Thursday, December, 3rd, 2020

Celebrating the Centennial: Honoring Dr. R. A. Forrest during Founder’s Week

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During a wreath laying ceremony at the gravesite of Dr. R. A. Forrest on Monday, November 19, 2007, Toccoa Falls College president Dr. Wayne Gardner told those present that Dr. Forrest’s “entire mission in life was caught up in the desire to tell others about the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Dignitaries from the Presbytery of northeast Georgia and the First Presbyterian Church of Toccoa, Georgia, placed a wreath at the Forrests’s graves honoring Dr. Forrest’s years of service in the church and the community.

Dr. R.A. ForrestThroughout the years, Richard Forrest served not only as the co-founder of Toccoa Falls College but also as a much sought after evangelist. His contacts on trips throughout the United States and even around the world gave him one opportunity after another to tell countless people about the love of Jesus Christ. Denominational barriers did not exist from his point of view. In his hometown of Toccoa, Georgia, he preached in various churches and people loved to hear his message. In 1925, members of the First Presbyterian Church asked him to become their pastor-a role that he would come to enjoy almost as much as being president of Toccoa Falls College. After much consideration and prayer, he said yes. The membership also agreed that his evangelistic work needed to continue.

Over the years, they encouraged and even supported his work and ministry throughout the United States and Canada. During his pastorate, which lasted 25 years, a new church was constructed, the church membership increased, and the first Christian radio station in the area got its start in the church’s basement. Several times, Dr. Forrest felt he should resign due to the pressure that came from his other commitments. However, the congregation would not hear of such a thing. “Not until you reach retirement age,” one of the elders told him. So, he stopped asking and settled into a position that he had dreamed of holding from the day he was saved.

Dr. Forrest’s ministry was unique. He served as Moderator of the Athens Presbytery and on various other Presbyterian committees and at the same time he served as a member of the Board of Managers of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. He helped to examine many young men of both denominations for ordination to the ministry. And when he traveled abroad, he visited both the Presbyterian and Alliance mission stations in many countries in an effort to encourage those who were serving in countries and conditions that were far more difficult than the ones that were found in the small town of Toccoa. Toccoa, GA ~ The First Presbyterian Church He was committed to the work God had given him to do no matter what that included. And on his first trip around the world in 1930 with his wife at his side, he had the opportunity to preach at what is believed to be the Savior’s tomb on Easter morning, After that service, he remarked that it was his friends and church members in Toccoa that had made the trip possible for him and Mrs. Forrest.

The college has an extensive collection of Dr. Forrest’s sermons—the ones he preached during his years as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. Amazingly, each one begins and ends with the same thread of hope and love: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and He will give you life eternal.

In closing the ceremony, Dr. Gardner told members from the First Presbyterian Church, “If we could remember Dr. R. A. Forrest for one thing today, it would be his personal love for his Savior and his desire to be faithful to the work God had given him to do. I believe he did both of these. He loved your church—your parents and your grandparents. He also loved Toccoa Falls College, but much more than these: He loved the Lord Jesus Christ.”

People at Wreath laying
Faculty and staff of Toccoa Falls College and members and friends of First Presbyterian Church gather for the ceremony.

Rev. Frank Colladay
Opening prayer by Moderator of the Presbytery of northeast Georgia
Rev. Frank Colladay (on the left).

Rev. David Keister
The Rev. David Keister reads a statement of graditute from the membership of First Presbyterian Church.

Dr.  Wayne Gardner
Toccoa Falls College President Dr. Wayne Gardner acknowledged Dr. Forrest’s dedication to the church and community of Toccoa.

Closing Prayer by alumnus and Presbyterian Pastor Rev. Bill Ford
Closing prayer by alumnus and Presbyterian Pastor Rev. Bill Ford

laying of the wreath
Laying of the wreath by members and friends of First Presbyterian Church.

(Photos by Kelly Vickers)

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