A PRINCE OF A FELLOW

ewf_beardTHE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF MARCH IN THE YEAR OF GRACE TWO THOUSAND AND SIXTEEN.


He was 8-10 years older than most graduate students at ACU in 1967, and none of the classes, whether lecture-based or discussion seminars, were really all that large. But the main thing that made Charles Prince both conspicuous and memorable was that when he commented on the professor’s remarks as he often did–whether to take issue with them or merely to enlarge on some point–Charles nearly always seemed to know as much about the subject at hand as did any of his teachers, and sometimes considerably more.

An encouraging and lasting friendship

Charles and I soon became fast friends, welcoming opportunities for discussion of almost any topic, quickly losing ourselves in deep and thoughtful conversation. He was one of only two people who called me “Eddie” whom I did not correct for doing so. From Abilene, Charles went to Boston to study theology at Harvard. Sara Faye and I moved to St. Louis, where I preached for the Kirkwood Church of Christ.

In 1971, Jerry Riley, a fellow graduate student at ACU and our mutual friend, resigned as preaching minister of the Oak Hills Church of Christ in San Antonio, and Charles was chosen almost immediately to fill the vacancy. The following year, my father died suddenly at age 57 and we moved to Athens, Ala., to help my mother with the C.E.I. Publishing Company, our family business. I was fired in 1975 during a hostile takeover, and after a year of unemployment I took a job as typesetter in a commercial printshop in Decatur, Alabama, 12 miles from my home in Athens. I also served from 1975-1982 as the unofficial and unpaid pastor of Elm Street Church in Athens, an assembly of 30-35 people meeting in a renovated barn. Those were my circumstances the next time I encountered Charles Prince.

Out of the blue

I was at work one day, perhaps in 1976, when the shop telephone rang and someone shouted that it was for me. A familiar voice identified the caller as Charles Prince, now minister of the 400-member Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas. “Eddie,” he began, “are you still preaching?” I said that I was and he continued. “I was always impressed and appreciative of you during our conversations in graduate school at ACU. I would like to have you come do a special weekend of preaching and teaching at Oak Hills some time soon.”

I immediately accepted the invitation, went to San Antonio and presented (as best I now recall) four messages from Scripture on the theme of God’s initiative in our salvation. It was a most enjoyable weekend, and the God whom we serve–the sovereign God who takes the initiative, the God who does whatever he pleases–used the whole episode to confirm to my heart that he still remembered me and the grace-gifts that he had entrusted to me to use for the benefit of others. Never again could I doubt that God would continue to use me any time he had a task that he wanted me to fulfill.

With that confidence, I returned home after the weekend. When Monday morning dawned, I put on my jeans and went to work at the printshop as usual–most of my fellow-employees never knowing that anything out of the ordinary had occurred. Charles and I kept in touch, and he later made some helpful bibliographic suggestions for a little research project I was doing at night and on weekends on the topic of final punishment.

Fast forward 40 years

This past Sunday morning, March 20, 2016, the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio honored Charles Prince for his 45 years of service to the congregation in leadership, teaching, and preaching, including ten years as preaching minister beginning in 1971. This was followed by an informal time of celebration in the Covenant class, which he has taught for 18 years. Thanks to Mike McHenry, we can enjoy both occasions via internet.

Take advantage of this special opportunity to join a Sunday morning assembly at Oak Hills Church by going to: www.youtube.com/
There be blessed by the a cappella singing of “Amazing Grace” (begins at 0.01), “On Zion’s Gloious Summit” (39:48), and “Christ We Do All Adore Thee” (45:08). Hear a sermon on God’s kindness by preaching minister Max Lucado, who also pays tribute to Charles’ four decades of service at Oak Hills Church to the risen Savior (07:32). Say amen to some words of tribute to Charles from community minister Tom Anthony (46:42).
The second brief video contains the Covenant Class tribute to its beloved teacher. Go to: www.youtube.com/watch