of himself came from the fact he was a child of God, and everyone else was too," said Malena.
"He made First Baptist church the kind of place that welcomed everyone, no matter what their nationality or background or how messy or broken their lives were. His message was God loved them and everyone else should do the same. Both Lance and Pat opened their home to a vast number of people."
While there were moments that brought tears to the people there to honour his memory, like Tracey Aitken's stirring piano performance of His Eye is on the Sparrow, a song Morgan had asked her to sing at his funeral nine years ago, it far from a solemn service, probably just the way Morgan wanted it.
Fred McLeod, in his eulogy, told about pastor-in-training Dietrich Desmarais, who wanted to rehearse a baptism, and how Morgan as a joke asked the six-foot-four, 350-pound Keith Hall to come forward to allow Desmarais to practice his baptism with the immersion tank. Desmarais' refusal to baptize Hall was recorded on video by Morgan.
McLeod also told about the day Morgan forgot he was was wearing a wireless microphone when he went to use the church washroom.
"He was divinely flawed and because of that, we could connect with him," said McLeod.
"He was a man who was absolutely committed to Christ and to his work. He was the foundation, the rock you could go to."
Daughter-in-law Maureen, who flew in from Kenya with her husband Wayne, Morgan's oldest son, said what everybody else was thinking and inadvertently made a play on words that got the crowd laughing when she said:
"I'm going to miss Lance, a lot."