Goodbye to one friend, hello to another

Published 8:55 pm Saturday, December 6, 2014

Regular Saturday readers of this page will have noticed a change during the past couple of weeks, as we have said goodbye to one faithful columnist and welcomed another.

Pastor Chris Surber, who has led the flock at Cypress Chapel Christian Church for a little more than three years, has been a regular contributor to Saturday’s Opinion Page since January 2012. His columns about Christianity and social issues — and the intersection of the two — have been at once popular and controversial.

I remember the day Chris walked into my office and asked me if he could write a regular religious column for the Suffolk News-Herald. We talked for nearly two hours, getting to know one another and our respective ideas about theology.

Email newsletter signup

I was struck quickly by the booming voice that must have served him well as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. I was impressed with the breadth of his knowledge and the depth of his faith. And I figured that his desire to pen a weekly column would wane within a month or two, after he had exhausted the ideas he had brought to me. That’s no reflection on Chris, just a realistic representation of the rigors of writing a weekly column for a newspaper.

I turned out to be wrong about Chris’ ability to churn out copy. In addition to writing his weekly sermons, he provides columns for several Internet outlets, and he has never turned down a request to put together a column for the newspaper, sometimes even writing special pieces on deadline when I had an unexpected space to fill in an appropriate special section.

As an editor, I’ll miss that kind of relationship when Chris leaves with his family for Haiti in January. But even more, I will miss having him nearby. Chris and I have become close friends during the past couple of years, and his understanding ear and biblical guidance will be sorely missed.

As he leaves to plant a new ministry aimed at training Haitian pastors and doing evangelistic outreach, community projects and discipleship in the town of Montrouis, Haiti, I know that Suffolk’s loss will be Haiti’s gain. (To learn more about that ministry, visit

One great gift Chris has left for readers of the Suffolk News-Herald was his recruitment of the person who will take his place writing the newspaper’s religion column, and while I will miss Chris’ style, I could not be happier with the results of his efforts.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr., pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk, started his gig with us yesterday and plans to submit weekly columns hereafter. Thurman is a Suffolk native and returned a couple of years ago to the church where he met Jesus as a teenager.

It was a great reconnection for me, as Thurman was just a couple of years behind me in high school. I have been excited to renew his acquaintance, to get to know the story of his faith and to see his heart for Jesus. I hope you will similarly enjoy getting to know him.