This site is not just for funeral notices, though it may seem so just now. Twice this week I have lost friends to death, my heart is sad and I feel I should eulogize each one, as I did for Christi Brewer earlier this week.
The latest is Dr. Charles Price. Charlie was a faithful pastor in Texas for many years before he took on the post of Missionary at San Antonio Baptist Association. Gruff as a bulldog, kind as angel, Charlie had a fine intellect, a strong work ethic and opinions as strong as bad cheese.
We met while I was at my lowest ebb in denominational service; new, befuddled, without budget and being attacked from every side. We had a major event in San Antonio and I flew down to survey the wreckage and meet the local officialdom, of whom Charlie was chief. The debris was worse than I thought. No amount of money would have fixed the mess we were in that year; overbooking of rooms at major expense, lack of interest on the part of the locals, outright enmity on the part of many, our flagship hotel being sued by various groups whose support we needed and wanted and almost complete lack of interest on the part of my inherited staff for the event.
No amount of money could have fixed the mess, I say, and that was just as well, because there was no money left for the year when I walked in as director and we were overdrawn from the last year into the next year, a fact I was not given prior to coming to the position and only grudgingly afterward. Despite the efforts of good people I would struggle with the lack of budget for all five years at my post, cutting this and that, refusing to move money from one imaginary area to another and functioning for the last two years without an assistant to answer phones and make bookings.
And then I was to drive over and offer my credentials to Charlie Price. On the drive over a sense of impending doom filled my heart. I assumed no one would want to sign on as crewman on the Titanic after we had already struck the big ice cube. I assumed Charles Price would do what others of his standing had already done to me; keep me waiting in the foyer to put my in place, feign cordiality briefly to sop their conscience, speak past me to the audience to which they would report, offer scathing rebukes of past BGCT performances and blister the direction of the state convention, then close with a smile as disingenuous as the proverbial three dollar bill and offer the benediction, “Rick, I am glad you are where you are.”
Charles met me at the door, though I was ten minutes early. With his barking, command style, his smile that started at the corner of his mouth, pulled the rest of his face over that way and then spread upward to his eyes, Charles immediately set the emotional tone of our introduction.
“I guess you have had a tough day,” he understated. “Come in, sit down and let;s talk about what we can do to make it better.”
And he meant what he said, always a bonus with religious professionals, people whose word is not merely flexible, but elastic to the point it stretches so taut you can see through it to what they want but have not the power to perform. Charles meant his yes to be yes and his no to be no. Contrast this with the other fellow of his professional ilk, who refused to meet with me, claimed he had met with me and then denied the meeting ever happened, all to the same ruling elite, who professed belief in all his conflicting stories, each of which gave the lie to the last.
Charles Price stood out for his brazen honesty and his warm hospitality. Not everyone liked him but everyone I knew respected him. When a little preacher in a large area church decided he would score some points with another group by pulling several churches out of the association (after telling Charles to his face that he was involved in no such effort) the little preacher discovered one sobering truth. That is, even the people whom he had targeted refused to go with him because of Charlie Price. One contacted Charlie from the basement of the church during the final showdown to inform Charlie of the meeting and said, “Charles, I am embarrassed to be here. My church is not leaving.”
And, Charlie forgave the wannabe rebel. He ministered to and with all of the little fellows involved, even up to his death. He was that rarest of preachers, the kind who can see up around the bend to the higher ground, where things are better and motives purer. He wanted things to be better, for all, and never slammed back in public or private at those who slammed him.
Honesty, humility, kindness, forgiveness, grace and compassion, combined with the ability to see up around the bend in the road, to work for the good of all, even the least of his brethren, sometimes while they met to condemn him in private as they would not do in public. Amazing Christ-likeness in his thoughts and deeds, Charles just knew one way to be.
Charles Price was a true prince of the church. He will not be easily replaced.