Of the many roles the Rev. Dr. Leonard Hamlin Sr. has played during more than two decades as senior pastor at Macedonia Baptist Church, one that took center stage at a going-away celebration was that of mentor.
Among those providing testimony was Dr. Shakina Dunbar Rawlings, pastor of Kingdom Fellowship Church in Alexandria, who first met Hamlin in 1996, when she was a teenager.
“Dr. Hamlin poured into me a wealth of knowledge, made sure I was going in the right direction, and even provided correction as needed,” Rawlings noted. “I was able to grow and evolve. Of all the lessons Dr. Hamlin instilled in me, it was the lesson on how to love others that stands out most.”
Recently, Hamlin was appointed to a post at the Washington National Cathedral, and will take up his new position in early April. To celebrate his 22-year tenure at Macedonia, more than 300 people attended a farewell gala held March 25 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City.
Rev. Dr. Robert Cheeks Jr., senior pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in McLean, said it was Hamlin’s selflessness that endeared him to all.
“He does stuff without even looking for it to come back,” Cheeks said at the program’s opening. “Let’s give that love right on back.”
(“The goal tonight is to see how many times we can make Pastor Hamlin cry,” Cheeks chuckled.)
Plaudits came in from Gov. Northam, Congress, Virginia General Assembly, the Arlington County government and other community leaders, as well as religious leaders from near and far.
Pastor Todd Brown of New Mount Zion Baptist Church in Orangeburg, S.C., reminded the audience that he, too, had been nurtured under Hamlin’s wing.
“In the fall of 1999, you took a young, loud, wild preacher like myself and poured into me every day – encouraging me, praying for me and with me and, most important, discipling me,” Brown said. “I am extremely grateful. The Washington National Cathedral has truly received one of God’s greatest gems.”
Hamlin himself said his 22-year tenure had been a blessing on many levels.
“We have come a mighty long way individually and collectively,” he noted. “We have accomplished great things together.”
Hamlin also thanked his family – wife Machell and son Leonard Jr. – for dealing with the particular challenges of being in the family of a minister. And he encouraged parishioners to face the future positively.
“I once heard someone say, ‘I can’t expect God to write the next chapter in my life if I don’t open the page.’ We must each open that page with faith,” he said.
In addition to his service at Macedonia Baptist, Hamlin has been active in the broader community, chairing the Arlington County Diversity Dialogue Task Force and serving as chaplain to the Arlington County Fire Department. He also has held leadership positions with the Arlington Free Clinic, the Arlington Community Foundation, the Bonder & Amanda Johnson Community Development Corp., WETA and Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Development.
“I know that the National Cathedral will benefit from your service there, just as Macedonia Baptist Church has prospered under your leadership,” said U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.).
The farewell gala was co-chaired by L. Sandra Garner and Karen Nightengale.