By Aaron Earls
Pastor and author Eugene Peterson died on Monday, October 22, 2018. He was 85.
For those who knew him, Peterson’s life embodied the title of one of his most famous works—A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.
In a statement, his family said:
During the previous days, it was apparent that he was navigating the thin and sacred space between earth and heaven. We overheard him speaking to people we can only presume were welcoming him into paradise. There may have even been a time or two when he accessed his Pentecostal roots and spoke in tongues as well.
Among his final words were, “Let’s go.” And his joy: my, oh my; the man remained joyful right up to his blessed end, smiling frequently. In such moments it’s best for all mortal flesh to keep silence. But if you have to say something say this: “Holy, Holy, Holy.”
It feels fitting that his death came on a Monday, the day of the week he always honored as a Sabbath during his years as a pastor. After a lifetime of faithful service to the church—running the race with gusto—it is reassuring to know that Eugene has now entered into the fullness of the Kingdom of God and has been embraced by eternal Sabbath.
On October 13, Robert Creech, professor of Christian ministries at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary, shared an email from Peterson’s son Eric on Facebook. In the post, Eric revealed his father had entered hospice care after his health “took a sudden and dramatic turn.”
For his part, Creech wrote, “Eugene Peterson has encouraged, formed, and often literally saved the ministry of more than one pastor over the years through his writing and thinking (I would include myself in that list.”)
Peterson founded Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland, in 1962. He served there for 29 years before retiring in 1991. He became a professor at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, until retiring from there in 2006.
In an interview last year, Peterson said he wasn’t afraid of dying. “I’ve been with a lot of people who are dying. I think those conversations are some of the best I’ve had. These are people who have lived a good life and who have embraced their faith. They’re not afraid.”
For Christians, Peterson said there was something “miraculous” about death. “There are people who die well, and I want to be one.”
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor for Facts & Trends.