Attractive book flows with tributes to John Claypool’s generous life

Carolyn Sloss Ratliff has pulled together a beautiful — in words and appearance — tribute to the late John Claypool. The attractive volume, Life Is Gift, was published this year by St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Birmingham, Ala., where Ratliff is a member and Claypool was rector.

The well-designed book is a compilation of 99 essays from both Baptists and Episcopalians touched by Claypool’s effective ministry that crossed both denominational traditions.

In the foreword, Ratliff explains the genesis of the book: “The impact John had on people, the abundant love that he communicated, and the fact that his name is regularly spoken in sermons, in conversations, and in my own mind convinced me to begin this book.”

Claypool, a widely regarded preacher and author, became rector at St. Luke’s after a long career in Baptist ministry. Upon retirement from the Episcopal Church he moved to Atlanta, where he taught at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology until his death in 2005.

Among those paying tribute are Walter Shurden, Emmanuel McCall, Barbara Brown Taylor, Mahan Siler, Fisher Humphreys, Alan Culpepper, Hardy Clemons, Joe Phelps, Reba Cobb, David Hull and Julie Whidden Long. The volume also includes the late William E. Hull’s remembrance offered at Claypool’s funeral.

Calling Claypool a “Baptistpalian,” Shurden concluded: “Some of us will go to our graves talking about what he said and the way he said it — and why in the world we didn’t think of saying it the way he said it.”

McCall recalled Claypool’s role in racial reconciliation — kick-started by a newspaper photo showing Claypool having coffee with Martin Luther King Jr., his friend from earlier years when both were associate pastors in Atlanta.

Episcopal priest and gifted preacher in her own right, Barbara Brown Taylor, recalled Claypool’s invitation to preach at St. Luke’s and her instant fear of preaching before him and his congregation. His charge, “Just come tell us what is saving your life now,” both relieved her anxieties at the moment and became a guiding mantra.

Joe Phelps said that Claypool “became the North Star for a generation of Baptist ministers.”

There are so many more good words in the case-bound, jacketed volume that may be ordered online from St. Luke’s Episcopal Church at saint-lukes.com. BT