Bishop Hicks remembered for compassion, gentle nature
The Great Plains Conference invited people who knew Bishop Kenneth Hicks to send in some of their fond memories of the man who served in Nebraska before serving as bishop in Arkansas and Kansas. The bishop died June 19 in Little Rock, Arkansas, one day after his 96th birthday.
His wife, Elaine, died June 29, also in Little Rock, but her passing was not yet known when the invitation for remembrances for the bishop was announced.
The Great Plains Conference received 11 responses. Their remarks are listed here.
When he first arrived, he was faced with the sale of Wesley Hospital, and what I remember was giving everyone who wanted to speak the chance before the vote. His compassion on the issue and his leadership while here will, forever, be remembered.
Thank You Bishop and Mrs. Hicks for your gentle hearts.
— Pastor John Thompson, Topeka
Bishop Ken Hicks was a very humble, caring and down to earth leader as bishop. One of my memories has been so wonderful. In 1985 the former Kansas West Conference faced the emotional and divisive decision regarding the sale of Wesley Medical Center to HCA. A special called Kansas West Annual Conference meeting was set for a day in January to vote on approval of the sale. Emotions ran high with anger, anxiety and uncertainty. Sides were taken, and it was expected to be a tense meeting with uncertainty regarding the decision.
Bishop Hicks started the meeting with an amazing personal story. He said something like this: “When the alarm went off this morning I realized what day it was, and I needed to preside over this annual conference meeting. I said ‘Lord I don't want to be bishop today.’ But the Lord answered ‘Hicks, get up and put your pants on.’”
That story helped the conference recognize its current reality that day that was filled with emotion and served to ease some tension with laughter. But more importantly Bishop Hicks' down-to-earth vulnerability was a call to all of us to embrace openness during the meeting.
I came to love Bishop Hicks and his style of leadership that was open, calm, relational and down to earth in the years he served as our bishop. May his memory be a blessing to us.
— Rev. Rick Saylor, Kansas City, Missouri
Serving on Bishop Hicks’ cabinet were among the best years of my life. I observed a person of grace in good times and ones of great challenge. A person of great integrity.
— Rev. Gary Schrag, Overland Park, Kansas
We had the privilege of hosting Bishop Hicks in our parsonage when he visited Twin Valley Parish in southeast Kansas. Our preschool daughters were attracted to his gentle spirit and felt comfortable on his lap. I experienced Bishop Hicks as an excellent preacher and passionate supporter of peace and justice for all persons. As a pastor who served rural communities during the farm crisis during the 1980s, I found Bishop Hicks to be strong advocate for the church's role in responding to these difficult times!
— Rev. Jack Gregory, Shawnee, Kansas
I met Bishop Hicks while assigned as campus minister at Kearney State College, and he was district superintendent. He was a key mentor in reinforcing my calling and faith in The United Methodist Church.
His compassion, calm approach with conflict and hope for resolution guided me in campus outreach and eventually in full-time pastoral counseling in a special appointment ministry.
His presence was insightful, humorous and wise. My deepest condolences to his family.
— Rev. David “Dave” Bearden, Findlay, Ohio
I remember Bishop Hicks preaching, which was delivered with moving illustrations and subtle passion. He was compassionate and kind. This made a big impression as I began in ministry.
— Rev. Beverly McCurdy, Topeka
Bishop Hicks was in every sense a gentleman’s gentle man, and always a Christian first in his demeanor and thinking. I respected him a lot. To his family, I am very sorry for your loss.
— Rev. Nancy Gammill, Topeka
Bishop Hicks ordained me a deacon in 1992. I was so excited! His presence calmed me a little bit, but I couldn't contain myself! He gave me a look of approval, knowing I couldn't help myself! I have always admired and respected him and will miss his presence! So grateful for his ministry in my life!
— Rev. Cheryl Jefferson Bell, Overland Park, Kansas
Simply, I appreciated Bishop Hicks’ warmth and genuineness — a real mensch (good person)!
— Rev. Ken Grenz, Overland Park, Kansas
While attending the “Bishops Week” at Mt. Sequoyah, I joined with a small group that jogged early mornings. This would have been around 1980 when Hicks was Arkansas' bishop, and I was the Hutchinson District superintendent. He joined that bunch of bobbing heads pushing their bodies around the roadway that encircled the mount. He had hustle, and although I was 12 years younger than he, I had to keep pushing to maintain his speed. I was impressed, and he lived to show the value of his commitment. He lived to 95 years of age.
In 1984 when he was Kansas’ bishop, he joined in a moment sacred to me: my inauguration as Kansas Wesleyan University's president. During a special time of that ceremony, he and other leaders laid their hands on me in authorizing me for the work that lay ahead,
Another occasion took place in the fall of 1986 when Kansas Wesleyan University conducted a centennial celebration in the largest gathering venue in Salina, Kansas. He was invited to come and to give one of the verbal affirmations of KWU. He did in his gentle, gracious way. That was the second year of my presidency at the institution, and his presence helped fill in the significance of the occasion. Bob Dole also graced the moment, not in person, but remotely through a TV hook-up with a large screen (this was long before the magic of Skype).
— Rev. Marshall Stanton, Salina
We will always remember Bishop Hicks for his passionate support of the small and rural churches. His brother was a Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor, and we served together at Herington.
— Rev. Ronald J. Williams, Manhattan