Local bishop dies
Published 10:28 pm Thursday, January 29, 2015
Suffolk parishioners are mourning a man who died Sunday after many years of ministry in the community.
Dwight L. Whitfield, 60, collapsed on stage at Tabernacle Christian Church after preaching an afternoon service there. He later died at the hospital of cardiac arrest.
He was a man who was “everything to everybody,” family member Sawana Goodman said.
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Goodman’s relationship with him exemplifies why she describes him as such. Technically, she is his niece. However, she was raised in the family as his sister, and she considered him a father figure. But she called him “Bishop.”
“It’s just the respect,” she said, noting that even her children called him Bishop. “I’m just so happy that God lent him to us for this period of time.”
Whitfield was the pastor at Rising St. James Pentecostal Holiness Church for 19 years, Goodman said. In May 2013, he left to start a new ministry, Total Transformation House of Praise. He was currently the presiding prelate of the Pentecostal Churches of Christ Holiness and founded the Pentecostal Churches of Christ Holiness School of Ministry.
Earlier in life, Whitfield worked for Planters Peanuts for 21 years as a machine operator. He also attended Rhema Bible Seminary and Roanoke Theological Seminary.
He had a servant’s heart even after so many years in the ministry, Goodman said.
“He wasn’t the type to want to be served; he wanted to serve,” she said. “He wasn’t the type to give a direction. He led by example.”
“You just had to watch and observe,” said her husband, Eric Goodman. “He was my mentor. He was my spiritual father.”
Whitfield got a lot of other young pastors started in the ministry, Eric Goodman noted.
He was also a man of many talents. He sang with the Mighty Heavenly Angels earlier in life and also played the bass guitar.
“Never limit yourself,” Sawana Goodman recalled him telling others many times.
But his real calling was preaching.
“His style of ministry was electrifying,” she said. “He made you feel like a different person.”
Fellow parishioner Stephanie Worrell also said many churchgoers considered Whitfield, as well as his wife, parental figures.
“They’re like our parents, even though some of us are older than them,” she said.
Sawana Goodman said her uncle would not want people to mourn for his fairly young death. His favorite Bible verse was Ecclesiastes 3:1 — “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
And among his last words during Sunday afternoon’s sermon were these: “God never makes a move without a plan.”
He is survived by his wife of 33 years, Glendell P. Whitfield, three daughters and many other family members.
A celebration of life service is set for Friday at 6 p.m. at Tabernacle Christian Church, with a funeral at the church at noon on Saturday.