1936 – 2020

Dr. Gary Farley, the former Director of Missions for the Pickens Baptist Association, died in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on February 14, 2020, due to complications following a series of strokes.

Dr. Farley was a specialist in the sociology of rural and small churches, and wrote hundreds of magazine articles, journal articles, and book chapters addressing diverse topics, ranging from Baptist theology, to sociological studies of church fellowships, to a number of practical helps for bi-vocational pastors serving smaller congregations. While recovering from his initial stroke, he continued writing from his bed a meditation on what were to be his final days, titled “Farther Along…”

Dr. Farley first came to west Alabama following a reshuffling of personnel at the former Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1997. During the first decade of his tenure at the Pickens Baptist Association, he helped nurture greater cooperation between the white congregations that he coordinated and African-American congregations meeting in the same area. A rash of church fires in 2006 saw these relationships deepen, as Dr. Farley called upon friends in the African-American and white church fellowships to join together in the rebuilding efforts and to minister to one another in a time of need.

In 2008 Dr. Farley turned his attention to the arrival of the Federal Correctional Institution in Aliceville, Alabama. Again, looking to ministry partners in the Pickens County area that he had developed relationships with, he helped assemble a team that would be able to work with inmates immediately upon their arrival. Worship, Bible study, and support groups were prepared to meet the unique needs of Latina, African-American, and white women—both in English and Spanish. Dr. Farley himself delighted in the Bible study classes that he facilitated, deeming the women there “…some of the brightest and best students I have ever had.”

During conversations with family in his final weeks, Dr. Farley wondered at his weakened state, but repeatedly pointed to the journey of faith that he had navigated over the past decades, musing that God had again and again found ways of situating him in the right place at the right time to do significant good for the Kingdom. Even as hospital caregivers attended to him he would play hymns for them on his harmonica, often playing: “Farther along we’ll know all about it / Farther along we’ll understand why / Cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine / We’ll understand it all by and by.”

Dr. Farley is survived by his wife of fifty-eight years, Jacque, their four children, five grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.