William C. Durrett, 90, minister led 8 area churches

October 03, 2005

The Rev. William C. Durrett, who led eight area Methodist churches over five decades and promoted the medical benefits of spirituality, died of a heart attack Sept. 26 while visiting his wife at her Phoenix nursing home. He was 90 and lived in Phoenix.

Born in Northeast Baltimore, he worked as a newsboy and furniture salesman before deciding to pursue a life in the clergy. With the help of neighbors, who raised money for his tuition, the City College graduate headed to Westminster Theology Seminary, where he received a Doctor of Divinity degree in 1936.

From 1936 to 1978, he led the congregations of eight Methodist churches in the region: Idlewylde Methodist Church, Delta (Pa.) Methodist Church, Andrew Chapel in Baltimore, Ryland Methodist Church in Washington, Linthicum Methodist Church, Lanham Methodist Church, Agar Road Methodist Church and Milford Mill Methodist Church.

He retired in 1978 and moved to Phoenix, where he served as a visitation minister for the Crossroads Methodist Church.

Mr. Durrett spent nearly all of his free time with members of his congregations. He actively sought newsletters from his former churches and kept abreast of changes in the United Methodist Church on the national level. He frequently visited churchgoers at their homes, and took a particular interest in young people.

"The minute he went into a new church, he made a point to visit every one of the members and talk to them," said his brother, George Durrett of Reisterstown. "In each case, there was a marked improvement in the congregation."

A quiet man who became energized and dynamic in his sermons, he became a proponent of psychosomatic medicine. He undertook a "whole person" approach toward members of his congregation that considered their physical, mental and spiritual issues.

A memorial service was held in Phoenix last week.

In addition to his brother, survivors include his wife of 64 years, the former Doris Elizabeth White; a daughter, Norma Jean Femiano of Phoenix; a son, William R. Durrett of Virginia Beach, Va.; a sister, Shirley Ashburn of Parkville; five grandchildren; several great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild.

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