Friday, September 21, 2007

The Revd. Dr. Robert D. "Chip" Nix

I learned when I logged on to my email yesterday morning that my friend of thirty-five years, Robert "Chip" Nix was promoted to glory, taken home by the Lord yesterday evening. Chip had been ill for several months fighting cancerous lesions in the brain. I was in the midst of having my haircut on a hot July Saturday when my phone rang and Chip broke his news to me. He said then that it didn't look good.

I had hoped that I would be able to see Chip before leaving the USA for my new work and ministry here in England, but try as I might to arrange a quick visit to Texas, such a thing proved impossible, so I had to make do with phone calls. Actually, I had been planning to call him from England today, but that is now not possible. I continue to wish that somehow I had managed to get to Austin, and share one of the precious days with him.

Chip Nix appeared in my life in the early 1970s when I had just become the assistant at St. Mary Magdalene Church, Stoke Bishop, a leafy suburb of Bristol, England, and he arrived as a seminarian at Trinity Theological College, just a few hundred yards from our church. He was there as part of a triumvirate of young Episcopal evangelicals whose lives had been influenced for Christ by John Guest, then Rector of Chip's home church, St. Stephen's, Sewickley, on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, PA. Chip had a lot of hair in those days, a droopy mustache, and was a Vietnam Vet.

And so our lives became entwined, but I thought when he returned to the US with his newly-acquired English wife, Carol, that this was just about the last I would see of him. I never at that time expected that America would be in my future, but several years after we first met my life took its American turn, and on my first visit I spent a night with the Nixes in their Manhattan apartment when Chip was doing his Episcopal year of studies at General Theological Seminary.

From then on our paths continued to cross. As is often the case in the Episcopal Church spread across a huge continent, we would stay in touch, but there would often be several years between being able to see each other, although we talk on the phone, exchange emails and occasional instant messages.

Chip's ministry, like all of us had its highs and lows. He worked in various corners of the USA in parishes large and small, and there is a trail of lives who have been shaped positively by his ministry. But it has seemed to be that it has been during his latter years that he found a role that so well fitted his extraordinary array of gifts -- that of an interim minister. There are several congregations today who have been profoundly blessed because the Nixes have been there, and Chip has been their rector for a while.

Perhaps the fairest thing that could be said about Chip was that he was someone whose life was devoted to Jesus Christ with passion, and he lived out that discipleship to his very last breath. He was certainly one of the kindest men that I have known, and always had a listening ear and shared good counsel when this friend was struggling or in trouble. We would talk about ministry and its struggles, share titles of books that ought to be read, and would just sometimes shoot the breeze. He prayed for me often, I know, and I prayed for him, and have prayed constantly for him during these last couple of months of his life.

Chip had his weaknesses and shortcomings, which of us doesn't, but if I were to find a way of summing this person up it would be as a man who sought to be mastered by God. He will be sorely missed. He now shares the joy of eternity with the Lord he has served wholeheartedly, and for that we can be glad. Yet he leaves a wife and two daughters who are bereft without him, in addition to those many, many friends that he accumulated.

I am thankful for the privilege of knowing this delightful man, and I pray that he will remain an example to me as someone who I should seek to emulate.


Joy said...

I think that sums up my dad pretty well. Easy to love and he shared God's love easily. Thank you for knowing him so well and being such a good friend.

Richard Kew said...

Bless you, Joy, your father was a wonderful man and I will treasure our friendship for the rest of my days.