Written by Gregg Brekke
Grateful for opportunities pursued and blessings received over the past 16 years, the Rev. Ervin E. Milton will step down, effective Dec. 31, from his position as director and team leader of the UCC's Franklinton Center at Bricks.
"I have wanted all to be treated with respect and dignity," says Milton, who will remain as pastor of Union Chapel UCC in Burlington, N.C. "In doing so, many times I have felt that I had received more than I have given."
Milton, who will be honored Nov. 19 with a fundraising dinner at Franklinton, says he has always tried to "make the Center available to all persons, regardless as to where they are on life's journey. I have tried to see that the financially rich, as well as the poor, either in money or in spirit, have been welcomed."
Located in Whitakers, N.C., Franklinton Center is a UCC conference, retreat and educational center formed by the merger of two institutions: Franklinton Christian College, founded by the James O'Kelly Christian Church in 1880 to train black leaders for local churches; and Bricks Junior College, established by Julia Bricks in 1895 through a gift of land and endowment to the American Missionary Association. Franklinton and Bricks merged in 1954.
Milton, whose plans include dedicating more time to family, friends and self-care, says variety in abundance has shaped his leadership at Franklinton.
"Wealth comes to me through being at peace with myself and with others. It comes through being able to sleep at night and sitting at table with others; it comes through having enough physical goods to enjoy life each day, and it comes through those around me having enough to enjoy life as well."
For the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister for Justice and Witness Ministries, Milton's presence will remain strong. "This giant in the church, faithful servant and good friend has been a strong and steady voice of wisdom and strength for all of us for many years. I do not intend to say goodbye, because I look forward to many more opportunities to share in ministry with Ervin."
Milton has served as associate Conference minister for Eastern North Carolina of the Southern Conference and as Southern Regional associate for the Office for Church Life and Leadership. He has been on the Ecumenical Partnership Committee for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the UCC; vice president of then-United Church Board for World Ministries (now Wider Church Ministries); and on the board of trustees at Elon University and Shaw Divinity School in Raleigh, N.C.
He earned bachelor's degrees in theology from Union Christian Bible Institute in Durham, N.C., and sociology from Barber Scotia College in Concord, N.C. He holds an M. Div. from Duke University Divinity School in Durham.
Milton once wrote that Franklinton Center was one of the few places in the rural south during the 1950s and 1960s where blacks and whites could meet and eat together. "It served as a spiritual center during integration, and continues to this day to be a place of justice and transformation," he wrote.
Every year, several hundred members of UCC churches of the Eastern North Carolina Association gather on the first week of August to celebrate a cultural and spiritual homecoming – Franklinton Center Day.
"Jesus was a rich man because he experienced a rich life and showed us how to do so as well," says Milton. "Therefore, I have learned to live a rich life by living examples that Jesus has given me."
All funds raised at the Nov. 19 dinner will support programs at Franklinton Center. Cost of the meal is $20.
Responses and inquires can be made to: Brenda James, Celebration Committee Chair, P.O. Box 1943, Greensboro, NC 27402. Donations in the form of checks can be made payable to Franklinton Center at Bricks.
For further details or to make overnight accommodations, please call the Center at 252-437-1723.