Chuck Colson, the late Prison Fellowship founder, will be buried privately at Quantico National Cemetery in Virginia in the coming days, but the public is invited to attend a memorial service that will be held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on May 16.
The memorial service to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of Colson will be held at 10 a.m., according to the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, one of the two ministries the evangelical leader founded.
Seating will be limited and reserved for those who respond to formal invitations, the Colson Center said. Others will be seated on a first-come, first-served basis. The event will also be streamed live at nationalcathedral.org.
The 80-year-old Southern Baptist, who served as an aide to former President Richard Nixon and was convicted for his role in the Watergate scandal in 1974, died April 21 after struggling with an intracerebral hemorrhage.
Colson became a committed Christian while the Watergate charges were still pending against him and after a friend gave him a copy of the C.S. Lewis book Mere Christianity. His conversion led him to plead guilty to obstruction of justice while a judge was considering dismissing the case against him. He served seven months of a one- to three-year prison sentence.
The Colson family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Charles Colson Legacy Fund to "further Chuck's work, bringing God's light into a dark world, making – as Chuck always says – 'the invisible Kingdom visible' to God's great glory."
Colson founded Prison Fellowship in 1976 and it now operates in 113 countries around the globe. Colson personally visited 600 prisons in the U.S. and 40 other countries over the last four decades of his life. The Colson Center, meanwhile, helps Christians to embrace and live out a Christian worldview.
Christians who have been blessed by his ministry have flooded the memorial page of Colson's website with their testimonies.
"In 1995, my 15-year-old son was sent to prison for 32 years for a violent offense," wrote Jan Quick. "This was the beginning of my association with PF (Prison Fellowship). My son began reading some of Chuck's books and suggested I do the same. The first one I read was Loving God … I became a PF volunteer and began going inside prison and county jails. In September of 2007 I was hired by PF as field director in southern Colorado. The ministry of PF definitely changed and transformed my life and has inspired me throughout the last 17 years."
Another admirer of Colson, William Pelak, said we all have our little Watergates, some still hidden and others exposed to the world. "How we move on from there is the question. Chuck moved towards God and redemption, while others moved deeper into despair and depression."
After Colson's death was announced, evangelist Billy Graham acknowledged his "tremendous ministry reaching into prisons and jails with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ" for three and a half decades. "When I get to Heaven and see Chuck again, I believe I will also see many, many people there whose lives have been transformed because of the message he shared with them," Graham said in a statement, adding, "I count it a privilege to have called him friend."
Colson, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, will be buried at Quantico National Cemetery, part of the Marine base in northern Virginia, but it will be a private service and the date has not been announced.
Colson was speaking at a Colson Center conference when he was overcome by dizziness. Quickly surrounded by friends and staff, Colson was sent to the Fairfax Inova Hospital in Fairfax, Va., according to his website. On March 31, he underwent two hours of surgery to remove a pool of clotted blood on the surface of his brain. At times, Colson showed encouraging indicators of a possible recovery, but his health took a decided turn on April 17, and he went to be with the Lord a few days later.