'He was a giant amongst his peers': Bishop O.G. Simpson dies at age 76
A pastor is being remembered in Edmonton's religious and Black communities for his long career supporting and uplifting everyone around him.
Bishop O.G. Simpson's children say he had been suffering from a number of illnesses when he died on Friday at the age of 76.
"It was a bittersweet moment," his daughter Genieve Simpson-Hind told CTV News Edmonton on Monday. "He was actually praying with the caretaker… saying he was ready to go."
Born in Jamaica on Nov. 19, 1946, Simpson moved to England in 1965. He lived there until 1977 when he was anointed and appointed pastor of a new church in Edmonton.
"He was a bit reluctant, not knowing the cold Canada," his son Barrington Simpson recalled.
"But him making the move here has been so impactful."
Barrington Simpson, son of Edmonton bishop O.G. Simpson, speaks to CTV News Edmonton on Feb. 6, 2023, after his father's passing on Feb.3.
In 2020, Simpson retired as pastor of that same church – the Bethel United Church of Jesus Christ Apostolic on 149 Street – after 43 years.
Rod Charles grew up attending and serving in the church.
"It was so significant because it was the epicentre of immigrant, Caribbean individuals who were transplanted from England, from Jamaica, from Grenada, from Trinidad, from the United States, from all over," Charles commented.
"We were able to come together and know we were being taken care of… And at the very centre of that was Bishop Simpson."
Another former congregant, Paul Blazek, recalled, "I was walking by, and I heard gospel music."
This was around 1992. Blazek was so moved, he walked into the church that day and would continue attending for three years.
"That church and the brothers and sisters in that church have a unique gift of praise and a unique gift of song to give. It really moves the spirit."
But it wasn't just the welcoming atmosphere Simpson had created which drew people in, but the generosity he exemplified.
"There’s people telling me stories how he drove them out of town for job interviews. Like, he would hand people things in need and would not expect anything back in return,” his daughter told CTV News Edmonton.
Genieve Simpson-Hind speaks to CTV News Edmonton about her father O.G. Simpson's legacy during an interview on Feb. 6, 2023. The former pastor of the Bethel First United Church on 149 Street died at age 76 on Feb. 3.
She said it was occasionally difficult as a child to have her father dedicate so much time and energy to his congregants.
"We understand what ministry was; sometimes it isn't about us but other people. That helped us to be selfless as well. It was hard not seeing him physically at home, but it gave us a sense of that is us: we just give, we love, we try to put a smile on somebody's face."
Simpson married Charles and his wife, Keisha, who met at Simpson's church. He also encouraged Charles to become the pastor of Bethel Apostolic Church in Stony Plain.
"His work in our lives was so significant that it brought about change in the Parkland area," the Stony Plain pastor commented.
"He was a giant amongst his peers."
Keisha and Rod Charles speak about the significance of Bishop O.G. Simpson in their lives during an interview with CTV News Edmonton on Feb. 6, 2023. The couple met at Simpson's church, the Bethel First United Church on 149 Street in Edmonton, and were married by the pastor.
Stories like these have brought a great deal of joy to Simpson's family.
"We are just proud of the impact that he's made over the city, not just of those who attended the church but our own friends are calling us how impactful he was to them," Barrington Simpson told CTV News Edmonton.
“You’d go to the hospital and his room was just always packed with people. It was just a beautiful thing and he’ll be greatly missed.”
He says his father offered advice right through the end of his life.
"Even in his sickness, he kept saying, 'Make sure you guys work together,'" Barrington said.
"We just go off his legacy. Everything that he taught us is what is carrying us forward."
With files from CTV News Edmonto's Marek Tkach
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