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Russell Wilks retires after 60 years in music ministrycomment (0)

September 30, 2010

Russell Wilks’ favorite song is “Well Done, My Child,” so it was no surprise that he wanted it sung during the Aug. 29 afternoon service honoring him upon his retirement as music director at Sylvania Baptist Church.

Wilks, who just turned 92, began his 60-plus years in music ministry in gospel quartets. A Henagar native, Wilks went to Oklahoma City in February 1947 to sing with a quartet. Over the next two years, Wilks sung with four other quartets, moving between Alabama and Texas.

By 1952, Wilks had moved back to the Sand Mountain area and organized a couple of quartets. He also began serving as part-time choir director for Henagar Baptist Church in Sand Mountain Baptist Association. He remained at Henagar Baptist until 1988, when he moved to Sylvania Baptist, also in Sand Mountain Association, to become its part-time choir director.

“I have felt called to work in that position (at the churches),” Wilks said. “It was just carrying out another thing I ought to do for the Lord.”

But he couldn’t have done all of it alone. Wilks said his wife of 71 years, Donnie, has been “a big part” of his ministry.

Wilks, who has sung in 20 states and at numerous weddings and funerals, said although he is retired, he is going to keep on singing.

And that’s what Wilks did Aug. 29. The first hour of the special service was spent in the sanctuary singing favorite gospel hymns. 

“[The service] was very special in the fact that Russell really likes four-part harmonies and there was a lot of that done during that hour of singing,” said Pastor David Starling. “[Wilks] was very faithful. Even though he was up in years, he was still faithful in doing what the Lord called him to do in leading the singing.”

The remainder of the service was spent in the fellowship hall visiting with old friends. The church presented Wilks with a plaque for his service, and church members gave him a money tree.

“I think some of us are called to different jobs, and I think [singing] was my calling,” he said.

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