Dave Sargent was tricked. He thought he was at the Harlem Woman's Club meeting to give an invocation.
Instead, the longtime United Methodist preacher was named the club's 2002 Citizen of the Year.
Family and friends stood up at the ceremony to roast the preacher, who served at Harlem United Methodist Church from 1968 to 1972. There he started the Dave Sargent Bible Class, which was a success and still exists today.
Sargent's daughter, Margaret Meyers, of Evans, talked about many of the lessons she learned from her father.
"It was incredible to grow up in a parsonage and watch how many lives he has touched over the years," Meyers said.
Sargent - now the pastor of Berlin United Methodist Church in Augusta - opened his home as a safehouse for anyone who needed a hot meal or a place to sleep. She remembers having a homeless man, a large family stranded while traveling and a local man sobering up at the dinner table or in the guest room.
"Many people think preachers only work on Sundays. They are sorely mistaken," Meyers said. "It is a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week job. A pastor's life is a busy one and he handled it with grace all these years."
The Rev. David Sargent was presented with the Citizen of the Year award by Halem City Councilwoman Robin Root during a ceremony Friday at the Harlem Woman's Club.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Longtime friends Jimmy McDaniel, Buck Story, Jeane Dozier and last year's winner, Sam Persley, were jokingly warned by Sargent to be careful before they took the podium. In their sometimes tearful stories of their times with Sargent, they referred to him as understanding, inspirational, a friend, a minister, a preacher and a man with a generous spirit.
"I do not know who they are talking about. I do not perceive myself that way," Sargent said humbly after being surprised by the award. "I just enjoy the simple things in life and go do what needs to be done."
While at Harlem United Methodist, Sargent also began the Senior Citizens Fellowship. When he left in 1972, he was sorely missed by the church and, most of all, his namesake Bible class.
Admirers say Sargent has been very good at making anyone feel comfortable around him and the unique ability to understand their problems and leave them feeling hopeful and comforted.
According to Dozier, Sargent is selfless. He tends a bountiful garden, from which he gives away crops. He enjoys woodworking and gives away those projects, too. When not busy, even since his retirement in 1992, Sargent does not hesitate to visit hospitals to comfort the sick, Dozier said.
"We thank God for who and what you are," Dozier said to Sargent at the ceremony.
Sargent balances the serious nature of his spiritual work with his snappy sense of humor, everyone agreed.
"Life is so stupid serious," Sargent said. "It is so much junk. I try to have a good time and cut up as much as I can."
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