Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct attribution to comments made by Mark Connor.
Many droplets of rain Thursday morning over the Christian House of Prayer in Killeen were matched in high numbers by those who gathered to remember Bishop Nathaniel Holcomb, who died last week.
Holcomb, CHOP founder and longtime pastor, died Nov. 27 at the age of 66. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, led to his death.
The late bishop was seen before the overflowing sanctuary inside his casket. The CHOP congregation watched at the end of the more than three-hour service as dozens of Holcomb’s surviving family members carried his casket away.
“It is sorrowful. It hurts,” said Dana Holcomb, the bishop’s eldest son. “He was like metal to a magnet. The best way I can honor him is by living the way he did.”
Mark Connor, another son of the bishop, said he isn’t much of a talker, but spoke of many memories he had over the years with his father.
“He told me that if I never smiled, I would never make it. So here I am, smiling,” Connor said through a wide grin.
Those in attendance filled the sanctuary’s 2,100 seats to the point that ushers had to set up extra chairs. Others watched on via live feeds the church set up through the CHOP campus and Copperas Cove location. And though crowds first gathered in sorrow, they would leave in celebration by the afternoon.
One after another, CHOP pastors thundered in sermon, echoing fiery video clips played before the church of Holcomb vigorously preaching throughout his 37 years at CHOP. Elders and psalmists sang hymns accompanied by a live band, and scripture was read from both the Old and New Testaments.
Elder Joseph Solomon made it clear that Thursday’s event was characterized better as a celebration rather than a funeral.
“That’s exactly what this is: a celebration,” Solomon said. “We can only imagine he’s dancing those long legs before Jesus.”
Pastor Fred Moore joined the dozens who called Holcomb his “Man of God.” Moore said he had the privilege of knowing Holcomb for more than 30 years.
“If he were still here, he would say, ‘This is still the day the Lord has made, and I will rejoice,’” Moore said. “I thank him for his courage, poise, spirit and candor.”
Holcomb’s wife, Valerie Holcomb, could be seen next to her eldest son, Dana, as pastor after pastor boomed in praise.
Moore drew a parallel to the death of President George H.W. Bush, who died Nov. 30. Like the 41st president, he said, Moore was thankful for what he recognized as great leadership in Holcomb.
He also looked Pastor Valerie Holcomb and company straight-on.
“In the words of H.W. Bush: ‘Read my lips. We got your back,’” Moore said.
The last of the sermons was provided by Bishop Roderick Mitchell. Through the sorrow of those in attendance, Mitchell reiterated a point he and company reminded all the CHOP family Thursday, a point that led to a standing ovation.
“If anyone tells you Bishop Holcomb is dead — he’s not dead,” Mitchell said. “He’s more alive than he’s ever been.”
Bishop Holcomb founded the CHOP in 1981, and it grew to one of the largest in Central Texas. He will be laid to rest Friday in private burial.