I first met Bob Tyler in 1983 just after my family moved from Grand Junction, Colorado. I was 32 years old and was the new pastor of what was then called Fayette Fellowship, a 4-and-a-half-year-old church in Peachtree City.
I don’t remember how I met Bob, but I do know that he reached out to me. He was the pastor of Peachtree City Christian Church and he, along with some of the other clergy, invited me to the weekly ministers’ breakfast.
We met at Riggins Bar-b-Que near Tyrone for a country breakfast, and I came to know, respect, and look up to these men, all of whom were older than me. At the time, I was the newest and youngest pastor in Peachtree City, Ga. Eventually Riggins closed, an event I still lament, and we moved our meeting to Shadows Restaurant.
I was invited to participate in the annual community Good Friday service and continued to do so up until the pandemic struck. Bob was the person who, before he left Peachtree City Christian Church, put the event all together year after year.
Along the way, nearly every local denomination has participated including the Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Christian, Church of Christ, Greek Orthodox, Presbyterian, Assemblies of God, Episcopal, Non-denominational, and Anglican churches, and the list goes on. Either seven or eight ministers would speak for a few moments each and Bob called it the “Peachtree City Preach-off.”
In the minister’s breakfast, and among the clergy, Bob began to be referred to as “the Bishop of Peachtree City,” because of his work in bringing these very diverse churches together. The crowds on Good Friday were such that only the very largest churches could handle them.
I should mention that the Christian Church denomination does not have bishops and does not make much of any title at all. Bob was a bit uncomfortable with the title, “Reverend.” Bob was just always “Bob,” or, at most, “Pastor Bob.” While the designation of “the Bishop of Peachtree City” was, in part, a joke, the other part was that it indicated the esteem in which he was held by the other pastors.
Bob referred to his own Christian Church as a “non-denominational denomination,” and sometimes signed his emails and letters “St. Bob, Curmudgeon.” Another word for “curmudgeon” is “killjoy,” but Bob was anything but that.
He was a person who could find humor in most anything, including himself. One early Sunday morning, Bob’s phone rang in the dark, wee hours of the night and a church member said frantically, “Bob, you have to get to the church. It’s on fire!”
He dressed and rushed to the church which was then on Wisdom Road and found everything in order. No fire, no fire trucks — nothing. He did find a note on the church door that said, “It’s about time someone lit a fire under this church! April Fool’s!.” It was April 1st. Many people would have been furious, but Bob laughed when he told the story.
Someone asked Bob about an upcoming conference and inquired as to whether he would attend. His reply was, “Oh no. I already know much more than I am willing to do.”
One event he liked to recall was this: A woman was baptized in his church one Sunday morning and a friend of hers came to be supportive. Bob, ever the pastor, visited the visitor that week and, during the conversation, Bob asked her if she was looking for a church home.
“Oh, no.” She responded. “I’ve been a Baptist all my life and I’m not about to become a Christian now!” Bob found that conversation hilarious, especially when he shared it with the Baptist pastor.
Speaking of baptisms, when the church I served suffered a fire, we had a need to baptize people on several occasions. Bob always offered the church sanctuary and baptistry and several of our folks were baptized in Bob’s church.
Bob and I shared something in common. One of his first churches was in Kingsport, Tennessee in the Colonial Heights area. Kingsport is the hometown for both my wife and me and she grew up in Colonial Heights just about a mile or less for the church he served.
He and I also shared a view on the “end times.” When so many were talking about “postmillennialism, premillennialism, or amillennialism,” he said he believed in “pan millennialism,” that it would “all pan out in the end.” I agreed with him. Live life to the best and full and trust God that, whatever happened, God was good and could be trusted.
I genuinely liked Bod Tyler from the time we first met and grew to like and respect him even more over the years. It wasn’t that he was a perfect man or the ideal pastor … Lord knows he had his faults and shortcomings.
But he was an authentic man and a caring pastor. He was, in my estimation, a loving man, a man who was not impressed with himself, and a man who was willing to befriend and encourage people, including that young 32-year-old pastor who was in over his head.
We stayed in touch after he departed Peachtree City Christian Church and social media made it easier to do so. He frequently commented on the articles I wrote and, sometimes, would just initiate a conversation.
His last Facebook comment to me was in response to a photo I posted of 19 people who were confirmed and 2 who were received as members in our church. His comment was simple: “WOW, indeed! – and Amen!” Supportive, encouraging, and rejoicing with us — Bob just being Bob.
Bob was no stranger to tragedy and loss. He lost both his wife and his only child, a daughter, to illness. I had heard that Bob had contracted Covid-19. I was at the hospital visiting with a patient on a recent Monday evening and, on the way home, I wondered if he was a patient in that hospital. I called the hospital and found that he was. I decided I was going to see him the next day.
I waited a day too late. Word came the next day that on Tuesday, the day I planned to visit, Bob had died.
I have lost a friend and I will miss him. After 38 years in the area, I am no longer the youngest or the least experienced pastor in the area. In truth I am now one of the oldest and most experienced. It helped that Bob, and a few others, were there when I needed to vent, or seek help, or ask for prayer about things that were either personal or church related.
I will miss his counsel and I will miss his smile and his easy-going manner. He was always encouraging to me and, when I was elected a bishop in my own denomination in 2007, he was one of the first to congratulate me.
But, to me, there will always be the one and only Bob Tyler, the Bishop of Peachtree City.
[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). During the pandemics, the church is open at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays but is also live streaming at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life) He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]