January 17, 2021

Friends, acquaintances ‘absolutely floored’ by death of Mississippi pastor, postal worker

A simple, makeshift sign on the counter of the Oxford Post office earlier this month communicated the bad news.

“It saddens the employees at the Oxford Post Office to have to inform you that our fellow employee Christopher Townsend has passed away due to COVID. He will be missed by us and we know by many of you that he has served throughout the years. Please join us in praying for his family,” the sign reads. An image of a smiling Townsend resting nearby.

Townsend, 50, of Batesville, Mississippi, died on December 15 after battling complications from the COVID-19 virus. He was one of the 982 COVID-19 deaths reported across the state during the month of December.

He was a long-time employee of the U.S. Postal Service, where many of the patrons had come to look forward to seeing his smiling face. Many had no idea that he was also a pastor of a church in nearby Batesville.

“I am devastated,” wrote Susan Rae Cox on social media. “Year after year this man has made me smile while visiting the post office. Oxford lost a treasure. RIP, Chris.”

Others who knew Townsend shared Cox’s grief.

“He was a great guy and will be missed for sure Susan. He was a good friend of mine; we went to high school together in Batesville. A big part of a great Townsend family in Batesville. Chris was also a Pastor. Just absolutely floored! Prayers for his family,” said Facebook user Niles Norris.

Townsend was pastor of the Concord Missionary Baptist Church in Batesville.

“He loved God, loved his church, loved his family, and loved his community,” said fellow pastor Rev. Zannie Leland, Jr., pastor of Macedonia M.B. Church, and moderator of the Sardis District Association. “He sought to make a difference, and he provided physically and spiritually for all he could.”

Townsend was a youth baseball and basketball coach, served on a variety of civic boards, participated in many food drives, clothes collections and did endless charity work.

“Rev. Townsend’s passing is an opportunity for those of us in the community to continue his legacy, and inspire others to take up the mantle of service,” Leland said. “I feel like he will never be forgotten in Batesville because the things he accomplished are a testament to his life.”

He is survived by his wife, a son and his father.