The Rev. Dr. Henry McKay, 84, died Saturday, August 28, surrounded by loving family at his home in Asheville, NC.
Pastor McKay was born in Macon, GA to Henry Mann McKay, Sr. and Eleanor Schroder McKay, and spent his youth in both Savannah and Macon, GA. A lifelong learner, Pastor McKay earned a B.A. in Sociology from Lenoir-Rhyne College in 1960 and went on to complete an M.Div. from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in 1964. He later received an M.Ed. in Counseling from UNC Charlotte in 1973, and then earned a Dr. of Divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology in 1975.
Pastor McKay’s ministry was as far reaching in service as it was in geography. He firmly believed that social justice is central to Christian ministry, and he was an advocate for civil rights and all of God’s creation throughout his life. After being ordained at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Savannah, GA in 1964, he received his first call to Ascension Lutheran Church in Jackson, MS. While in Jackson he led the effort to integrate his congregation and worked with the Committee of Concern to help rebuild churches that had been damaged or destroyed in acts of racial violence. He then moved to Charlotte, NC where he started Advent Lutheran Church in 1967 and served as campus pastor at UNC Charlotte. From Charlotte, Pastor McKay moved to the mountains of southern California in 1973 to serve as Executive Director of Outdoor Ministry and Director of Camp Yolijwa. In 1981 he became Pastor of Community Lutheran Church in Watsonville, CA, and in 1984 moved back to the East Coast to become Executive Director of Lutheran Social Services of Central South Carolina until he retired in 2000.
Pastor McKay is survived by his wife and best friend of 54 years, Dr. Judy McKay, as well as his daughter Elizabeth McKay-Altman (Dennis Altman), and his son Frank McKay (Sonja McKay), along with six beloved grandchildren Alexandria McKay, Iona McKay, AJ Altman, Aela Altman, Ari Altman, and Annika McKay. To family and friends, “Papa” McKay will be remembered as a loving and generous man who never met a stranger and who always buoyed those around him through stories, humor, and his playful spirit.
A Celebration of Life service will be held at 11:00 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 4 starting with singing of favorite hymns at 10:30 a.m. For family and friends who are able to attend in person, the service will take place at the Lutheridge Camp & Conference Center in Arden, NC. For those who would like to attend virtually, Zoom streaming will be available. The service will be led by the Rev. Matt Smith of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church Asheville, and will include remarks from Bishop Tim Smith of the North Carolina Synod of the ELCA. Please dress comfortably for an outdoor service. The family invites friends to bring their own picnic lunch and supplies to join in a socially distanced picnic after the service.
If you would like to attend online, please contact St. Mark’s office at (828) 253-0043 or firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that gifts be made to one of the following organizations: