The pastor at the helm of Lincoln St. Mark’s United Methodist Church when the denomination’s largest congregation in the state decided to move to a new, larger location is remembered by those throughout Nebraska. The Rev. Cecil Bliss died Nov. 29 in Lincoln at age 86.
During Bliss’s 18 years as pastor of St. Mark’s, the church grew from 2,000 to 3,800 members. It also was prepared to make a move from its previous location at 740 N. 70th St. in northeast Lincoln to a sprawling campus at 84th Street and Pioneers Boulevard, formerly the Mid-America Seventh-day Adventist headquarters. A new, 2000-seat sanctuary was added in 2009.
But Bliss did not want to be the pastor in the pulpit when the church finalized its new home.
“The person coming in as the new pastor will be able to make the move to the new church next fall,” he said in an article in the Lincoln Journal Star in 1998, announcing his retirement.
The Rev. Warren Swartz, a retired pastor now living in Topeka, was a longtime friend of Bliss and the district superintendent during his time at St. Mark’s.
“They needed a bigger facility. They needed to move someplace,” Swartz said of the move. “It was a natural, because there were offices and all. It was an ideal thing.”
Swartz, who had previously served 18 years as pastor of St. Mark’s, considered Bliss as a good friend.
“Cecil was a hard worker. He was busy all the time,” Swartz recalled. “A good preacher, a good guy to work with — willing to take on all the questions. It didn’t always have to be his way.”
Bliss, who was born in Iowa and graduated high school in Fairbury, Nebraska, also served as pastor in Milford, Wayne and Lexington. He is survived by his wife Sharon, son Mark Bliss, daughter Ann Castner and three grandchildren.
Doug Carpenter, lay leader at St. Mark’s from 2001 to 2006, remembers Bliss for his enthusiasm and leadership in the move. Makes it sound like he came in after Bliss’s retirement
“I think his style wasn’t hands-on all the time, but he did supply a lot of direction. I think he encouraged a lot of people that a move was the right thing to do,” Carpenter said. “One thing he was really, really good at was putting the right people in the right position to move things forward.
“Cecil was really a big part of that.”
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