Senior Staff Writer
A milestone was placed, figuratively speaking, at East Commerce Baptist Church on Sunday when the reception line of well wishers started beyond the top of the staircase and came down to the Rev. James Hickey, his wife, Shirley, and son, Matthew.
East Commerce Baptist Church members, pastors from other faiths and a variety of Marshall County residents had good words for the Hickey family. James and Shirley are moving back to Sparta, Tenn., in their home county after their house is sold here, he said.
"It's been a joy to be in the church and this community for 26 years, " Rev. Hickey said. His Feb. 26 sermon "will be a summary of what God has done and a challenge to the members to carry on.
"One of my burdens has been the hospital chaplaincy, which we started about 14 years ago," he said, noting, "The fellowship among all the pastors has been wonderful."
Two of the visiting ministers at Hickey's reception said as much of their friend.
"Jim has been a colleague that I've learned from and who I respect," the Rev. Leland Carden said. "I've appreciated his leadership of the chaplains' program at Marshall Medical Center.
"He and his family will be missed because they've contributed so much over the years," said Carden who served seven years here at First United Methodist Church and is now the pastor at Farmington United Methodist. "I've enjoyed his friendship," Carden said.
"Today," Rev. Don McCullough, family care pastor at First Assembly of God, said, "you're seeing one of the most respected ministers in Lewisburg. He's a class act."
The Rev. Carl Price said, "I've really rejoiced in his success here."
Lona Glascock of Lewisburg is one of six living founding members of East Commerce Baptist Church.
"He's always been a good friend to everybody, and accommodating," Glascock said. "He's a good speaker and pastor. He always did sermons that you could understand.
"If any preacher was a man of God, I think he is," she said. "He's seen me through two deaths; my husband and then my son nine months later. He gave me comforting words other than scripture.
"His wife has always stood by him and has been very helpful," Glascock said. "I'm very fond of our preacher and our family."
Martha Rodgers asked Hickey a question when he was being interviewed for the pulpit.
"If someone dies here in Marshall County and they're not a member of the church, and if they wanted you to officiate at their funeral, would you do that?
"He said yes," Rodgers recalled of those conversations more than a quarter century ago.
Justin Seegraves of Nashville grew up with Matthew Hickey and his friend's father "was instrumental in setting up my beliefs." Seegraves' acceptance of Christ as his savior "was pretty low-key," he said.
Seegraves recalls mission work in East Tennessee at Ducktown where clothes were provided to needy people and homes were painted. Another mission influenced by Hickey was to Iowa to help establish a Baptist church, cook food for people and help establish classes.
Bruce Ramsey said, "It's an unusual pastor who can stay in a church 26 years."