It is a custom at the meetings of the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church to read a tribute to all pastors who died since the last meeting of the Synod. This year we lost the Rev. Nale Falls at the tender age of 100. Several of my fellow pastors in the Synod asked if I had authored the tribute read by Vice Moderator Patrick Malphrus at the opening meeting. As I did write it, I offer it below to those who might be interested.
The Life of Nale Falls
On Sunday, November 27, 2016, at the young age of 100 years old, the Reverend William Nale Falls of Little Rock, Arkansas entered peacefully into the presence of the Lord.
Nale was born in Pottsville, Arkansas on February 24, 1916, the son of Thomas Boston Falls and Sally (Evans) Falls. He spent his early years helping work the family’s farm, and loved to tell stories about growing up with his brother and three sisters in Pottsville. After graduating from Pottsville High School in 1933, he went on to Erskine College in South Carolina where he graduated in 1939 and then Erskine Theological Seminary in 1941. He received his master’s degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1959. In World War II, Nale served as chaplain in the Army from July 1944 to December 1945, which included a tour of duty in Germany.
As an ordained minister in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, Nale served churches in Missouri, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Arkansas. He met his wife, Mable Finley Falls, at his first church, in Elsberry, Missouri, and they were married in 1942. Mable and Nale had four children: Phylis, Sarah, Nale Jr. and Katie.
Nale loved being a minister. He enjoyed ministering to all, whether it be at the church, at a hospital bedside or in members’ homes. He was proud to be the oldest living ARP minister. Nale was a man who exhibited the joy of his salvation. He loved to laugh and was rarely seen without a smile or his trademark bow tie. Always quick with a joke, often at his own expense, or in reference to the peculiarity of his name, Nale used humor to connect with others. While the arduous work of pastoral care often brings a particular weariness to a shepherd towards sheep, Nale truly loved to care for Christ’s sheep in the pulpit, in the living room and in the place of affliction.
Nale also loved to sing the songs of Zion. He grew up in the tradition of exclusive psalmnody at the ARP Church in Pottsville, Arkansas. He loved good hymnody, but his preference was always for the old Bible Songs. He once wrote of returning home after spending a summer away from Pottsville.
“That first Lord’s Day I was home, I was late getting to Sabbath School.… One should be late for worship at least once to have the joy of hearing the singing of God’s praise as he approaches the House of Worship. The metrical version of Psalm 122 says it perfectly. “I was glad, I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go, let us go, go to the house of the Lord.”
Even in his hundredth year, when friends would visit Nale to share a psalm, a song and a word of prayer, he could remember all the verses to his favorite Bible Songs and add the deep and resonant harmonies of his clear and strong baritone voice.
Nale was also a man committed to the pastoral duty of encouraging others in ministry. No doubt many ARP pastors and elders present here today have received a letter from Nale Falls, always handwritten and in large letters with a black sharpie. Reminiscent of Paul’s comment in Galatians, “See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand,” these pastoral letters were an amalgam of curious aphorisms, humorous anecdotes and solid encouragement for young ministers.
Nale was committed to preach the gospel in season and out. Following a faithful and fruitful pastoral ministry, he continued to preach “unseasonably” even in his twilight years at the nursing home in Little Rock where he was a resident. If you visited with him there, it was clear that he preached the word out of season to his CNAs, nurses and anyone else who would listen. Despite his confusion in these years, any visit with him would involve conversation about the work of the churches in Mississippi Valley Presbytery, recitation of portions of the catechism, the singing and reading of a Psalm and a time of prayer which always concluded with Nale pronouncing a benediction over his guest. Anyone who visited to minister to Nale Falls, left receiving ministry themselves.
Nale lived a long life. The Bible speaks of long life as a blessing for the one who spends it following Christ, but makes it clear to us that this life is not our home. Our encouragement is to “seek a better country, that is the heavenly one” and to “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” This is the long life God calls us to live. It is a life that begins with a new birth through faith in Christ Jesus.
None of us knows exactly when the Holy Spirit began to effectually call a young Nale Falls to follow Christ, but according to the records of the Pottsville ARP Church, he made a profession of faith on August 9, 1925 at the age of 9. He served his Lord for 91 years on this earth. What a great blessing for Nale to lay aside the mantle of oldest living ARP minister in the Church Militant to enter into the joy of His Master in the Church Triumphant.