Clarence Vernie Russell Sr.

Published 8:37 pm Thursday, July 13, 2017

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” Isaiah 52:7

Our most beloved husband, father, bishop, prophet and pastor, Bishop Clarence Vernie Russell Sr. stepped out of time and walked into eternity as he was surrounded by his nurturing and loving bride and his oldest daughter on Saturday, July 8, 2017.

The son of the late Clarence Bernard and Gertrude S. Russell, Bishop Russell was born on July 15, 1933, and was a native of Princess Anne County. He became the apple of his mother’s eye and the pride of his father’s heart.

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After graduating from Princess Anne County Training School, he received a Bachelor of Science degree from Norfolk State College (now University) and Bachelor of Divinity and Doctor of Divinity degrees from Lynchburg Theology United Christian College. He served honorably and with high distinctions our country as a soldier in the Army of the United States of America. Bishop Russell retired as a civil servant employee as the equal opportunity employer officer. In this position, he received training from the United State Navy that prepared him to instruct federal employees on equality in the work force. One of his most memorable lectures was “Never Underestimate the Power of Women.” He facilitated Women Assertive Training, organized The National Organization of Women, Federally Employed Women and supported the Welfare Department of Suffolk. He trained in recruiting engineers for the Navy and trained women in the areas where men dominated male occupations.

On May 16, 1953, he married the love of his life, his princess and queen, the late Leonia Jackson Russell. They were the parents of five children whom the Lord has blessed to excel tremendously. Their children are Bishop Clarence Vernie Russell Jr., the pastor of Mount Carmel Baptist in Norfolk and Union Baptist Church of Suffolk, and is the Presiding Prelate of the Faith In Action Ministries International. Their second son, Forrest A. Russell, is retired from Haynes Furniture Company and a deacon at Union Baptist Church. After almost 10 years with two sons, the Lord blessed them with twin daughters: Leonia Russell Outland, a middle school teacher in Fairfax, and Naomi Russell Epps, a principal in Chesapeake. Not many years after, they were blessed to receive as their own son, Torrence Russell, who is a teacher in the Portsmouth Public Schools.

On Feb. 14, 2014, Bishop was richly blessed to join in holy matrimony with his sweetheart, Lady Gladys Walker Russell. Their June wedding ceremony was celebrated in elegance and grace. Together, they shared a marvelous witness in the church and in the greater community. As a couple, they made their home in Virginia Beach and joined their families as one.

As a scholar and consummate cleric, Bishop Russell distinguished himself first as a world-class Christian teacher, preacher and pastor. Before the retirement of Bishop Russell as the senior pastor of Union Missionary Baptist Church in the city of Suffolk after 54 years of stellar service and kingdom ministry, It was his pride and joy to divinely name his successor and to elevate his son, Bishop C. Vernie Russell Jr. as pastor. Bishop Russell’s sincere commitment to enhancing the kingdom of God on earth is evident in the loyal attention to the daily activities and services of the congregation and the greater community. As a consummate cleric, Bishop distinguished himself first as a world-class Christian, teacher, preacher and pastor.

In 1964, Bishop Russell came to Union Baptist after pastoring his home church, New Light Full Gospel Baptist Church, formerly New Light Baptist Church. A new edifice was built in 1968 that provided for relevant ministry and dynamic worship. The Lord gave Bishop Russell a Habakkuk 2:2-3 vision in 2000 to relocate the church because the current location was landlocked. Bishop Russell purchased 10 acres situated on Nansemond Parkway. Construction commenced for the new edifice in December 2008, and by November 2010 the new Union Baptist was ready for worship. The $4 million project consisted of a state-of-the-art, 1,500-seat sanctuary, 27 classrooms, banquet hall with adjoining restrooms and a double garage attached to the church for access into the Bishop’s study.

Under Bishop Russell’s leadership, the Missionary Society, Junior Usher Board, Sisterhood, Youth Assembly, Gospel and Memorial Choirs and Hospitality Fellowships were organized. Female trustees were appointed and the doors opened to accommodate STOP, a federally funded program. The food ministry, through Operation Blessing, also commenced. Through the food ministry, he personally assists with feeding the hungry. This has eased the burdens felt by many families, especially senior citizens and others during these times of economic depression.

Bishop Russell’s favorite activity is helping the members of Union Baptist Missionary Church and the community. He is often involved in visiting the sick and the elderly. He helps members to find employment and encourages people to complete educational degrees.

Bishop Russell, with God’s help, has broken all financial, numerical and spiritual records of the church. His spiritual leadership has caused generations to accept Christ and to be baptized in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His knowledge and usage of the scriptures were most inspiring and empowering to his ministers and members. He always encouraged and engaged younger generation of pastors and at the same time keep strong relationship with his peers and elders in the faith. This was evident in his membership and participation in the Sharon Missionary Association, Tidewater Metro Baptist Ministers’ Conference, National Baptist Convention USA, INC and among greater Hampton Roads’ pastors and churches.

Bishop Russell was a mentor to thousands of young ministers, students and co-workers. He never met a person he could not befriend. His generous heart extended beyond giving you his time, but he also offered you his spiritual guidance and professional counsel. He was preceded in death by his brothers Francis Russell and Harvey Russell and his only sister, Audrey Russell Patrick.

He leaves to cherish his memory and foster his legacy, his beloved and faithful wife and his combined family: Leading Lady Gladys W. Russell; three sons and their wives, Bishop Clarence V. (Elder Ronda H.) Russell Jr., Forrest (Denise) Russell, Torrence (Latisha) Russell; two daughters, Leonia Russell (Teddie) Outland, Naomi Russell (Michael) Dunbar; two additional sons, Maurice E (Winona) Wilson Jr. and David D. Wilson Sr.; two additional daughters, Julia B. (Matthew) Delmar, Angela W. (Craig) Seay; 14 grandchildren; 41 great-grandchildren; three brothers; Dr. William E. Russell, Aaron (Carol) Russell, Lloyd Russell; several in-laws; eight godchildren; nephews, nieces, cousins, church family, a host of ministry colleagues and friends.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation in memory of Bishop C. V. Russell Sr., to the Union Baptist Church’s Building Fund.

On Friday, July 14, 2017, the body will lie in state from noon to 6 p.m. The memorial service will begin at 7 p.m. at Union Baptist Church. The apostolic home going celebration will be Saturday, July 15, 2017, at 11 a.m. at the Union Baptist Church, Suffolk. The entombment is at the Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens, Suffolk. The professional services are handled by Corprew Funeral Home, Portsmouth.