By C. Ron Allen
BOYNTON BEACH, FL – Palm Beach County has lost a champion with the passing of the Rev. Lance Chaney. I find myself questioning God – as I do quite often these days – why did he have to call home so many of my dear friends so soon? But then, I’m reminded that it is not man’s plan, but God’s will. After all, we all are on loan for just a while.
I had the pleasure of meeting Bro. Chaney shortly after he arrived in town in June 2002. One of his parishioners and a dear friend told me that he was a member of my fraternity. So I made it my duty to meet him within days.
He was so excited to meet me and we had lunch at one of my favorite local dining establishments. We’ve been friends since. He has spoken to my mentoring program at both Atlantic High and Village Academy on numerous occasions. And among the things I admired about him was his ability to make everyone feel comfortable.
He was a people’s preacher. The students could relate to him although he was a pastor. He spoke to them from a biblical perspective but he broke it down to where each student understood the purpose of his or her existence. He was clear, insightful and persuasive but not loud. He was gentle. That is the way he was as a man and as a pastor.
He was a visionary and it was in his DNA to help those with less means. Before taking the helm at St. John, he led the flock at Greater Antioch Baptist Church of Rock Island, Illinois for 18 years.
There he helped establish a health clinic and bookstore. He served on the school board, the NAACP Board of Directors and more. He started the Quad-City Wide Church Softball League, the “Hoop In The Hood” 3-on3 basketball tournament and Double Dutch contest. He also formed A Place For Us Ministry to help bi-racial families develop and grow in the worship services. He changed lives, he won souls for Christ. And he attracted hundreds of new worshipers.
So when he moved his family to Boynton Beach, he didn’t slow down. It was not in this husband and father of three to coast.
Unlike many, he practiced what he preached. He quickly immersed in the fiber of the community, serving as speaker and panelist at civic events. He was active in supporting the Save Darfur Coalition and The Haiti Relief efforts, he served on the Correction Task Force for the Criminal Justice Commission of Palm Beach County and on the boards of Genesis Community Health, Inc., and the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency. He was chairman of Pathways to Prosperity (the church’s non-profit rehabilitation center) and Day Star Academy of Excellence, among other community endeavors.
His congregation grew from about 800 to 3,000.
In October 2007, he started the church’s prayer circles and “Jericho Marches” to reclaim his neighborhood and rid it, little by little, of drug dealing, shootings and other crimes.
Church members marched twice weekly, met and reached out to addicts and homeless people they found on the streets around the church before services on Wednesday nights and after services Sunday mornings.
He did this back in his hometown of Rock Island as his childhood friend, Troy F. Bland, knows quite well.
“I knew Pastor when he was just Lance coming to the baseball park during the summers in the ’70s watching us play baseball,” Bland told me recently. “He is my older sister’s age. (I believe he was a graduate of the class of 1975). But although being a few years older than myself, I only remember him being supportive to all of the younger ball players.”
After recovery from drug abuse, Bland wrote a play for a neighboring church and Rev. Chaney asked him to do the same for Easter at Antioch.
“It was great and during the production rehearsals and time spent, I grew to know that he had a genuine heart for God,” said Bland, who now works in the information technology field and lives in Colorado. “Our relationship became great as he kept me busy during a critical time in my recovery, allowing me to get past the roughest stage. I am blessed to know him before and during his calling. I do believe that he did make changes to this world for the better.”
Indeed he did.
When gun violence crippled the city some years ago, he was pivotal in putting together a rally. He called for the arrests of the shooters and he instilled hope. He was the voice of reason the community needed to hear.
“We all have a race to run and Pastor Chaney finished his course,” said Vice Mayor Woodrow Hay who is also on the ministerial staff at St. John. “We are better because of him.”
He represented many, especially after he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer during a routine check in June 2008.
I recalled him telling me how wonderful the experience was and how it helped him find the importance of his family and the strength of his faith. And even then, he wanted to help.
“I need to be a voice for those who have the disease and are fearful,” he said. “My brother, I need to let them know there’s hope, that it is not a death sentence. Our technology has come a long way and when I connect it to my faith, it gives me strength to survive.”
That’s the kind of person my brother and friend was.
As one of his parishioners and good friend said recently, “You felt like you could accomplish anything after speaking with Reverend Chaney.”
He gave hope to the hopeless.