Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Tale of Two Church Statesmen Mark the Passage of Time

Usually celebrity deaths mark the passage of time in ways that make you realize you're not a kid anymore. You know it before, but then you REALLY know it!

Take, for instance, the death of Andy Griffith. He was someone you grew up with. You watched his show in its original broadcast, but you also watched in reruns. It was a part of your youth and passage into adulthood. You started watching as a child, identifying with Opie and finished watching as an adult identifying with Andy!

When the same markers are not celebrities you really don't know and become people of standing that you really do know, the losses are a little harder. They are personalities you know you will miss, but they are also stark and uncomfortable reminders of your mortality. They can also represent the passage of a mantel that reinforces the seriousness of your life and calling.

Dr. C.C. Robertson
Such is the category in which the death of two local men fall...

Dr. C.C. Robertson, pastor of Dallas' Bexar Street Baptist Church, also served as President of Dallas' Baptist Ministers Union, Moderator of the Fellowship District Association and President of the National Missionary Baptist Convention, died last week and was buried on yesterday.

'C.C.' as we affectionately called him, succeeded his father at Bexar Street and served that church, as well as the Community Baptist Church before it, for well over 50 years.

There was no more affable man in the ministry in my lifetime than Dr. Robertson. I've known him since I was a child and his father was a great friend and colleague of my grandfather. Robertson's signature line when he was greeted was, 'I ain't mad at nobody!'. He was a beloved pastor and respected leader. He was one of those persons whom we all enjoyed being around and just standing in the pulpit either with him or watching him was a reminder of the storms he had weathered and how true leadership always comes at a heavy price, yet, if we are faithful those trials give us the qualities and character necessary to become the needed blessing at the time we are chosen.

Dr. R.E. Price
As we all anticipated the homegoing services of Dr. Robertson, word spread throughout the city of the death overnight of Dr. Robert E. Price. Price was the pastor of the New Mt. Zion Baptist Church also in Dallas. Pastor Price led a thriving church for more than 40 years and was a preeminent leader in church circles and civic life. He had a beautiful smile and a wonderful demeanor that simply drew you in.

When CitySquare began its Destination Home, permanent supportive housing program, Dr. Price was one of the first pastors I approached to help us make these formerly homeless residents acclimate themselves to their new surroundings. He readily committed and a few weeks later I saw how generously he committed. He led the church to put together welcome baskets for every resident. In fact they had far more welcome baskets than we could use at the time!

He also was generous with his time. On more than a couple of occasions, he came to the apartments to learn about the program, meet the staff and residents and extend himself to do whatever he could.

My parents, who were members of my church, became members of New Mt. Zion not very long after I left New Mt. Moriah to join the staff at CitySquare. I will forever be grateful for the spiritual nurture, care and concern he showed them. Last year, when my step-father passed, Price, who like Robertson was an old and dear friend of our family, spent cherished time with us all, recalling stories, lifting our spirits all when it was obvious that he was growing weary. I cherish that memory of him.
I last heard him preach when I and my granddaughter visited New Mt. Zion on Mother's Day, to worship with my mother.

Both of these wonderful men, lived lives that will probably not make the news. But they lived lives of faithful engagement in Kingdom ministry that has blessed countless lives. They were both in their 80's, so death is no surprise. But it marks the passage of time in ways that remind me of how swiftly time passes. It reminds me that I and my contemporaries in ministry have work to do. And it reminds me that the world needs people who are statesmen much more than it needs celebrities.

I'm not a kid anymore. That's a tough admission. But if the lives of these men are any indication, the best is yet to come...

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