There is no way to capture what Rev. Dr. Fred Craddock meant to the church in general and to the art of preaching specifically. I had the great pleasure to interact with and get to know Dr. Craddock. I’ll share a couple of moments here:
Fred and Nettie were members of the church I grew up in while he taught at Emory. This is where I first learned of who he was and his influence. Many years later I was at my first General Assembly, riding in an elevator alone when it made a stop on the 6th floor of the hotel as it was going down. Fred Craddock stepped onto the elevator. I was almost certain he did not remember me, so I just stood there awkwardly staring at the man. I’m surprised he didn’t stop the elevator and get off on the next floor. He leaned his hand over to me and said, “good afternoon, I’m Fred.” Ever so quick on my feet, instead of introducing myself, I simply said “I know who you are.” Thankfully, Fred was a man of grace.
Many years later, I was a student at Candler School of Theology and Rev Dr. James Forbes came to preach at our Chapel service. Fred was present and following the service I spent a few moments talking with Fred. ( we had come a long way from that elevator ride.) Suddenly, James Forbes came over to talk to Fred. For a football reference, this would be like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning having a conversation about football with you as the third wheel. Fred then proceeded to introduce me to James Forbes and the three of us had a nice little conversation. Like I said, this was like a holy grail moment with two giants of the preaching world. Except, they were both so gracious, kind, and encouraging. Truly a moment I will never forget and one that made a mark on a budding preacher.
The final memory I will share is that Fred and Nettie were our guests at my installation service at Sandy Springs in March of 2012. Fred’s preaching and presence was always meaningful for our congregation. We had initially invited him to preach, but he wasn’t sure how he would be feeling on the day, but he was more than happy to come and to worship. I decided that I would preach that day in case when he showed up he felt like preaching. When he and Nettie arrived, I asked him if he felt like preaching or doing anything in worship. He told me in a very serious voice that he had come to SSCC to do four things.
1) Hear the Gospel proclaimed
2) See friends
3) Eat lunch
4) Use the Bathroom
and not necessarily in that order,
It was vintage Fred Craddock. I will forever be eternally grateful that he and Nettie were there to share that day with our congregation.
We have truly lost one of the great saints of the faith a genuine, humble, faithful servant of God. His life will continue on through pulpits and congregations across the world each and every week. I know so many who rejoice that he was a part of their journey. I know my faith is stronger because of Fred’s life. Well done good and faithful servant.