Honoring Eugene Peterson

Guest post by Toni Kim

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Beloved pastor-scholar-author and friend Eugene Peterson entered his eternal rest on Oct 22nd. Many people have written about the profound effect he has had on their lives and ministries, and the ripple effects of his writing and pastoring will reverberate until Christ’s return.

Just over twenty years ago, I had the privilege of presenting the student tribute to Eugene and Jan Peterson as they were leaving Regent College. Here are the words I said to them at Regent Chapel on April 21, 1998:

For many of us, Eugene Peterson was one of the compelling reasons for coming to Regent. We longed to be under the tutelage of “Eugene Peterson, the Man who Wrote the Bible.” But when we got here, what we found was not a glamorous subversive; instead, we met Eugene the person, a Christian by God’s grace and a minister of God’s grace.   

We also met Eugene the master story-teller—or rather, the Story-Teller of the Master.  When we tell stories, invariably we play the leading roles. When you tell stories, Eugene, the protagonist is always God, and you have freed us to rest in God’s activity and to embrace God’s presence. In a time when so much emphasis is placed on right methods and profitable programming, you have equipped us for ministry—not by dispensing formulas but by giving us God himself, the source of our spirituality. 

Many of us have discovered that one of the best parts of Eugene is his wife Jan. She has been active in our lives—in the lives of students and spouses, males and females alike. At first, Jan was seen simply as “Mrs. Eugene Peterson.” Over the years and often, tears, she has become a spiritual friend to me and countless others. If anything, Eugene has become Mr. Jan Peterson. Jan, you have blessed us by listening to us—and hearing God.  

Eugene, you have taught us that God is always present and active everywhere and in everything. Jan, you have walked with us so that we could recognize God in our lives. The both of you have shaped our lives and the community here at Regent. 

As the two of you leave the sanctuary of God to go to the wilderness of Montana, may you go holding God’s hand. Eugene and Jan, as you venture forth from Regent, we as a community want to take this opportunity to tell you that we love you and have seen God in and through you, and we bless you in the next chapter of God’s story unfolding in your lives. 

I honor Eugene Peterson, who would not have wanted today to be about himself. Rather, as he did every day of his life, he would want to declare to the world his two greatest loves: Jesus and Jan.

Happy birthday, Jan!

Eugene would want to deflect all the tributes to him to both Jesus and Jan.

Jan, we thank God for you and congratulate you on your upcoming book, Becoming Gertrude. We mourn with you. We love you and have seen God in and through you, and we pray for you to know God’s hand holding you in this next chapter of God’s story unfolding in your life.

Walter Kim