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John Meeks 1945 - 2011

Dear friends,

It is with great sadness that I write to inform you of John's death. He went very peacefully this afternoon with our family at his side. Two days ago his kidneys began to fail and he was too fragile for dialysis. This morning the ICU doctor told us that everything possible had been done, but we had lost the fight.

His funeral will be at Collierville UMC this Saturday, and there will also be a memorial service at Andrew Price, hopefully the next Saturday. Times are as yet undecided.

Thank you so much for the many prayers you sent up for John...and for me.

We love you all,
March 13, 2011
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From the Memphis Commercial Appeal

John Edgar Meeks, 65, died on Sunday, March 13, 2011, at Vanderbilt University Hospital of complications from leukemia. He is survived by his wife of 40 years, Marilyn Gates Meeks; three sons, Marcus (Rachel), Matthew (Libby) and Ben (Patrice); and two grandchildren, Nora and Graham. Survivors also include his sister, Joyce (Tom) Upchurch; and brothers, Douglas (Blair) Meeks, Jr. and Robert (Sherry) Meeks; as well as many nieces and nephews. John was born in Memphis and graduated from Central High School, where he was captain of the football team during the 1962-63 season. He played football at both the University of Tennessee and Rhodes College before being drafted into the Army. He served with the 35th Combat Engineer Battalion in Vietnam in 1966-67. After returning from Vietnam, John earned his B.S. and M.A. in history from The University of Memphis. He taught history and coached football and girls track at Collierville High School in Collierville, TN, for seven years. In 1983, John joined the district office of Shelby County Schools, where he served as Director of Purchasing and Warehousing. John received his M.Div. from Memphis Theological Seminary in 2000 and was ordained an Elder in the United Methodist Church in 2003. He pastored the United Methodist churches in Moscow and Rossville, TN, and St. Matthew’s in Memphis. Most recently he served as the pastor of Andrew Price Memorial UMC in Nashville. John served as an Alderman on the Collierville Board of Mayor and Aldermen from 1981 to1996. He was also active in Kairos Prison Ministry for many years. A Service of Death and Resurrection will be held at Collierville United Methodist Church on Saturday, March 19, at 2 p.m. with visitation at Collierville Funeral Home from 5-8 p.m. Friday. A memorial service will also be held at Andrew Price Memorial UMC in Nashville on Saturday, March 26, at 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Andrew Price Memorial United Methodist Church or Kairos Prison Ministry International. Collierville Funeral Home 901-853-2628
Published in The Commercial Appeal on March 17, 2011

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See this article on John and Joe Tagg:

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Another article -

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Eulogy from Rachel Cornell, John's daughter-in-law

IThe Rev. Rachel Cornell, daughter-in-law of the late Rev. John Meeks, delivered this eulogy at his funeral March 19, 2001, at Collierville United Methodist Church in Collierville, TN. She is Pastor of Woodside United Methodist Church in Silver Spring, MD.
It is not possible to do justice to a life so well lived, and to a man so deeply loved, with just a few words. But on behalf of the Meeks family, I am honored to share some of our reflections and favorite memories of our beloved father, grandfather, husband, brother, uncle and friend.
John lost his own father when he was just a baby. He never knew his dad, Merrill Douglas Meeks, but John was raised by strong women—his mother, Evelyn, and his two aunts Mollye and Emma Dee—who taught him about the love of God the Father, God the Father who is strength and compassion; discipline and deep love; justice and mercy. John‟s abiding relationship with God the Father was the source of love that enabled him to give so much of himself to his family, community and the world. And it was John‟s faith in God, his devotion and service to Him that led him to be a faithful minister of the Gospel. And I was so proud to call John my colleague, as well as my father-in-law.
John baptizing his grandson Graham Benjamin Meeks
John and Marilyn raised three incredible sons and when each of those sons married, John embraced his daughters-in-law as family. And because Libby, Patrice and I all lost our own fathers to death and divorce, we, too, loved John as our own father.
As much as John loved his sons, his one true love in this world was his wife, Marilyn. Their fortieth anniversary was last July 23rd which came while John was in the hospital receiving chemotherapy. Marilyn didn‟t get a gift for John because she knew that he wouldn‟t be able to get something for her. But much to her surprise, John had chosen a card from a selection that the nurses had brought up from the hospital gift store as well as a beaded heart bracelet. And early on in his treatment, Marilyn started spending nights at the hospital because they couldn‟t bear to sleep apart from one another after all these years.
I also know that John was an amazing father, because you have never seen a man so tender with a child in his arms. It was one of the greatest joys of his ministry to baptize a child and hold that new life in his arms, welcoming them into the body of Christ. Even in the smaller churches that he served, where there
weren‟t many children, John would always prepare a children‟s message and even if there was just one child in church, he would call them down front for a special message he had written just for them.
And John was a great example to his own sons for what it means to be a father. He raised them to be men of integrity and compassion; he showed them what it meant to love someone fiercely and unconditionally. When my children, John‟s grandchildren, Nora and Graham, were babies, he would hold their tiny bodies in his large, safe hands and rock and sing to them. When Graham was born, John sent Marcus a James Taylor CD with a note: “play this CD,” he instructed, “and hold your son and sing to him, and dance with him, that way he will grow up to be a kind and gentle man, just like his father.”
Speaking of dancing, did I mention that John loved to dance?
As teenagers, their father‟s “moves” may have embarrassed his sons a little, but whether it was a family wedding or just listening to his headphones around the house, John loved to “get down,” especially to soul music like The Temptations, Al Green, and Aretha Franklin. In January, John and Marilyn were watching the Super Bowl in John‟s hospital room with Matt and Libby, and when the Black Eyed Peas started the half time show everyone else thought that their musical talent was somewhat questionable. But John reached for his iPod and started playing a Black Eyed Peas song that he had on it, and danced around the room like his old, funky self.
Another one of John‟s great joys was fishing in the Cowpasture River in Virginia. He found great peace just standing in the rushing water in his old rubber hip waders, chewing on a cigar and waiting for the fish to bite. Sometimes he caught enough for us to have a fish fry for dinner, but other times his only reward was the simple pleasure of a long morning or afternoon of quiet contemplation.
Because there were times in his life when that simple peace was illusive. One very significant experience was his time of service in Vietnam. John returned from war like many, a man broken by his experiences, and put his psyche back together with the help of poetry, a Wesleyan understanding of God‟s grace and the support of family and friends. In more recent years, he embraced his experiences in Vietnam, reconnecting with other veterans from the 35th Combat Engineer Battalion, and together they faced some of those old ghosts. He told me once that while he never wanted his sons to go to war, he hoped that they would have some kind of life-altering experience that that would teach them what it truly means to rely on God.
You see, John believed in life-altering experiences. That‟s one reason why he gave so much time and passion to Kairos prison ministry. He met many hardened men who had been broken by life‟s experiences, who were saved by the grace of God and whose hearts were transformed forever. John was profoundly impacted through his ministry in the prisons, and it taught him a lot about how hard life can be, but also about how powerful the love of Christ is over all.
John‟s faith was an incredible witness to many, both in the churches that he was a part of and that he served as pastor, and in his interactions with people who were outside of the church, even people in our own family. As his nephew, John wrote:
“I don‟t know of one single human being on this planet who has made a meal of his faith more than John Edgar Meeks. Sounds like hyperbole, but it‟s incredibly easy to say. If you watched him pray he was not
demonstrating or peacocking, he was praying. He was not pontificating or philosophizing, he was praying. He was not begging or acquiescing, he was praying. I know about theology from my father, I know about prayer from my uncle. I don‟t know that I‟ll resolve my issues with faith before I die, but that will be on me, not because I was not surrounded by faith. That is a gift and I know it.”
Yes, Johnny. We all know it.
Last fall John‟s great-niece, Mollye, who is 13, sent her Uncle John a poem she composed about surviving challenging times. In return he sent her three books of poetry, including Garrison Keillor‟s collection Good Poems for Hard Times and in the front cover he wrote these words:
When I first bought this book for you I pondered what „hard times‟ you might have had so far. I also thought about the „hard times‟ I have had. But that was before I knew that my „life blood‟ was filled with cancer cells, it put all the „hard times‟ in a new perspective.
Life is sweet, made even more so by knowing that the „hard times‟ will never defeat us. Listen for the joy in the „hard times‟ shared in these poems.
Thanks for your prayers,
Love, Uncle John
It was by faith that John found joy in the midst of many hard times, including and probably especially in his battle with cancer. And so must we too now, in the midst of our grief, find joy in and through our faith, and the promise of life eternal and salvation in our Lord, Jesus Christ. And so I would like to end with these words of faith from 2 Corinthians 4:
We have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies…so we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed, day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen, but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Rev. Rachel Cornell, daughter-in-law of the late Rev. John Meeks, delivered this eulogy at his funeral March 19 at Collierville United Methodist Church. She is pastor of Woodside United Methodist Church in Silver Spring, Md.

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In Memoriam
John Edgar Meeks
By M. Douglas Meeks
Andrew Price United Methodist Church
March 26, 2011

The agony of John’s battle with leukemia was interrupted three Sundays ago by a joyous day on which he was clear and energetic – a precious memory we shall always treasure. Marilyn, his sons and daughters-in-law, and his siblings gathered around his bed. Because John’s voice did not have its usual resonance each of us took turns leaning over to have a conversation with him and to be kissed by him. In my conversation with John he said, “You know in all of this I am teaching you all.” The obvious implication was that John was teaching us how to die. I said, “Yes, that’s true, but you must know that all these years you have been teaching us how to live.”
John was a consummate teacher who loved life. He was a teacher of life. He was, it seemed to me, a teacher for everyone he met and he met each of us with just what we needed to learn in order to fall in love with life. A theologian like me is a poor sort of person who needs constant teaching to save me from my academic abstractions. Every once in a while he would ask me the question, “What do you do all day anyway?” It’s a good question for a theologian and, I guess, for anyone who wants to live life more fully. But no matter what criticism John had to offer, he always gave us an acquittal and never failed to say in one way or another what Christ says to us all: “I forgive you. I love you.”
Friday last week there was a visitation before the Service of Death and Resurrection at Collierville UMC. The reception line lasted nearly four hours and reached out to the street. The outpouring of love for John astounded me. How could one person be loved by so many people. John had at least six professions during his life: soldier, teacher of history, football and track coach, school administrator, alderman on the city council, and pastor. As the wide circle of friends, former students and football players, members of his congregations, and colleagues in each of these professions came through the receiving line I heard some themes repeated over and over: “he was the best teacher I ever had,” “he saved my life,” “he helped me believe in myself and got me into college,” “he made our workplace more human,” “when I was addicted, he was the only person I could trust,” and “I wanted to shoot the bishop when he moved John from our church.”
John’s spheres of teaching were immense, but the one in which he most excelled was his own family. John and Marilyn had a fierce loyalty to each other and a deep love for each other, and that made them a life-giving teaching team for their sons Marcus, Matthew, and Benjamin and in recent years their beautiful daughters-in-law Rachel, Libby, and Patrice. John had a wonderful way of teaching without presumption or bombast. He said exactly what he thought and felt without embellishing it or qualifying it with academic irony. John, like the prophets, taught us with everyday gestures in everyday life situations. He taught us with the acts of gardening, coaching, fishing, cooking, and dancing. The gestures of his teaching often jarred us and made us have second thoughts about how we were conducting our lives. Two days after John and Marilyn found out that he had acute leukemia he entered the hospital to begin treatment. Those days were filled with anxiety and apprehension of what lay ahead. But the last thing John did before leaving for the hospital was tie up his tomato plants. It was not something I would have done. As I have reflected on it, this was an act of hope; it was an act of life in the face of death. Tomato plants have to be taken care of in expectation of their harvest. John taught us that the little acts of hope show forth our large hope in God’s future. Tie up your tomato plants, no matter how bleak things are, because God’s promises for God’s future are true and faithful.
You couldn’t stop John from coaching. Football was in his blood. He played at UT and I at Vanderbilt. When we watched the games, I used to tell him it was more virtuous to root for Vanderbilt because that taught you long-suffering. If anyone at a party gave the slightest prompting John would get up and give detailed coaching instructions on a football cross block and when he stretched out his body to demonstrate, he took up the whole room. John taught us that pastoring is like coaching. Coaching is a matter of saying what we should do and showing how. John thought that when you spoke the gospel you had to show how to do it by doing it yourself; don’t just do what I say but also what I do.
John was an inveterate fisherman. When the Meeks-Upchurch clan gathered yearly at the Cowpasture River on the Virginia farm that is in Blair’s family John would invariably come with his van expertly packed to the brim with fishing and cooking equipment. John was a serious, scientific fisherman. He thought anything worth doing must be done with excellence. I was quite satisfied with my way of fishing which was to lie on the raft reading the New York Times and sipping Mountain Dew, waiting to swat a horsefly that came too near; and I took great pride in the fact that I occasionally caught a fish. But John said I was a disgrace to the arts and sciences of fishing. Through his fishing John was trying to teach us the patience of communing for long hours with the fish and all other creatures of the river, the discipline of taking time and not rushing life, the art of casting and contemplating. And when he started, as the New Testament says, fishing for human beings, he applied the same devotion to excellence and patient waiting, gently casting the gospel and waiting for the Spirit to give people new life. There are no short cuts in good fishing and no short cuts in being a minister. The people in his congregations knew that he gave everything he had all of the time and with all the excellence he could muster.
John was not only a great fisherman; he actually cleaned and cooked the fish and prepared all the fixings of the feast. Over and again he taught us how important to the soul is life at table over a good meal. His cooking nourished our bodies; his Spirit nourished our souls. John was a great believer in Methodist pot-luck dinners as all the members of his churches knew: Rossville, Moscow, St Matthews, and Andrew Price. At St Matthews John could be found every week with our brother Bob and John’s son Ben preparing a meal for the congregation. John loved the sacraments of the church. When he presided at the Lord’s Table he delighted in God’s nourishment of the life of God’s people. Our son, John William (the namesake of John Edgar), wrote these sentences about his uncle: “I know of no single human being on this planet who has made a meal of his faith more than John Edgar Meeks. Sounds like hyperbole, but it's incredibly easy to say. If you watched him pray he was not demonstrating or peacocking, he was praying. He was not pontificating or philosophizing, he was praying. He was not begging or acquiescing, he was praying. I know about theology from my father, I know about prayer from my uncle. I don't know that I'll resolve my issues with faith before I die, but that will be on me, not because I was not surrounded by faith. That is a gift and I know it.”
When he had to take disability leave last summer John said there were two things he wanted to continue: his teaching of spirituality and his visiting of the prison. He took the Lord’s command to visit the prisoners with utter seriousness. Last Christmas in a healthy interlude between chemo treatments John was on death row at Riverbend Prison handing out Christmas presents. Over the years John and Marilyn have spent many weekends in the prisons of west and middle Tennessee bringing the gospel’s message of peace and hope and freedom. This semester I am teaching a theology course in Riverbend Prison, and since John’s death one of the greatest consolations for me is to hear from prisoners their profound gratitude to John for witnessing so faithfully to God’s gift of life in a place that promotes despair.
Finally, John was a dancer. As he did in gardening, coaching, fishing, and cooking John danced for the sheer joy of it. His dancing was a sight to behold. John was a lot bigger than I, but somehow God had created in his body a rhythm for the celebration of life. He had music in his bones. Blair sat by his bed in the hospital and sang hymns with John. Sometimes in these last weeks all he could do was mouth the words and keep time with his fingers. But in earlier days if John heard any music with a decent beat he would be up dancing, no matter where he was, and you just had to be prepared for him to pop up in the aisle of theater, or anywhere else, and swing with the music. You just couldn't stop him. Except for my sister Joyce no one else in our generation has this rhythm, and not many in the second generation. But at sherry and Bob’s wedding two summers ago John’s grandchildren and nephews and nieces, from age two to fifteen, followed the pastor turned dancer on the dance floor and danced their hearts out.
When John danced we knew he was compelled by the resurrection music, by God’s power over death. And when you saw John dancing you knew that the church should be dancing because if the resurrection is real, there is no way to respond to it except by dancing. In medieval art the risen Jesus is depicted as dancing with his robes flowing out to embrace all the dead and bring them into the life of God. We have given John to this Jesus, this dancing Jesus victorious over death, in whom we trust that God’s power over death will make all bodies, the lame and the limber bodies, the cancerous and healthy bodies, the underfed and the overfed bodies, the bent low and the too proud bodies, dance in joy. And there in the midst of this dancing you will find John Edgar Meeks delighting in God’s joy. Amen.
Jim Bob Dorothy and John & Marilyn Meeks
Jim Bob Dorothy and John & Marilyn Meeks
John Meeks
John Meeks
John Meeks 1998
John Meeks 1998
Training School  2003
Training School 2003
Meeks  Fulghum  McKinney  Trammel
Meeks Fulghum McKinney Trammel
John and Marilyn
John and Marilyn
John Meeks
John Meeks
craddock meeks03.jpg
craddock meeks03.jpg
Graham & Nora
Graham & Nora
John  Marilyn wedding photo
John Marilyn wedding photo
John  Marilyn Meeks wedding
John Marilyn Meeks wedding