Arlington pastor died of West Nile, but loved ones won’t let him be just a statistic

Rush Creek Christian Church Pastor Dick Lord, center, holds his grandson David, 18 months, as he talks with Connie Kerr after Easter Sunday services on April 16, 2006, a few weeks before his retirement.
Rush Creek Christian Church Pastor Dick Lord, center, holds his grandson David, 18 months, as he talks with Connie Kerr after Easter Sunday services on April 16, 2006, a few weeks before his retirement. Star-Telegram archives

Richard Pollard “Dick” Lord of Arlington loved the outdoors, and often drew parallels between nature and religion in his sermons at Rush Creek Christian Church, the southwest Arlington congregation that he founded and served for 28 years.

Rev. Lord died Sunday afternoon at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital of West Nile virus, Tarrant County’s first victim this year of the mosquito-borne illness. But his friends, family, and church flock want people to see so much more than a tragic health statistic.

Janice Pettigrew Harris Lord, his wife of 32 years, described her 82-year-old husband as a robust man who played golf six days a week and was a voracious reader. The still-active minister was diabetic but controlled the disease by watching his diet and with medication.

“Two weeks ago he was teaching Sunday school, and he’d be preaching today if he wasn’t dead,” his wife said. “He read all the time, and always had new ideas for lessons and sermons, gold-plated nugget stuff.”

Rev. Lord was born April 7, 1935, in Arkansas City, Kansas, to Jesse Rollin Lord and Josephine Pollard Lord.

He held a Master of Divinity degree from Southern Methodist University and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University.

Rev. Lord was new to the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ denomination when he founded Rush Creek Christian Church in 1978 on a former pig farm at 2401 SW Green Oaks Blvd. in Arlington.

He stepped back for a year after retirement in 2006, then rejoined Rush Creek as a member. Rev. Lord continued to serve, in interim pastor roles with various North Texas churches. He also taught Sunday school at Rush Creek.

His passions were history, social justice ministry and “a desire to grow within the mystery of God,” Janice Lord said.

The Lords expanded their interest in interfaith ministry after 9/11 by bringing together groups of Jewish, Muslim and Christian believers to combat suspicion and create friendship. The Daughters of Abraham now consists of four groups in the North Texas area, and the Sons of Abraham is growing as well.

Ron Clegg of Arlington was a founding member of the Sons of Abraham along with Rev. Lord, Wilson and several other men. His wife, Rita, was in the Daughters group and the men would often be together at a Daughters function, so they decided to form their own group about seven years ago.

“We decided to draw off the experience of our wives,” said Clegg, a member of Most Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Arlington. “Dick was very involved in the leadership, and the past two years or so, he stepped back and we took over more of the leadership.”

Clegg, who already knew quite a bit about Islam from several years of living in Saudi Arabia and Iran, has found out more about Catholicism through the interfaith group.

“We’re going to really miss him and his presence in the Sons of Abraham,” Clegg said, adding that the seed Rev. Lord helped to plant will continue to thrive. “We have no intention of leaving.”

Rev. Lord’s son Steve Lord, a Marine who served in Desert Storm, now teaches theology at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in Chicago. He refers to his father as “the most selfless person I’ve ever met.”

“When I came back [from the service] I found I was a very bitter and cynical young man,” Steve Lord said. “My dad sat me down and said, ‘You are going to have to decide: Will you make people miserable, or will you use this experience to bring some good out of that?’ 

On Father’s Day last month, the Lords gathered with Steve and his brothers at Steve’s home in Chicago, a rare time to all be together. The family laughed and celebrated, but on the last day, Rev. Lord quietly went outside alone and reconstructed some crumbling stonework in Steve’s back yard. He never mentioned it.

Rev. Lord, an avid gardener, often tended flower beds in front of Rush Creek church. It was a good way to meet people coming to the church on business, who were often taken aback to find that the gardener was also the pastor.

Newell Williams, president of Brite Divinity School, met Rev. Lord in the fall of 1978. Rev. Lord was one of his students in Modern and American Church History, a course Williams still teaches.

“Dick was a person with experience in ministry and eager to learn. He was a fine church planter, had an interest in people and in the spiritual life,” Williams said.

“He has always been a friend to other ministers, an encourager rather than a competitor to other pastors,” Williams said. “After retirement, that simply continued.”

When Williams learned of Rev. Lord’s illness, he took a walk through a prayer garden at Brite that had been dedicated in Rev. Lord’s honor upon his retirement from Rush Creek.

“It is particularly beautiful right now, with all the flowers blooming,” Williams said. “Dick understood that our spiritual lives are like a garden — you can’t just make a nip or tuck here and there; it requires tending.

“The world should know about Dick, and that there are still good people around like him.”

Other survivors include sons Richard Scott Lord, James Rollin Lord, Christopher Charles Harris and Philip Tran Harris; daughters Lisa LiAnne Amoriello and Robyn Rachelle Rinearson; brothers Rollins Lord, Michael Lord and Steven Lord; and 11 grandchildren.


10:30 a.m. Thursday at University Christian Church, 2720 S. University Drive in Fort Worth. A reception for friends to share stories will begin at 9 a.m., and burial will be at Oakwood Cemetery. Chris Wilson, current pastor of Rush Creek Christian Church, will officiate.

Memorials, in lieu of flowers, should be directed to Trauma Support Services of North Texas.