Already in his 70s at the time, he preferred not to travel on a Sunday, but to travel earlier and serve a local church on Sunday, preaching to and teaching the faithful gathered in that place. He would fly in on a Friday, spend the weekend relaxing and recreating with us, preach and teach on Sunday, and then head off to CT Monday morning. He was always the perfect houseguest.
The first visit was arranged by my friend and parishioner Mark Galli, then editor at Christianity Today. It was thrilling to have him as a guest and to introduce him to my parishioners. The epistle for that Sunday was from Philippians 4, and he urged us not to neglect the important Christian work of rejoicing in the Lord’s goodness. But it was his second visit, rather the arranging of that visit, that opened a particular window onto his character.
I was in my office at the church one afternoon when the phone rang. I answered and heard a soft, British voice say, “Hello Chip, this is Jim Packer. I hope you remember me…”
I hope you remember me? Are you kidding me? But there you are, Jim Packer was perhaps the least presumptuous person I have ever known. He never felt that the renown his work had earned him was his entitlement to any special recognition or treatment.
Here’s another thing about Jim Packer: that man could eat! I never remember him turning down seconds at a meal, or refusing dessert because he was full. Oddly, he didn’t drink water, didn’t like it at all, but ate his food as spicy as he could get it. Once, at the airport in Dallas, we shared a breakfast of eggs and bacon. Lots of folks, myself included, like a bit of hot sauce on a scrambled egg. I remember Jim drowning his eggs in Tabasco Sauce, creating what looked like a sort of Tex-Mex Egg Drop soup.
Another time, driving from Columbia, SC to Tallahassee, FL for a Prayer Book Committee meeting, we stopped at an old Boarding House restaurant in south Georgia for lunch. At those places, you don’t order, they just bring what they have prepared that day: a variety of vegetables and rolls, and a choice of three meats. Jim chose all three. And when the two dessert options were offered, he asked if he might be permitted to have both.
— Regent College (@regentcollege) July 18, 2020