I only have happy feelings when I think about my days as a student at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). It was such a formative time, and I remain grateful to professors who poured their lives and teaching into me during those years.
A big part of life on campus in those days was chapel. I don’t know if it’s still this way today, but we had chapel meetings four times a week (Tue-Fri). The personality who filled that space was our chaplain, Bill Bryan—known affectionately to everyone as “Chaplain Bill.” He had a big heart, a big voice, and booming trumpet, all of which he lifted up in praise to the most High God.
I will never forget when I first arrived on campus sitting near the front during chapel service. I could hardly believe the volume of Chaplain Bill’s singing voice. He always led the singing with a trumpet in his hand, and he would always raise it at some point in the singing. He could really make that trumpet blast. It was glorious.
Chaplain Bill loved students. I remember visiting DTS’s chapel several years after I had graduated. I was a new professor teaching at Criswell College, which is practically across the street from DTS. So it was really easy to steal away and visit DTS’s chapel on occasion. On that morning after chapel, I bumped into Chaplain Bill. And he recognized me immediately and said, “Great to see you! How is Denny doing?” I knew exactly what he meant. He wasn’t referring to me in the third person. He was doing what a lot of people did back when I was still a student—mixing me up with my best friend Barry, who was also a student with me at DTS and who I was in a singing duo with in those days. I can’t tell you how many people have mixed us up over the years because we sang so often together. And here was Chaplain Bill—years after graduation—he still remembered me and Barry and our names well enough to mix us up one more time. It was hilarious and endearing all at once.
Chaplain Bill loved students and did a great deal of counseling with them over the years. He was an institution on campus, and he served for thirty years as chaplain until he retired in 2015.
I just learned this morning that Chaplain Bill passed away after a long period of health difficulties. I was told by a friend some days ago that Chaplain Bill suffered greatly as he neared the end of his journey. Now his journey is done. We grieve, but not as those without hope (1 Thess. 4:13). Chaplain Bill is absent from the body but present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). But there is coming a day, not long from now, when we will hear another great trumpet blast—one that will open Chaplain Bill’s eyes again. He will be among those who rise first. Those of us who remain will then be changed and join them in the air, and “thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16-17).
I look forward to hearing that trumpet. I know Chaplain Bill does too.