Originally published in the 2017 Spring Quarterly Explorer
Dr. Henry Davis Holland, whose courage and grace inspired so many, died January 9. Though absent from us, he will not be forgotten. He was a man of great faith, intellect, and compassion. He was a deacon, served on multiple boards and committees, and supported missions and all of the various activities of the church. If the church doors were open, more than likely Henry would be there. He had a questioning spirit and approached life and scripture in unique ways. He had a love of old hymns (particularly Fanny Cosby), the Civil War (particularly Stonewall Jackson), and FDR.
Henry and his wife Brenda joined RRCB in 1995 and initially were members of the Doubles Class, now the Friendship Class, but when approached about teaching a teenage class, he gladly took on the challenge. One of his students was Dr. Seth Roberts who commented: “We were sort of in awe of him. I remember he was always open to my adolescent questions, no matter how pointed or off-base they were; in fact, he seemed to delight in them. His impact was to model for us a certain kind of engaged discipleship. He loved the community of faith called River Road Church. He was open and curious. He did not shrink from difficult issues and questions. He studied the Bible. He actively worked on behalf of those in need.”
God planted a special seed into the rich soil of Henry Holland’s mind that quickly sprouted to his heart and soul. Each shoot defined fortitude, perseverance, and love that enabled his spirit to touch the lives of others no matter the adversity he faced. From age eleven to seventy-seven he dealt with the ravages of polio, but this great man spent his life using his amazing talents to serve others not only in the church but also in the community. Those with whom he worked at CrossOver Ministry and the Central Virginia Post-Polio Group can attest to the impact he had in their organizations.
The Sheperd Bible Study Class was especially dear to Henry’s heart. For 15 years, he penned a newsletter, Poor Henry’s Almanac, or PHA, that went to class members and others throughout the church. He enjoyed socializing and encouraged get-togethers. He and Brenda hosted a Sunday school New Year’s Eve party in their home for 17 years. Class members looked forward to and in some cases, dreaded, his annual quiz. On January 15, the class voted unanimously to rename the class the Sheperd-Holland Bible Study Class, and the Catacombs Lectures, the Holland Lectures.
Dr. Thomas Graves, President Emeritus of the Baptist Theological Seminary, is the teacher of the Sheperd-Holland Class. His relationship with Henry was a very special one. Their friendship began in the 90’s when Henry enrolled in one of Dr. Graves’s seminary classes and when they served together on the personnel committee. That friendship deepened as they shared experiences of debilitating illness and spoke of their wives whose love made their lives possible. Dr. Graves said: “I admired Henry for his unbounded curiosity, his amazing breadth of interests, and his profound faith. In my experience, I sometimes found moments of despair and anger, but Henry seemed to stay on an even keel with an attitude of steady endurance and optimism and even cheerfulness. I am a better person because of Henry, and I will miss him so much. I am proud that the Sunday school class I teach now bears the name of Henry Holland.”