‘A truly remarkable life’
By David Gambrell | Special to Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE – In just 51 years, the Rev. Dr. Charles “Chip” Andrus lived a truly remarkable life. He died the weekend of September 8, after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Chip was the associate for worship in the PC(USA) Office of Theology & Worship (2002–06) and served churches in Arkansas (2006–11) and New York (2011–18). He led the band Soul Highway, played everywhere from sanctuaries to saloons, wrote numerous songs, and recorded three albums of original music — Let It Rain Down, It’s All Good and The Place We’re At. He was a caring pastor, insightful teacher, creative spirit, captivating storyteller, active community servant, loving husband and father, and cherished friend.
Like the rivers he loved to float, Chip ran deep. Among his many other accomplishments, he made profound contributions to the liturgical life of the Presbyterian Church. In April 2017, I spent three days talking with him about daily prayer. He helped me understand the baptismal rhythm of daily prayer, how it is a daily practice of dying and rising with Christ.
Just a year later, I witnessed him living out that deep faith in his final months, leading the people of God in song at the 2018 General Assembly. I give thanks that Chip’s baptism is complete. In the words of the funeral liturgy, “All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”
Here are some additional reflections from friends and colleagues who have benefited from his wisdom and gifts:
Chip had a gifted way of communicating to church leaders the fundamental shape of the liturgy as Word and sacrament, otherwise known as the “ordo.” His passion was infectious, his spirit genuine and his insight penetrating. — David Batchelder; Pastor, West Plano Presbyterian Church in Plano, Texas
Chip was one of a kind and mere words don’t do him justice. He brought his kindness, smile, wicked sense of humor and deep knowledge to the office of Theology & Worship every day. I’m better for having known him, and I am heartbroken that he’s gone. — Penny Franklin, Executive Relations Coordinator, Presbyterian Foundation
Chip had the unique gift of inviting people from all walks of life to see ourselves in light of the claims of the gospel on every aspect of our lives. His creative ability was particularly striking in the ways he engaged, challenged and deepened those who longed for contemporary expressions of worship by showing them rich and diverse ways in which our communal prayers, music and action can be embodied. — Paul Galbreath, Professor of Theology, Union Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina
I will always be grateful to Chip for his largeness of spirit that has revealed itself to me in his generous hospitality and welcome. He fully introduced me to the richness and rhythm of daily prayer. I can hardly reach for my copy of the Book of Common Worship — Daily Prayer without remembering Chip’s fine teaching and faithful example. — Christopher Q. James, Pastor, New Hope Presbyterian Church in St. Charles, Missouri, and Member, North American Academy of Liturgy
With his well-used guitar, husky voice and mischievous eye-twinkle, Chip did not look like what most people imagine when they hear “liturgical reformer.” Yet his irrepressible enthusiasm when it came to weekly eucharist and daily prayer snuck up on people, helping them see how such simple everyday practices of hospitality and attention to God’s word can transform the world. — Martha Moore-Keish, J.B. Green Associate Professor of Theology, Columbia Theological Seminary
Through his unique style, humor and musical gifts, Chip opened Presbyterian eyes to new and different ways of being faithful. He converted so many of us to the practice of daily prayer. And his unwavering convictions about the baptized life deepened our wells of sacramental understanding. — Kimberly Bracken Long, Editor, Call to Worship: Liturgy, Music, Preaching, & the Arts
Chip came with me to the Saturday Festal Vigil for the Feast of Theophany at St Nicholas Orthodox Church when the North American Academy of Liturgy was in San Francisco. He was elated by that experience, talking about it repeatedly for the next several days. He approached it with his usual “all in” receptivity. How illumined he looked when he, too, could join their choir at the end while they sang “Joy to the World.” — Jennifer L. Lord, Dorothy B. Vickery Professor of Homiletics and Liturgical Studies, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and Past President, North American Academy of Liturgy
As my liturgy and preaching student, I saw Chip not just learning — but embodying liturgy. His entire life was a sacramental practice. In Louisville, he married and buried many unchurched people, and became an informal pastor to many in the city’s bar scene. Lacing his secular music sets with his own and other gospel songs, he often performed with dozens of tealights lit, creating a semi-liturgical atmosphere. He continued his music ministry as a pastor that extended well beyond his congregations. He will be mourned by parishioners, inside and beyond the church walls. —John S. McClure, Charles G. Finney Professor of Preaching and Worship, Vanderbilt Divinity School
Chip took his call, his ministry and his liturgy deeply seriously, while never taking himself or his circumstances that way. I will never again be able to pass a tray of communion cups without chuckling at Chip’s reference to them as “shot glasses on a hubcap.” Yet, by balancing a wry sense of humor and twinkle in his eye with profound faith, Chip taught us how to live and how to die as people of the resurrection. In his words, “It’s all good.” — William McConnell, Mission Engagement Advisor – South Region, Presbyterian Mission Agency
As moderator at General Assembly in Pittsburgh there were several long nights — and sometimes tense — plenaries. Chip and I had an arrangement. If at any point I sensed the Assembly needed a time to pause, sing and dance, I was to signal him with a nod. He and his band would then rock — and help us through some thickets. Also, Chip was a member of the Sacraments Task Force, which produced the Invitation to Christ report and recommendations for renewal of sacramental practice and theology. He made sure that our rich sacramental theology was embodied and exhibited for use in local congregations. — Neal Presa, Village Community Presbyterian Church (Rancho Santa Fe, California) and Former Moderator of the 220th General Assembly (2012) of the PC(USA)
Chip wanted to blur the lines between our Sunday gatherings and our “normal” lives. Once, in an airport, I remember seeing him from a distance, and as he approached, he belted out, “Peace of Christ be with you, Brother Ron!” and then gave me a bear hug. That was Chip: the juxtaposition of a public setting, the unapologetically liturgical greeting, and his big-hearted personality — living joyfully and hospitably into his baptismal identity. — Ron Rienstra, Professor of Preaching and Worship Arts, Western Theological Seminary
When we were advising on the revision of the Directory for Worship, with regards to the confession of sin and assurance of pardon, Chip taught me that the call to confession is already a proclamation of the good news, and that in the confession we acknowledge that we have broken our promises of baptism. — Tom M. Trinidad, Pastor, Faith Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado
Chip loved music of every genre, from rock and jazz to hymnody and chant, and his passion for congregational song was infectious. He was an unapologetic advocate for weekly Eucharist, patiently teaching congregations how to recognize their own hunger for the gifts of table and font, and how to meet the risen Lord in bread and wine and water. — Marney Wasserman, Convener, Sacrament Study Group
“Pickin’ on the front porch of Lizard Springs, I hear the river and the birds and all creation sings.” Listen to two or three lines of Chip’s music and you can soon appreciate how thoroughly his sacramental theology was tied to creation. Water, for example, is the baptismal font, but also springs and waterfalls, rivers and rain — all linked by the creative hand of God. Creation is not only forests and fields, but fostering ritual space, writing lyrics, generating friendships and creating music from nothing, from everything. — Brad Wigger, Professor of Christian Education, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
When I first met Chip, I mostly noticed his Deadhead, whitewater-guide look and Arkansas drawl. But that drawl expressed deep and profound insights on the faithful worship of the triune God. He helped the Presbyterians across the PC(USA) live more deeply into their baptisms and gather more joyfully around the Lord’s Table. He was always a surprising presence — and such a gift to the church. — Charles A. Wiley III, Director of Major Gifts, Columbia Theological Seminary
The Rev. Dr. David Gambrell is an associate for Worship in the Theology, Formation & Evangelism ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
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