The Rev. Nathaniel Slappey Sr. and his son, Nathaniel Slappey Jr., shared not only a name but also a commitment to serving God, their families and the wider community.
If you saw one, the other usually wasn’t far behind.
Sadly, that became true in death as well. They died days apart.
Slappey Sr., pastor of New St. Luke Baptist Church in Detroit, died April 30. Slappey Jr., a girls basketball coach at Detroit Country Day and a graphic artist and designer, died May 2. Both were suffering from COVID-19 complications at Henry Ford Hospital in West Bloomfield, according to MSN.
Pastor Slappey’s church has been left devastated by his death. Announcing his passing on May 1, the church wrote on its Facebook page, “Yesterday our pastor, Rev. Dr. Nathaniel Slappey, made his transition and is resting now, and for eternity, in the arms of Jesus.”
The statement added, “He was a true man of God and stood steadfast and unmovable on the Word. His love for New St. Luke MBC and all of its members will live on in our hearts and minds forever.
“We thank you, Pastor Slappey, for 50 years of unwavering love, faithfulness, and dedication in teaching us ‘thus saith the Lord…’”
However, just a day after that announcement news of the pastor’s son, Slappey Jr.’s death broke, escalating the mourning of church members.
The church announced the son’s death with the following statement: “The family of the late Pastor Nathaniel Slappey and the NSL church family have experienced another heartbreaking loss.
“It is with great sorrow that we announce the passing of Pastor and Sis. Josephine Slappey’s eldest son, Nathaniel Jr.”
The statement added, “He made his transition yesterday and we know, that like his father, he is resting in the arms of Jesus now and for eternity. Please continue to pray for the Slappey family’s comfort and strength. God Is Able.”
The church also released a prayer, asking God to end the coronavirus pandemic: “Dear God, our hearts are heavy because there are so many sick and dying. Please bring this pandemic to an end. We need a miracle. Amen,” according to Christian Today.
“I never would have thought in a million years that I would bury my husband and a son on the same day,” said Josephine Slappey, who along with her husband, Slappey Sr., had five children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
But the children Slappey Sr. helped raise into adulthood extended beyond biological borders.
Slappey Jr., who would have turned 50 last weekend, followed in his father’s footsteps as a caring family man and community servant. He and his wife, Toy, of Farmington Hills, had three sons.
“He was my grandfather’s right-hand man,” said son Nathaniel Slappey III. “My father handled everything so my grandfather could just preach.”
It was Slappey Jr., who noticed that his father, usually a vigorous gentleman, was suddenly weak and short of breath. Along with his brother Jonathan, he got his dad to the hospital.
A week later, Slappey Jr. drove himself to the same hospital with similar symptoms.
Like his father, Slappey Jr. saw the family in connections, not bloodlines alone.
“He told my wife, ‘You’re not my daughter-in-law; you’re my daughter,’ ” Nathaniel III said.