By AFRO Staff

It was difficult awakening to the news that the Rev. Marcus Garvey Wood had died May 11 at the age of 99. He lived as an indomitable spirit and shared that joy of life with everyone he met. This is the person of whom then-President Barack Obama said, “We are reminded of the abiding truth that each of us has the power to create a better world for ourselves and or children when we do God’s work here on earth,”when the church celebrated Rev. Wood’s 60th anniversary in ministry. 

This is the man who said, “I see members as possibilities,” expressing his excitement at the beginning of his ministry in Baltimore.

Rev. Marcus Garvey Wood. (Courtesy Photo)

The man everyone consulted for more information on civil rights leader, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., because he really knew him and could supply pieces of the puzzle no one else had. 

But his own story began on June 18, 1920 in Gloucester, Virginia. His mother was a domestic and homemaker. His father, a carpenter, was born and raised on a slave plantation. During his senior year of high school, Wood joined the ministry and preached his first sermon at his home church, Union Zion Baptist, in Ware Neck, Virginia. 

He held degrees: B.A., B.D. and M.Div. He attended Morgan State College, Baltimore and Storer College, Harpers Ferry, W.VA. He earned his M.Div. from Crozier Theological Seminary with Dr. King Jr., as part of the first group of Negroes (11) chosen to complete the rigorous program of study for the Masters of Divinity degree. 

Rev. Wood was called to become the third pastor of Baltimore’s Providence Baptist Church in April 1952 and began his service there in September of the same year. He moved his wife, Bessie Wood and two children, Jeanetta and Marcus from Woodbury, N.J., where he had served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church.

Rev. Wood’s extensive educational background, strong religious training, and varied experiences allowed him to enrich and expand upon programs at Providence, and to introduce new and innovative initiatives for Christian worship and outreach in the church, throughout the community and having an international reach. These have included the early establishment of such activities, services and programs (some dating back more than 45 years), as a board of Christian education, church-wide study and training institutes, a church prayer line, a parent and child exchange/retreat, a church bus and transportation ministry, a community food pantry committee for the homeless, an HIV/AIDS ministry and countless others.

Rev. Marcus Garvey Wood. (Courtesy Photo)

Rev. Wood led Providence to build a new church facility, located at Pennsylvania and Lafayette avenues, that became the first solar heated church in Maryland when it opened Feb. 1981. 

He recognized the needs of the handicapped and elderly by building the church on one floor, thus making it accessible to all. Known for his forward thinking, Rev. Wood established a historic agreement (Covenant of Unity) with the Rev. Maurice Holder, the pastor of First Baptist Church, 4200 Liberty Heights Avenue, that allowed the two congregations to share the First Baptist Church facility for five years, while Providence was being built. Rev. Wood chronicled 50 years of his service as a Baptist minister (1945-1995) in his book titled ” And Grace will Lead Me Home,” first published in 1998. In 2000, following 48 years of continued leadership and service at Providence, and more than 54 years in the ministry, he proposed the historic and pioneering concept of creating a “Co-Pastorship” for Providence. The church approved this unique arrangement that resulted in the calling of the Rev. Dr. Douglas E. Summers, from Winston Salem, N.C. (a longtime mentee of Rev. Wood) who was well known and respected for his development in the ministry, to become co-pastor with Rev. Wood in September 2000. This rich relationship allowed Dr. Summers to assume leadership of the church when Rev. Wood turned 80 and for the congregation and community to benefit from the strengths and faithful services of two strong men of faith.

Rev. Wood served on multiple and diverse boards and associations, both religious and civic, at the local, state and national levels that allowed him to share his wisdom, talents and skills to meet multiple needs of others. He was an international traveler, attending religious conferences throughout the world in such locations as England, Scotland, Russia, Ireland. His missionary endeavors led him and some members to Haiti on a number of outreach efforts and involved the congregation in long-term support and assistance through financial support, mentorship and sponsorship of others. Rev. Wood was an outstanding mentor, who consistently shared his faith and services with other pastors, often adopting them as travel partners with him in learning experiences. This was particularly true of the group of local ministers who joined him over the years in travel to York College, York, Pa., every Tuesday, to study and prepare their sermons and messages. In a quiet but consistently strong manner, he was able, over his more than 70 years in the ministry, to be a counselor, advisor and supporter for so many – those in the ministry, lay people, political leaders, people of faith.

In 2013 commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, TIME Magazine featured him in an extensive article reflecting the thoughts and memories of friends of King’s and participants in the march. Rev. Wood’s advisement to Dr. King, his friend at Crozer and beyond, is offered in the book, “Parting of the Waters,” by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Taylor Branch. And, most recently his time with King in seminary was featured in, “The Seminarian: Martin Luther King Jr. Comes of Age” by Patrick Parr.

Survivors include his brother Dr. Garnett Wood, daughter Jeanetta James and son Marcus G. Wood. Grandchildren Kevin Brown, Darrell Brown-Bey, Monica G. Wood and Melissa G. Wood Bartholomew. Two great grandchildren and a number of nieces, nephews and cousins.

A memorial celebrating his life and legacy will be held at a later date.