At 90, Dalton Ward steps down from pastorate

Dalton Ward, at the age of 90, recently retired from Dean Swamp Baptist Church in Edisto Association after serving the historic church near Springfield for almost 20 years.

On Feb. 1, he turned 91. Reflecting on 70 years of ministry, he has followed the advice he gives: “Be faithful to whatever responsibility God gives you.”

Ward described Dean Swamp Church as a “good family of people” and was quick to note that the church gives “quite a bit” to missions, including supporting individual missionaries in Thailand and New York.

Earlier in his ministry, Ward served two terms as a trustee with the International Mission Board. He has continued to promote responsibility for spreading the gospel around the world.

At one of his first pastorates in Virginia, his church was a leader in Lottie Moon Christmas Offering giving and once raised $54,000 in one day for Lottie Moon and the Cooperative Program.

His church grew from giving less than $100 a year to giving more per capita than any church in the state. Ward’s interactions with a guest Japanese missionary led him to preaching opportunities in Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Taiwan and South America.

When he was a senior at Conway High School, Ward felt called to preach. He enrolled at Wofford College, and then he went on to Bob Jones University and Northern Baptist Theological Seminary near Chicago for completion of his master of divinity degree. He has pastored churches in Conway, Columbia, Illinois and Virginia, as well as holding interim positions.

He grew up in a Methodist church where his dad was a steward (deacon, in Baptist terms). He and his parents were faithful church members. He recalled his trips to the altar but without an explanation of how to be saved.

At his high school graduation party, his date — and now wife of 67 years, Marjorie — told him she would feel better knowing he was saved since he had signed up for the Navy Air Corps.

“In a few minutes, the Holy Spirit convicted me, and she explained the Roman Road of salvation,” Ward said. “I thought it was too easy. I went home and told my parents, who thought I was already saved. The next night, I became a Christian.”

The Navy had accepted too many applications, so that September Ward entered Wofford, and his path of ministry began.

“I’ve had a wonderful life — a satisfied, fulfilling life,” he said. “I’ve been so blessed.”

Although his last sermon at Dean Swamp was Jan. 7, he intends to continue responding to God’s call to interim service as he focuses on being the caregiver for his wife as they enjoy time together at their Columbia home.

— Debbie Bass, a retired educator, volunteers for Edisto Baptist Association and serves as a trustee for The Baptist Courier.