The Reverend Dr. Lawrence W. Johnson
July 25, 1899 – April 11, 1994
Reverend Dr. Lawrence W. Johnson’s vision took shape at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas, where he served from 1965 to 1973. Faced with a growing number of requests to provide prayer and solace for patients arriving to Houston for medical treatments and many without a church to support them, he trained a group of church members to visit the sick in five hospitals in the Texas Medical Center. A great Guild of Lay Ministers was born. Starting as “Pastors to Out of Town Presbyterians,” and a few name changes followed including, “Presbyterian Outreach to Patients,” all the while, the POP acronym took hold and remains today!
POP Lay Ministers experience an excellent Didactic and Clinical Training, resulting in hospitals requesting they visit additional patients. The fine Lay Ministers welcomed this addition of providing spiritual care to patients of all faith traditions. Among the Guild was a growing awareness for the need of a more inclusive name – a name which represented all patients and their unique soulful longings. Longtime POP Lay Minister John Leslie who had also served on the Board, recommended PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE. Those who knew and served with founder, Rev. Larry Johnson, felt it spoke perfectly to his hope and vision that all sick people would have access to spiritual care.
In 2014 the Board of Directors unanimously voted to change the name to PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE, which also retained the POP acronym! POP engaged the brilliant talent of Graphic Designer Jay Loucks for an updated Logo to match the new name. Patients viewing the Logo often say; “my prayers fit right in,” or “these are God’s prayers for me,” and “prayers are beautiful gathered all together and sent to God.”
“The POP Ministry is an incredible blessing to the community. My father was recently visited by a POP Lay Minister. We continue to see Dr. Johnson’s hand in the work you are doing to spread the love and compassion of God.” — Beth Patterson
The solo sung at his memorial service was Dr. Johnson’s request. He wanted “Autumn” to be sung because it was his favorite hymn. Originally written in Geneva, Switzerland, it was later adapted by James Montgomery in 1822. Lawrence quoted this hymn from memory in many of his sermons. He told the story that when the Titanic was sinking, the Scottish band on board the ship started to play “Autumn” to comfort the passengers and remind them of their eternal hope in Christ. The text is available below.
Call Jehovah thy salvation, rest beneath the Almighty’s shade.
From the sword at noonday wasting, from the noisome pestilence,
Since, with pure and firm affection, thou on God hast set thy love,
Dr. Lawrence W. Johnson, 94, died Monday, April 11, 1994 at a local hospital. Dr. Johnson was born July 25, 1899 in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma (then known as Indian Territory), the son of Frank Lee and Hattie Mae Johnson. Dr. Johnson received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Tulsa in 1922; his Master of Arts Degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois in 1927; his Bachelor of Divinity from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois in 1934; his Doctorate of Divinity from the University of Dubuque in Dubuque, Iowa in 1943. Dr. Johnson served as Pastor of Central Presbyterian Church of McAlester, Oklahoma from 1942 to 1965, Minister of Pastoral Care at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church from 1965 – 1974, and Pastor to Out-of-Town Presbyterians at Texas Medical Center from 1974-1990. Dr. Johnson married Elizabeth Could in 1925 and she died in 197, and then married Helen Hagler Lockhart in 1979 in Houston. Dr. Johnson was the Past President of the McAlester Rotary Club in McAlester, Oklahoma; Past President of the McAlester Hospital Foundation, Member of the Board of Directors of the McAlester United Fund; Member of the Board of Directors of Choctaw Area Council, Boy Scouts of America, the Rotary Club of Houston and an Honorary Member of the Doctors Club of Houston. Dr. Johnson was preceded in death by his son, Samuel Kent Johnson in 1993. Dr. Johnson’s survivors include his wife, Helen Hagler Johnson, his son, Lawrence W. Johnson, Jr.; five grandchildren and five great grandchildren. Friends may call at Waltrip Funeral Home, 1415 Campbell Road, after 12 noon Thursday, April 14, 1994 where the family will be present from 6-8 p.m. to receive friends. Memorial Services will be held at 1:00 p.m. Friday, April 15, 1994 at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, 11612 Memorial Drive, with Dr. Thomas K. Tewell, Dr. Mac N. Turnage, and Dr. Charlie W. Shedd officiating. Interment will be held Friday morning. Serving as Honorary Pallbearers will be: Stanton P. Fischer, Joe P. Harle, J. Gay Hudson, Wilson H. Lane, David T. Parks, William H. Plenge, R. Gary Russell, Thomas B. Shelfer, George D. Volkel and Hugh A. Wood. In lieu of usual floral remembrances, the family suggests that memorials be made to The Lawrence W. Johnson Memorial Fund, c/o Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, 11612 Memorial Drive, Houston, Texas 77024.
POP would like to extend a very special thank you to Jim and Beth Patterson. The images and historical information used on this page are courtesy of the Pattersons and made the creation of this page possible.
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