A remembrance from Tex Sample…
I remember Harrell Beck as an extraordinary teacher, a lecturer of compelling power, a sensitive spirit, and a deeply formed Christian who cared personally for his students. As a speaker and preacher, he was simply electric.
I once went through a professional disappointment like none I had ever known. Harrell happened to be with me during that time. He canceled his appointments, spent the next two hours with me, and then drove me to the airport. I shall never forget his compassion, his care, and his willingness to cancel everything in order to be fully present to a former student.
I remember his prayers. When I was in his classes, he usually prayed from Samuel H. Miller’s Prayers for Daily Use. I still pray from a well-worn copy that I bought the summer after I finished my work at Boston University, now forty-eight years ago.
STH, 1960, GRS, 1964
Excerpted from an Alban Institute article by Gil Rendle…
I consider Harrell Beck, who taught Old Testament wisdom literature at Boston University School of Theology, to be such a deep generalist spiritual leader. A friend and mentor to me in my early years of ministry, Harrell taught classes for which one needed to be a middler or senior at the seminary in order to gain a prized place on the roster. But despite the limit to the number of class participants (usually around 20), the room was routinely filled with an additional 25 to 40 students who would come simply to hear Harrell’s opening prayer before the teaching began. The prayer would focus on the life of the seminary but reach out to include issues of the city and events of the nation and world. At the conclusion of the prayer a few moments would be given to allow non-class members to file out, and then the teaching would begin.
Always amazed at his prayers and the response that he evoked in so many of us, I remember asking Harrell how he understood so many things so clearly that he could address not only our own community but also issues and events that it took whole newspapers to chronicle. His response was the simple but disciplined truth of the deep generalist spiritual leader. Harrell quickly admitted that he did not understand all that I ascribed to him. “But I do understand wisdom literature,” he said. “And I can talk about what the world looks like when you look through the lens that God has given us in the Old Testament.” He stood deeply within the discipline of his faith, but he was able to move broadly across life experience. I wonder what our congregations would be if we had more such leaders who stood deeply in their understanding of the faith and had the ability to help us see new realities in our own experience of life.
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