ASHLAND—Harold Cathey, whose more than 50-year career in the ministry included being a Kentucky Baptist pastor, a missionary to Uganda and an associational administrator, was being remembered by community Christian leaders.
Cathey died Thursday morning after an extended illness. He was 82.
“He had a special gift, a special skill, to take God’s Word and help us understand it and, not only understand it, but apply it,” said Paul Badgett, the east region consultant for the Kentucky Baptist Convention and close friend. “I appreciate his Bible teaching more than anything.”
Badgett said when he thought of Cathey he thought of when David lamented over Saul, saying how the mighty have fallen.
“I think he was a mighty man of God,” Badgett said. “I look at people like him and Bro. (Charles) Stewart and think how the mighty men have fallen.”
Cathey served as pastor of Unity Baptist Church in Ashland from 1975 through 1991 where he was a gifted expository preacher and an evangelical leader not only for the church but for all of northeastern Kentucky. In the 1980s, he fiercely fought against alcohol being sold in Ashland.
Cathey started a successful bus ministry at Unity Baptist Church that brought in hundreds of children every Sunday until safety guidelines for buses made them too stringent to maintain.
Later in his career, Cathey was the director of missions for the 52 churches in the five-county Greenup Association of Baptists.
He started in the ministry as pastor of Cottownwood Baptist Church in Ridgely, Tenn., in 1957. Cathey also pastored Victory Baptist Church in Chicago (1958 through 1969) and East Baptist Church in Paducah (1969 through 1975) before coming to Ashland. He resigned as pastor at Unity to pursue foreign missions work in Uganda, where he and his wife, Beverly, served for nine years.
Dr. Moody Adams, Dr. Laverne Butler and Dr. Bill Mackey were among some of the high-profile pastors who came to honor Cathey during a ceremony in 2007 where he was honored for 50 years of service in the ministry.
“It’s been a wonderful life,” Cathey said. “If I had a thousand lives, I’d give them all to the same thing. I’m just amazed that God can use me.”
Cathey’s work in Uganda included founding the Global Theological Seminary that has led to more than 800 churches built and more than 2,000 pastors trained. He also founded Victoria Baptist Church in Uganda and the ministry continues to grow through the Amy For Africa ministry.
“His name is honored in Uganda as a man of God, a true missionary and a visionary,” said Amy Compston, a co-founder of Amy For Africa. “As a result of his faithfulness to our King Jesus, thousands have come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.”
Compston said she was thankful for his example of “how to truly pour out your life to Jesus and for his selfless obedience.”
Because of Harold Cathey, she said, “I get to be an eyewitness of the fruit from this ministry. The harvest of fruit is bountiful. Praise God! I know he heard today, ‘Well done my faithful servant.'”
Two of the four Ugandan countrymen serving on the AFA board members were graduates of Global Theological Seminary and two others were baptized by him. Cathey’s name still carries great respect in the Jinja region and throughout the country.
Kadhaya Geoffrey, who operates the seminary and is pastor of Victoria Baptist Church in Jinja, said “we are his testimony of the work he did here in Uganda.”
When the Catheys went to Uganda, it was truly a leap of faith. They didn’t have the financial support needed but “counted on God to provide.” They left behind two daughters, Janet Woods and Ginger Daniels, and a church he had served successfully for 16 years.
“It was a big decision. The hardest thing was leaving my kids,” he said in 2007. “The excitement of going took away the difficulties we were going through at the time. But when I flew off in that plane, I died a thousand deaths.”
Cathey said the time between 1975 and 1980 was a highlight of his time pastoring at Unity.
“That was the high point of my life,” he said. “We had great crowds and a great number of conversions. We were consistently running between 600 and 800 (Sunday mornings). On big days we’d have over 1,000. One Sunday we had 1,700 in a morning service.”
Cathey said he wouldn’t forget a Sunday morning revival service with J. Harold Smith when 52 were converted. “Those were the glory days,” he said.
Cathey was the face of the dry forces twice in Ashland. He fought against alcohol ordinances in 1979 and again in 2006. He never waffled on his convictions.
“When we had that first wet-dry issue, a lot of people — even church members — turned on me,” he said. “But I’m sure glad I took the stand I did.”
Badgett said Unity was a flagship church for the association because of Cathey’s leadership.
“Then he spent more than a decade on the mission field and did more than some missionaries do in their lifetime,” he said.
Badgett said he invited Cathey preach revivals at every church where he was a pastor.
“Some of the best revivals I ever had was when Harold Cathey was preaching,” he said.
Badgett said Cathey was a Barnabas in many respects.
“He was a great encourager. Here is what the Bible said about Barbabas: A good man, full of the Holy Spirit in faith and a great many people were added to the Lord because of him. So many people were added to the Kingdom because of Harold Cathey.”
Visitation will be Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. at Unity Baptist Church with the church service on Monday at 1 p.m. with visitation an hour prior. (KT)