Celebrating the Witness of MFSA Activist 

Rev. Dr. James Veatch (1936-2020)

Taken from Us by the Coronavirus

When Jim Veatch was an electrical engineering student at Virginia Tech, there arrived the very first African-American students in the university’s history. Kept from living or eating on campus and isolated in every way, they needed a friend and that was Jim. (For one thing, he stored the guns they need to have for required ROTC exercises.) In this experience of personal ministry and befriending, as Jim’s wife Laura recalls, came the first inklings of his call to ministry.

Jim and Laura were together in the Methodist student ministry that included Virginia Tech and the Radford women’s college division. Not long after graduating they married and moved to Madison, New Jersey, where Jim completed his M.Div. at Drew Theological School. He pastored churches in the New York Conference for 24 years.

Jim’s first arrest in nonviolent action was when protesting racist hiring policies at Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. Another arrest was a General Conference witness, with MFSA, where formal proceedings were interrupted to protest the persecution of LGBTQ members and clergy in the UMC.  Jim’s participation in MFSA began in the 1960s when Rev. Lee Ball was national executive. He was a constant, committed, and enthusiastic leader in the New York Chapter up until the time of his death due to the coronavirus on March 28 at the age of nearly 84. Some of us were privileged to be on a chapter steering committee call with him as recently as February 17th. 

Laura shares how anguished it’s been being in total isolation during the pandemic that felled her husband. It’s been really hard to bear that there could be no memorial service or funeral for Jim at this point; even at his burial she was entirely alone except for a single funeral home attendant and cemetery workers looking on at a distance.

Laura is a very outgoing person and she would welcome phone calls (718-479-3629) and messages: veatchinq@gmail (note: that’s a “q”) or 204-15 Foothill Avenue #A44, Hollis, NY 11423.

Together Jim and Laura Veatch were awarded NY MFSA’s Bishop Dale and Gwen White Award for outstanding social witness in 2001. Laura, his wife of 61 years, has served as MFSA national vice-president and as New York Chapter treasurer for decades. She has also been, with Jim, a champion of conference UMW Schools of Mission/Mission U.

Typical of Laura and Jim’s faith and commitment that has encompassed their long  years of marriage, her hope is that somehow the gross inequalities being laid bare during this pandemic will lead to a great leap ahead toward social justice.

Rev. Dr. James Veatch served various churches, including those in Brooklyn, Queens, Kingston, and Ellenville, NY. The concluding 15 years of his ordained ministry he served in agency and college settings as a rehabilitation or career counselor with persons with disabilities. Jim earned a Doctor of Ministry at New York Theological Seminary.

As we deeply mourn Jim’s sudden passing and are in solidarity with Laura in her profound grief, we also celebrate Jim’s long ministry and constant commitment to love and justice. He serves as a continuing inspiration to the rest of us, as we work to enable God’s justice to emerge from the anguish of the crisis that took him from us. Dear Jim, requiescat in pace et iusticia!

- George McClain