By David Pendered
Retired Rev. Gerald L. Durley has been formally recognized by the Atlanta City Council for his contributions to the community, including his 25-year tenure as pastor of Providence Missionary Baptist Church.
“This recognition is way overdue,” former Gov. Roy Barnes said during the award ceremony, held July 13 in Atlanta’s council chamber.
“Gerald is not only my friend, he’s my brother,” Barnes said. “Gerald Durley is what a Christian should be. Christian means, ‘Christ like.’ Well, Gerald Durley has been that for me. He’s been that for me during some pretty rough times.”
Other speakers recounted stories about how Durley would always take the telephone call, no matter the time or day, and respond to a plea for help.
Durley was quick to share the honor with his wife, Murial Durley. He said she always answered the 2 a.m. calls with a cheerful voice, handed the phone to him and went back to sleep.
“A person is only as good and strong as the person who’s been with them 48 years,” Durley said. “On days when the mountains were high, and valleys low, and rivers seemed uncrossable, she was there.
Turning to his wife, Durley continued, “You were there all the way through, and I’ve never, ever wanted to receive any kind of award without you, because I could not have done this without you.”
Atlanta Councilmember Michael Julian Bond initiated the honor for Durley. The minister retired from Providence in 2012 and today serves as pastor emeritus.
Bond recalled meeting Durley when Bond was a college student.
“When we got to sit at his feet and hear him speak and give us guidance, it really gave us inspiration to do the things we were talking about doing, prior to the Rodney King verdict, strength to go do things prior to the Rodney King verdict.
“He’s engaged in humanitarian activities literally all over the world,” Bond said. “Where ever he’s been called he’s come, and he has brought the word of salvation and love and peace and human understanding to all corners of the globe.”
The Rev. C.T. Vivian remarked on Durley’s ability to influence events without appearing to be involved.
“Durley doesn’t have to be seen,” Vivian said. “It’s in the work that you do. This is the greatness of Martin King. This is the greatness of any Christian. Jesus went anywhere. So does Durley.
“If you can serve the people that you’re in and around you, and it does matter how many are how small, if you love people like Durley does – you are ahead of the game,” Vivian said.
Durley closed the presentation with an acceptance speech that became a sermon. He ended with a quote from the King James Bible, Matthew 6:34 – “Take no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.”
Durley said, “If God puts something on your heart, do it now. Black Lives Matter is the movement of the ‘60s going on now. We have to be the strong foundation from which they can be launched. … We all have to come together now. That’s what made Atlanta great and will continue to make Atlanta a great city.”