CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - The Midlothian community is mourning the passing of a well known pastor today.
Reverend Edwin Clayton Thornton III died while on vacation in North Carolina. He had been the senior pastor at Tomahawk Baptist Church for the past three decades.
So you can only imagine that long-time church members are having a difficult time trying to come to grips with his loss.
The details surrounding Thornton's death are still unclear, but we know he was vacationing on a Southern Shores when he was pulled from the ocean, only to pass away shortly afterwards. Southern Shores Police Chief David Kole said it appeared the minister suffered a heart attack.
An informal memorial service was held at the Midlothian church last night. Church members pulling together in their grief.
Long time church member Lynn Robertson says Reverend Thornton was more than the church's leader, he was a friend and part of the family.
She says he's touched the lives of each of the 250 members of the congregation, but his outreach extended well beyond the front doors of his church.
"Throughout the years he's just touched every aspect of our lives," said Lynn Robertson. "With his compassion, love, involvement with the community, leadership of our family, church family. Clay was a wonderful dedicated servant of god and he taught us through his words and his actions."
Reverend Thornton was very active in the community -- as a chaplain at the local hospital, in the school systems, presiding over hundreds of weddings and funerals over the years.
A private service is being arranged in the days to come. In the meantime church leaders and members focus is supporting Thornton's family and each other in the difficult days ahead.