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Beloved local pastor succumbs to cancer
By RUSTY DENNEN
Most people called him Charlie, and those who knew him well say he had a heart for God and his fellow man.
The Rev. Charles Chilton, 76, an early advocate for church desegregation, a missionary who fell in love with the Philippines and planted Filipino churches here and overseas, and a religion columnist for The Free Lance–Star, died Wednesday after a long battle with prostate cancer.
A memorial service will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. satat Grace Baptist Church in Woodbridge.
In an interview in June for a story in advance of his farewell column for the newspaper, Chilton said he and his wife, Fay, his partner of 56 years, made a lasting connection with the Philippines after a seven-year mission trip in the 1970s.
“My job description was church planter,” he said, adding that people there were hungry for God. He and his wife were among the first Southern Baptist missionaries to work there, and became fluent in Tagalog, the national language. That would serve them well when they returned to the States to minister to a growing Filipino population, and other immigrant groups, in Northern Virginia. He later started a Filipino church in Fredericksburg and one in Richmond. As the first pastor of Grace Baptist Church, bridging the racial divide was another of his priorities.
A friend, the Rev. John R. Peyton, pastor of Reconciliation Community Church in Manassas, said Chilton worked to bring black and white parishioners together. He said Chilton invited the fledgling congregation to use Grace’s building after the regular Sunday services there.
“Charlie is very humble, an honest man with integrity,” Peyton said. Peyton’s church thought so much of Chilton that, a few years after it had its own building, it gave Chilton a new pickup truck. Chilton had let Peyton use his truck on many occasions.
“Recently, we had him come preach. Man, we were so excited. People all over love Charlie,” Peyton said. “People like him never get the spotlight but are the model, to me, of a servant.”
During his tenure at Grace Baptist Church, Chilton began writing “Thought for the Day” columns for the Potomac News. He compiled those columns into his second book, “The Indigo Bunting.” His first book,
“Planting the House Church,” a guide for missionaries, was published after Chilton and his wife returned from the Philippines.
Along with Grace Baptist Church, Chilton, who lived in Locust Grove, was pastor at Eleys Ford Baptist Church, Harmony Grove Baptist Church in Middlesex County and Berwyn Baptist Church in College Park, Md. After his retirement, he started a blog in 2007, and in 2008 landed a gig as an interim pastor for several months, with televised sermons, at First Baptist Church in Memphis.
Chilton began his “Thought for the Week” column in The Free Lance–Star in 2007. His final column ran on June 9.
Born and raised on Ferry Road in Stafford County, Chilton came to faith early.
His parents, Chris and Linda Chilton, attended Round Oak Baptist Church in Caroline County. At age 9, he made a profession of faith during one of the church’s revival meetings, and was baptized in Massaponax Creek.
He attended Bluefield College for two years, graduated from the University of Richmond and completed Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Chilton said he wasn’t afraid to tackle any subject in his columns—racism, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the economy—from a Christian perspective.
“Nothing scared me off. I felt like if the Gospel spoke for it, people needed to know.”
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431