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At graveside, Criswell’s passage affirmed into the arms of Jesus

DALLAS (BP)–In a city known for its traffic, cars stood still along Central Expressway at mid-afternoon Jan. 16 to make way for the long procession carrying the body of W.A. Criswell. The caravan’s progress was announced throughout the Metroplex by news helicopters hovering in the air.

Several hundred mourners gathered on a warm, sunny day at Hillcrest Memorial Park in north Dallas to pay final respects to the man who led First Baptist Church for half a century. The father-in-law of grandson Cris Criswell, James Hutchins, read selected Scriptures, including Psalm 23 and John 14:1-7. Hutchins pastors Christ Church (PCA) of Arlington, Va., and is a retired U.S. Army brigadier general. He also conveyed condolences from the ambassador of Israel who expressed appreciation for Criswell’s support of that country since its founding in 1948.

Former First Baptist ministers of music who had served under Criswell offered a rendition of the pastor’s favorite song, “There Is a Fountain.” Participating were Gary Moore of Houston, Fred McNab of Abilene, David Humphrey of Glen Rose and Lee Roy Till and Keith Ferguson, both of Dallas.

Criswell College Executive Vice President Lamar Cooper officiated over the interment, flanked by the ministers who had spoken at the memorial service. He recalled a section Criswell had included in his Guidebook for Pastors that cited Hebrews 11:4 and the reference to Abel who, being dead, yet speaks. Quoting verbatim from the prayer Criswell suggested ministers use at a committal service, Cooper said, “Dear Lord Jesus, all that hands could do have we done. Where we leave off do you take up and take care. Watch over this hallowed place in holy remembrance until the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised in glory. Give us back then, these we have loved and lost just for a while. Bless the family that waits in earth until that triumphant day when we shall be joined together in heaven. Send us away to our homes and to the work that awaits us in thy love and grace, and in thy dear name, Amen.”

Remembering Criswell’s frequent use of hymn writer Fanny Crosby’s “Safe in the Arms of Jesus,” Cooper related that the song was sung at the memorial service for Criswell’s own father. “How it moved my heart to a renewed faith in Jesus when I heard it at that solemn hour,” Criswell related in the guidebook. Cooper recited the words of the hymn, ending with, “Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast, there by His love o’ershaded, sweetly my soul shall rest.”

Cooper closed in praying, expressing thanks for “the unspeakable gift in Jesus Christ our Savior” and “for sharing with us these 92 years your faithful servant, Wallie Amos Criswell, who like you, Lord, so dearly loved your church.” He asked for comfort for the family through the presence of the Holy Spirit “til we meet again around the throne. Until then, rest safe in the arms of Jesus, sweet husband, sweet father, sweet pastor, sweet friend.”

Just before the casket was carried into the mausoleum, daughter Anne sang, “Finally Home” as she said good-bye to her father: “But just think of stepping on shore and finding it heaven, of touching a hand and finding it God’s, of breathing new air and finding it celestial, of waking up in glory and finding it home. Oh that would be glory to me.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: AT THE GRAVESIDE.

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  • Tammi Reed Ledbetter