Viewers keep visiting our website to join in the memories or learn new facts about our neighborhood friend and advocate, Kevin Hinckley, who died unexpectedly in October at age 53. Please feel free to post your memories of Kevin in a comment to this post. We’d also like you to share your photos of him. (Simply email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org). Let’s keep it going ‘til spring. As you may have heard, the Kops Park Neighborhood Association has decided to move the memorial service for Kevin to a spring date, for out-of-town travelers; because it is the beginning of the growing season – Kevin’s favorite time of year; and, because various groups are looking into memorial projects like possible tree planting.
So as we here at Beautiful Savior remember Kevin, many of us are reminded that Kevin unknowingly helped guide us in the direction our outreach efforts were to take. It was Kevin’s viewpoint that rang in our ears: “A church is supposed to reach out to its surrounding neighborhood.” And Kevin was so right.
You see, in the heyday of churches (the ‘60s, ‘70s and even the ‘80s), church attendance across our nation – and at Beautiful Savior – was high. There was, it seemed, no need for reaching out to a neighborhood; members came and that was that. Back in the day, people moved into a neighborhood and almost by instinct or habit (call it what you will), they joined a neighborhood church. It was part of a typical family’s support system. Young people met and were married at church; their kids were baptized there and their loved ones – both old and young – were buried with the church family around them, supporting them.
When Kevin moved back into the neighborhood, he came up with the concept for Auer Garden. It was to be a scaled-down version of his many successes in the beautification and “greening” of Lodi. He approached Beautiful Savior, among other groups like Milwaukee School of Languages and various City of Milwaukee officials. In short order, good seeds of neighborliness began to grow again in the Kops Park area. Our previous pastor, Kurt Wenzelburger, recounts the story of the early relationship between Kevin and Beautiful Savior. Admittedly, there had been a few bumps early in the road to working together between Kevin and our church.
But one fine day, the garden had already been dug with MSL students and neighbors cooperating, all under the kind and knowledgeable supervision of Kevin, who now needed something. Pastor Wenzelburger was out in the churchyard and Kevin called over to him, wondering what he was going to do for a source of water for “his” newly planted garden.
Pastor Wenzelburger freely offered Kevin the church hose. As he unrolled it and brought it to a sweaty Kevin, toiling at the Auer Garden triangle, Pastor W. quipped, “Just remember, Kevin, that this is holy water!” That was the beginning of a beautiful working relationship that grew stronger with every cooperative effort. Kevin, the pied piper of weaving folks together to accomplish the common good, saw that he had a friend in our helpful neighborhood church. He began to call us with requests and we did with him as well. Many church friends, when working with Kevin, observed that he held a special reverence for God’s green earth. In turn, Kevin began to see that a church is not about its building but its people and their relationship with God.
In time, Kevin, slowly began to heal from this summer’s loss of his mother. He began reaching out to people. He prayed with Pastor Raabe for healing after his surgery. Kevin voiced that he was very pleased with the direction Beautiful Savior members were taking; for example, offering relief for parents in our new First Friday parents’ night off each month, the Patriotic Parade and our fun/work with each of the Kops Park Neighborhood Association events like National Night Out and the Doggie Dip. At the church block party/picnic, Kevin told several listeners that Beautiful Savior was finally headed in the right direction. I was one of those listeners and responded that our new “direction” came from our new synod president, whose edict is “Witness, mercy and life together.” I commented that it all fit in with what Kevin had observed over the recent years. His response more than once in his final days quoted his mother that “the Lord works in mysterious ways.”
I’m sure Kevin would agree with poet John Donne that “no man is an island, entire of itself.” We all make a difference in the lives of those with whom we share time, no matter how long or short that time on earth is. I would have relished the opportunity to share many future projects and events with Kevin. We at Beautiful Savior will now enjoy planting new memories with neighborhood families. This is what made Kevin Hinckley smile.
Perhaps the strongest message our friend Kevin leaves behind is that life is so, so short. That is why we do what we do for you, our Kops Park neighbors. Look at this story about the Titanic and consider how short life truly is. I read it recently in Billy Graham’s book, Angels.
The greatest ship of its day, weighing 46,000 tons, [the Titanic] was considered unsinkable. But on the night of April 14, 1912, while moving through the ocean at 22 knots, it struck an iceberg. Because it carried only half as many life jackets as passengers, when it sank 1,513 people drowned. Even though this event occurred more than 70 years ago [the 100th anniversary of this infamous event will come next spring], there is still a great fascination about it. The recent discovery of the hulk of the Titanic has revived our interest in the whole tragic story.
Out of tragedy, however, God can still bring triumph.
One passenger, John Harper, was on his way to preach at Moody Church in Chicago. Trying to stay afloat in the ocean, he drifted toward a young man holding onto a plank. Harper asked, “Young man, are you saved?” The man said, “No.” A wave separated them. After a few minutes they drifted within speaking distance of each other, and again Harper called to him, “Have you made your peace with God?” The young man said, “Not yet.” A wave overwhelmed John Harper and he was seen no more, but the words, “Are you saved?” kept ringing in the young man’s ears.
Two weeks later, a youth stood up in a Christian Endeavor meeting in New York, told his story and said, “I am John Harper’s last convert.”
Therefore, dear friend, “Ask not for whom the bell tolls.” It tolls for each one of us.