At the hour of this post, one of the most loved preachers of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Rev. Dr. C. William “Bill” Nichols is being remembered by colleagues, congregants, community leaders and family. A gifted storyteller, writer, leader and servant of Christ’s church, Bill inspired many of us with his amazing memory, his talented delivery and his welcoming spiritual presence. As the community of faith gathers to sing his favorite hymn, Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, I thought I’d share my own short tribute to the Preacher’s preacher.
I met Bill Nichols for the first time as a student at Culver-Stockton College in Canton, MO where Bill had studied years before. I was a very young ministry student in awe of the recently called Interim General Minister & President who was on campus to receive an honor at one of our seasonal convocations. Pictured in the blurry photograph here, I was privileged to meet in a small group conversation with Bill who listened to me as if I mattered, encouraged my journey in faith and ministry, and gave me hope for the future of the wider church.
I saw Bill again at the General Assembly in St. Louis as a college graduate heading for seminary. He remembered my name and was encouraging as usual. I had no idea our paths would cross again five years later when I was called to serve the congregation Bill served for many years. I will always remember my first opportunity to preach in the beautiful, English-Gothic sanctuary of Central Christian Church, Decatur, IL. Standing in the pulpit, I looked just two rows before me to see Bill and Claudine Nichols, Senior Minister Emeritus now, retired and smiling, ready for a word. Just months out of seminary, I was a bit nervous to say the least to preach to the preacher of preachers listening just feet away. Bill was most gracious in the receiving line after the service, “Thank you, preacher.”
I was privileged to serve Bill and his family as one of their ministers and even more so to be ministered to by such an inspiring witness for Disciples of Christ. God’s welcome be yours, Bill and grace and peace be with the Nichols family!