By Zackery Macdonald
BOYNTON BEACH, FL – Rev. Lance Chaney, the firebrand pastor of St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Boynton Beach, has died after an extended illness. He was 56.
Rev. Chaney, who had been battling prostate cancer, died Sunday, July 21.
“My heart is saddened by St. John’s great loss,” Tamara Wilbur wrote on the church’s Facebook site. “Pastor Chaney used to say absent from the body, present with the Lord. May God lighten your sorrow, and keep you strong with the knowledge that Pastor Chaney is still present in spirit. It was a true honor and privilege to have heard his anointed sermons. I thank our Heavenly Father for that opportunity. Heaven must certainly be happy right now having such a wonderful spirit at the Pearly Gates.”
A native of Rock Island, Ill., Mr. Chaney took the helm as the seventh pastor of the 104-year-old church in 2002 after the death of the previous leader of 42 years, Rev. R.M. Lee. Rev. Chaney had served as the pastor of the Greater Antioch Baptist Church of Rock Island for 18 years.
Under his leadership, the church expanded its services, added a Teen Bible Study, established the church newsletter and founded a K-5 charter school, Day Star Academy of Excellence. The church also opened a preschool earlier this year – and future plans include a family resource center.
His parishioners loved and respected him as their spiritual leader. He was recognized in Boynton Beach and the surrounding areas as a man who put his community before himself and proved to be a man whose personality was embraced by all.
“You felt like you could accomplish anything after speaking with Reverend Chaney,” an emotional Joi Odom Grant, the granddaughter of Rev. Lee, said.
She noted his “extraordinary hope for all people and generations to come”.
“The community of Boynton has truly lost a great leader today,” Odom Grant said with a heavy heart.
Rev. Chaney was also civic-minded.
In the eve of the historic presidential election in 2008, he wanted to make sure every member of his congregation and his community had the chance to vote.
He urged city and county leaders to work together to open an early-voting location in the city so they didn’t have to drive five miles west to vote.
Early-polling spots lined the western fringes of developed Palm Beach County, but voters living east of Interstate 95 from southern Lake Worth to Delray Beach in the densely populated and heavily minority neighborhoods had to drive at least a 5-mile to a voting site.
Having one in eastern Boynton Beach would be “far more convenient than going to Gun Club Road or way out to Jog Road,” he told them, referring to the main Supervisor of Elections Office and the West Boynton Branch Library, adding that the neglected areas lean Democratic whether “by design or by coincidence.”
“We feel that all voters should have the opportunity to vote early, regardless of their affiliation,” he said.
“Because this is a historic election, the turnout is going to be astronomical,” he said. “We have too many seniors who cannot wait in those long lines or who have no faith in the absentee voting process.”
Mr. Chaney discovered his cancer during a routine check in June 2008.
“I think whenever you hear the word ‘cancer’ you think about mortality and your faith steps in,” he said shortly after delivering his first sermon following his diagnosis in September 2008. “It’s been a wonderful experience for me. It helped me find the importance of my family and the strength of my faith.”
He became a crusader for colon, prostate and breast cancer testing and offered health screenings and testing at the church.
Survivors include his wife, Marilane and three children, Lance Alexander, 28, Ashley, 24, and Allison 18.
Visitation will be Saturday, July 27 from 5 to 7 p.m. at St. John Missionary Baptist Church, 900 N. Seacrest Blvd. Services will be Sunday at 5 p.m.
Share comments or contact the reporter at editor@Delraybeachtribiune.com or 561-665-0151.