The Rev. Thomas McKenzie, a beloved Anglican pastor who founded the Church of the Redeemer in Nashville, Tennessee, is being mourned by Christians across denominational lines after he was killed with his daughter Charlie in a tragic rear-end crash with a tractor-trailer Monday morning.
Tennessee Highway Patrol confirmed that the crash happened around 9:50 a.m. Monday, according to WKRN. The wreck occurred just 30 minutes after the 50-year-old pastor announced on social media that he was on his way to New Mexico with his 22-year-old daughter, who was about to begin her senior year at St. John’s College.
“First day of sabbatical. Driving with my kid to New Mexico. Charlie’s senior year at St John’s College, Santa Fe campus. Today’s goal? Shamrock, Texas,” he noted on Facebook.
Authorities say the crash happened on I-40 westbound at mile marker 178. The tractor-trailer driver was reportedly slowing down due to traffic when the pastor’s Nissan Versa rear-ended the tractor-trailer while changing lanes. The driver of the tractor-trailer was not injured.
Rev. McKenzie, who leaves behind his wife and another daughter Sophie McKenzie, revealed on Twitter Sunday Morning how excited he was for his road trip but opined about how much he would miss his church family.
“Today is my last day of work before my sabbatical begins," he tweeted. "I’m excited about my upcoming travels, but I know I’ll miss my community. I feel sadness and some anxiety as I prepare for this morning’s Eucharists."
In an email statement to congregants following the founding pastor’s death, Church of the Redeemer Associate Pastor Kenny Benge said the congregation’s sadness was “deep.”
“Thomas was just beginning his well-deserved sabbatical. Thomas’ wife Laura and their daughter Sophie are now home in Nashville," Benge wrote. "Please keep Laura and Sophie in your prayers as they navigate this agonizing time. I and the staff, as well as the broader leadership of the church, are shocked and deeply saddened, as I’m sure you are as well in hearing this news."
Russell Moore, the former leader of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission who is now a public theologian with Christianity Today, was a good friend of the late pastor. Moore publicly mourned McKenzie on Twitter as a “great and faithful and kind man.”
“All of us who loved this great and faithful and kind man are grieving. @thomasmckenzie ministered to countless of us of various denominations, and we all respected him," Moore wrote in one tweet. "Pray for his family and church at this moment of great sadness."
On Tuesday morning, Moore elaborated on his experience with McKenzie in a series of tweets.
“Several years ago, my friend Randall Goodgame asked @russramsey1 @thomasmckenzie and me to do an episode of @slugsandbugsofficial on ‘An Anglican, a Baptist, and a Presbyterian Walk into a Monkey Bar.’ We sat in kids’ chairs, at a kids’ table, literally coloring with crayons and playing with Play-Doh, while talking about Jesus’ call to childlikeness. We were goofing off, making jokes. But it also happened to be the worst day of my life until that point. I drove there from a horrific meeting and was in great pain,” Moore revealed.
“What I remember about that day is the way father Thomas, @russramsey and @randallgoodgame stood around, laying hands on me and praying for me. And then Thomas told a dry joke that made me laugh. When this Baptist was facing some awful stuff from (some of) my own people, the Anglican and the Presbyterian were brothers to me."
Moore said the "childlikeness" he experienced that day "had nothing to do with the crayons or the swing set."
"I’ve thought about that day a lot over [the] last 24 hrs," Moore stressed. "I keep remembering his gravity and his care. He’s the only man I ever looked up to for his maturity and grace while shooting water pistols at each other. He took time in that moment [to] help me w the strength to go on. I can only imagine the ministry for those in his parish. No wonder there is such grief all around the country by Anglicans, Baptists, Presbyterians, and beyond."
Congregant Susan Williams confirmed Moore’s assessment of McKenzie’s ministry in a post on Facebook in which she revealed the death of her pastor broke her heart “into a million, zillion pieces.”
“Father Thomas gave me hope, that godly men would rise up, and call corruption what it was, and point us all back to the salvation available through our magnificent, compassionate, gracious God. He called sin, sin, but caused me to wonder at the immeasurable grace of God that reaches out to us in our weakness, enveloping us in forgiveness and mercy,” Williams wrote.
“I pray I will never forget the lesson he taught last Sunday, on the humility that holds the person who aspires to be useful in the Kingdom together. May humility always characterize me, and compassion, and gratefulness for the grace, and mercy, and love of my blessed Redeemer, who paid the highest price to buy my soul back out of slavery to sin.”
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