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Published January 2022

By Marilynn Vanderstaay

Reverend Robert Weldon Wilson, or Pastor Bob Wilson as he was most known as, long time cherished patriarch of Wortley Baptist Church. passed away November 13, 2021, just weeks shy of his 92nd birthday. A memorial of his life was celebrated on November 29 at Redemption Bible Chapel, 250 Commissioners Road East, the location of the former Wortley Baptist Church.

Pastor/teacher Wilson lived a life guided and in fact ordained by the hand of God and his commitment to the Scriptures.

He grew up in New Jersey in a working-class family. Basically unchurched, the family attended a nominal church where the Gospel was not preached. It was Praise the Lord on Sunday and under the control of his father’s alcoholism throughout the week.

An extreme introvert, Wilson showed no inclination or ability for the role of pastor/teacher. While in elementary school, a teacher asked him to read a passage in front of just her, but he was so nervous and self-conscious he couldn’t. He was so terrified of an audience of just one he was convinced at that early age a career in public speaking was not for him. He started thinking about engineering. But God had other plans.

In his teens Wilson was introduced to Jesus through his cousin Doris Thomas. He met Jesus and was born again when he was 16 along with his brother Bill and the two began their discipleship at Clinton Hill Baptist Church.

A young pastor saw in him what God saw and at a church baseball game asked Wilson if he had ever considered becoming a pastor. At the time Wilson was a student at the Newark College of Engineering and due to his past public speaking distress had given no thought to the ministry. During the semester however he made the quality decision to do whatever God wanted him to do with his life. He determined he was in the wrong place and decided to pursue a Liberal Arts Degree and then go to Dallas Theological Seminary. In 1955 he graduated with high honours from the Master of Theology Degree program having focused on homiletical preaching, a religious discourse that is intended primarily for spiritual edification rather than doctrinal instruction. That way of preaching the Gospel would become Wilson’s hallmark preaching/teaching style.

The day after graduation he married Martha Hutchison whom he had no idea at the time would become not only his life’s helpmate, but also his unique partner in ministry. Three months later the couple were in their first church ministry at Dovercourt Road Baptist Church in Toronto. Eleven months after they married the couple had Paul, the first of two children. That first experience in ministry made Wilson’s mission clear; that he was to equip God’s people to do God’s work and build up the body of the Church and the body of Christ. Ephesians 4:12. Wilson was a serious student of the Scriptures and life, and as a result he was able to better explain text and concepts in a clear and understandable way and apply the teachings of Scripture to the lives of the congregation. “My Dad’s classmate at Dallas Seminary and friend Dr. Haddon Robinson once said a parishioner who heads to church is like someone who rises in the middle of the night and goes to the refrigerator for sustenance while trying to figure out what the is hungry for. That is the job of a good preacher,” he continued, “to identify the hunger and to meet it.” Wilson was a master at identifying and speaking into the deep spiritual hunger of his parishioners. On many occasions a person would come up to my father after a service and ask, ‘How did you know about what is happening in my life?’ “My Dad would graciously and humbly respond he had no such knowledge, but that God certainly did.” He was sure any help provided through his message was a “Good work God had prepared long ago for him to do” Ephesians 2:10.

In his ministry as a pastor/teacher, Wilson was authentic, gentle, thoughtful, kind and wise. He treated his flock like he treated his family. He had a confident sense of God’s calling on his life, and he used the gifts of shepherding, wisdom, teaching, encouragement and compassion to minister faithfully for over 40 years.

“My Dad was also devoted to the church and its growth and well-being.” Under his leadership and ministry Wortley Baptist, with its growing membership that at one time was over 1200 members, was the largest Fellowship Baptist church in Canada. Although that was not his goal, it was the result of his ministry.

“He taught every Christian is gifted by God for service in the Kingdom of God.” He practiced what he preached. He spent many hours at the bedside of the sick and dying. He officiated many memorial services. He offered pre-marital counselling, performed marriages for hundreds of couples, spoke in his church three services a week, and developed servant leaders.

Beyond his church ministry he served as vice president of the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist churches and as a part-time professor at Central Baptist Seminary where he taught homiletics and other subjects for 20 years. He was also instrumental in planting Village Green Community Church, 505 Village Green Avenue.

Not all work and no play, Wilson had many interests that gave him time with his family and one on one fellowship with some congregants.

He loved to travel and as a family took many road trips together to visit family in the United States that gave them opportunities so visit historical sites. By the time the kids finished high school they had visited 30 states.

Travel was also a way for he and Martha to get away, spend time with each other and refresh. They expanded their love for the world and each other with trips to the Middle East, the British Isles, Monte Carlo, Jamaica and Bermuda.

Wilson was also a sports enthusiast. He was an avid Dallas Cowboys and Toronto Blue Jays fan which he could enjoy with family and friends. As an active participant he enjoyed playing tennis and the pastor/ teacher took every opportunity to use his unconventional undercut slice to teach his parishioners, neighbours and his son a few lessons on the tennis court.

During the course of his ministry his extroverted wife Martha completed the teaching ministry by leading a Wednesday morning women’s coffee hour that invited women of all demographics for fellowship and a teaching speaker. As she was so good at doing, she recruited other women with the gift of leadership and teaching to lead training courses on a variety of topics that enriched, encouraged and prepared women of all ages for life and ministry. Many of those women were wives of the successful businessmen who were being led to the Lord by successful businessmen who attended Wortley, and businesswomen themselves who had not heard the Gospel and themselves met Jesus and became born again.

Martha also took hands on care of the church body by organizing fellowship events such as church wide breakfasts and dinners. She used those events to both enrich friendships among congregants but also to develop leadership and other ministry skills in new members she saw potential in.

Forty-two years later that included the addition of daughter in law Yvonne, and ministry in four churches literally across Canada, Pastor Bob retired to care for Martha as she battled Alzheimer’s Disease. Wilson lived a life that exemplified Dallas Theological Seminary’s motto Teach truth. Love well.