Q. Gary, tell me a little bit about the beginning of your inspiration.
A. I first met C. Scott Bryant when he visited us as prospective members of his church. I was impressed. I was so impressed that my family and I joined. As a high school senior he asked me to teach a Sunday school class and as a college freshman, he asked me to “lead the singing” for the large rural church.
Scott Bryant was the bi-vocational pastor of a rural church running close to 200 in Sunday school. He also worked at the steel mill, but never on Sunday, even when scheduled to do so. He also gave his $60. weekly salary every fifth Sunday to the Building Fund. I do not know how he did all he did. It was impressive.
Q. When you considered entering the ministry was Scott Bryant a major factor?
A. I was so impressed with him that when I felt a calling to ministry during my sophomore year, it was to him, as my pastor, that I first went. He said, “Great, you are leading prayer meeting Wednesday night.” I did. He then said, “You are preaching Sunday morning in two weeks.” I did that, too. He then asked me to be his “Associate,” a position he created, at only $25 a week less than he received. I did. He then asked me to preach during Spring Revival, Homecoming Services, and Easter Sunday morning. I did. Unselfishly, he gave to me the big crowds. I was so impressed that I asked him to ordain me, perform the marriage ceremony for Sharlon and me, and we named our third son Scott after him.
Q. Did Pastor Bryant remain a major influence in your life?
A. Forty years later, Scott Bryant still impresses me. I have never known a better pastor. His dedication to, and love for, his people was seen every day in hospitals, funeral homes, and homebound visits. I have seen him travel sixty miles to be at a funeral of a relative of one of his members. He defined selfless servant hood.
Scott Bryant was generous to a fault. He graciously gave his time, his energy, and his pulpit to several young ministers like me who were fortunate enough to be under his tutelage. His quiet, unassuming manner and warm smile have not only served as an inspiration to me but as an example as well, of which I have been a pale comparison.
But, Brother Bryant impressed me mostly every Sunday morning. You see, I was not only the Associate Pastor, I was also the custodian. (They actually paid me more for being the church custodian than they did for being the Associate Pastor. There are those, legion in number, who felt that I should have stuck with the custodian’s job.) Early every Sunday morning I would unlock the church, turn on the heat, and so forth. Scott Bryant would already be there in his study praying aloud. He would be there praying when I got there and he would be praying when I left.
Several years ago, Sharlon and I attended the funeral of her aunt near Boaz, Alabama. There I saw him, Scott Bryant, in the cemetery. As always, it was a joyful reunion. Later on, I overheard him comment to a group, “You see that man over there. That’s Gary Carver. He’s the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Chattanooga. I used to be his pastor.” I have kicked myself a thousand times because I did not go over there and say, “No, he was much more than a pastor to me. He was, and is, my example, my friend, my mentor, and my counselor. He defined what a pastor should be. I would not be where I am without him.”
I just wished that I had said that…