By Sharon Mager
WALDORF, Md.—John Fariss retired on Sept. 2 after ministering for 32 years, 14 of those years serving as pastor of Trinity Baptist Church (TBC), Waldorf.
The church had a special celebration service followed by a carry-in dinner on August 19, combining Fariss’ retirement and the church’s 35th anniversary. Special guests included Potomac Baptist Association Director of Missions (DOM), Keith Corrick and the past DOM, Richard Logsdon. The congregation presented Fariss with gifts including a handmade quilt and a wall clock.
Fariss, with his wife Nancy by his side, pastored churches in North Carolina and Virginia before coming to Trinity in Maryland in 2004.
Reflecting on the years at TBC, Fariss sees how his events from his childhood affected his ministry. Growing up in Alabama in the 50’s and 60’s, at the height of the Civil Rights movement, he witnessed marches and demonstrations in his hometown, but it didn’t escalate as in other areas. That’s partly because Farriss’ dad wouldn’t let it. He was a police chief who believed in law and order and respect for others. The elder Fariss worked to integrate the police department at the same time his son’s school was being integrated. That made a big impact on the younger Fariss. According to a TBC biography about their pastor, “His heroes came to include one of those first African American officers and the first two African American students at his school.”
He carried that respect of all people with him, and at TBC, Fariss led the church in creating an environment of welcome and love for all.
“I am especially pleased with the attitude the congregation has of embracing a multi-racial approach to doing Baptist Church. That’s something I think is important, and the church, by and large, has embraced it,” Fariss said.
Missions work has been a huge part of the church’s ministry under Fariss’ leadership.
They’ve ministered regularly in Pikeville, Kentucky, and in Nanjemoy. They recently did an exploratory mission trip to Mexico, and Fariss said he believes that will be an emphasis for the church in the future.
The trips to Kentucky’s Appalachian region were to minister to the very poor, bringing food and clothing.
“One time we went to Kentucky in December. The temperature was 25 degrees when we got there. We were using a high school gym. A young woman came in with four or five children and none of them had coats. They just had t-shirts,” he said. It touched him deeply to see that poverty.
Seven years ago, the church realized there was an area in Nanjemoy with families that needed help. Working with a local school at that time, they were able to identify the families in need, and they began collecting school supplies, hosting Christmas parties, a skating party, and summer camps.
Ministering to the community has been very sweet for Fariss, who always wanted the church to be intentional about loving their community and building relationships.
Several years ago, they began having fall festivals for younger children in October. They also open their doors and grounds for a community yard sale and they give away school supplies.
Another highlight during Fariss’ tenure was the church’s ability to pay off the loan for their property. They celebrated with a mortgage burning service. “It set off the fire alarms!” Fariss said with a chuckle.
Now Fariss and his wife Nancy will spend more time with their children and grandchildren. Fariss is also looking forward to enjoying time to pursue his hobbies. A history buff, he volunteers at the Walkersville Southern Railroad, registered as a “fireman.” They have a steam locomotive and he helps shovel coal.
“I also like obsolete technology. If you need a vacuum tube radio restored, I’m your guy! I’m interested in anything dealing with history,” he said.