Paul Woodbridge reflects on the recent death of Rudi Heinze, who taught church history at Oak Hill in the 1980s and 90s.
Rudi Heinze was a tutor at Oak Hill College from 1982-1998, and vice principal from 1994. He taught church history, and made it come alive! Countless students testify about how they came to Oak Hill wondering why they had to do this subject, but soon appreciated its importance. Rudi made the subject exciting and relevant, as his love and enthusiasm for church history, and his great ability to teach it, came through.
He even devised a board game which students played called A Mighty Fortress. According to the blurb for the game on the BoardGameGeek website, A Mighty Fortress ‘simulates the conditions which made possible the spread of the Lutheran Reformation and the subsequent Catholic reaction (the Counter-Reformation) in the years 1532-1555’. Rudi also wrote a number of church history articles and books, and co-authored Witness to the Word: a History of Oak Hill College, 1932-2000 (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2002).
Rudi was much more than a tutor. He was a friend and mentor to many, both students as well as those he served in St Peter’s, London Colney, where he was a non-stipendiary minister. He was a model of love, care and Christ-likeness.
Rudi was such a help to me in my early days at Oak Hill, from 1988 onwards. He became a close friend, and walked and prayed early each morning with Mike Butterworth (the Old Testament tutor) and me for several years. They were precious times.
He and Mildred were such a model of what a Christian couple should be like. In particular, their daily prayer life together was amazing. They had a daily routine of morning prayer, using a lectionary that Rudi had developed. They had lists of people they brought to the Lord, and they faithfully prayed for us and our boys monthly. Rudi would often contact me and ask how they could pray for us. I also remember when I was struggling, Rudi would always have a word to encourage me – often from his Bible reading that day.
I recall his wisdom talking with a student who was thinking of leaving the Church of England. Rudi told me that such a step should be a very last resort, as church history is littered with splits which so often did not lead to better things, and that instead, the Lord had stepped in and made a difference within denominations, as people persevered and got ‘stuck in there’!
One of Rudi’s great delights was his participation in the student exchange program which he instituted between Concordia and Oak Hill. He also worked with Middlesex University to establish a relationship with Oak Hill, and was subsequently awarded the title of Honorary Professor of Middlesex University in 1998. Rudi retired from Oak Hill in 1998, when he and Mildred returned to the US to settle in Wheaton, Illinois.
Rudi died at home in Wheaton on Friday, 3 March 2017 at the age of 85. His daughter Lisa has written:
‘He will be remembered as a man who knew and modelled Jesus, a devoted husband to Mildred (they were married for 61 years), a spiritual mentor, a gifted teacher and author, a loving friend interested in everyone he knew, and a godly example to his family.’
The clear message of 2 Corinthians 4:5 was his guiding principle whenever he preached, and indeed in his life: ‘For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.’
Revd Dr Rudolph W Heinze, 3 June 1931 – 3 March 2017