End of an era

Sunday was a great day, a special day.

Spending the afternoon with my sons, Christopher and Andrew. Next year on that day, Andrew will celebrate his own Father's Day.

It's okay, he's not 14 --- that happens, you know. He will be 24 when the baby is born in November.

Then I'll be a Grandpa. Wow. This does not make me feel old, however.

It makes me feel older.

Sunday was also a great day in sports, especially for Martin Kaymer and the San Antonio Spurs.

Just win, baby.

But this really isn't about any of that. This is about Rick Hopkins.


I'm sure most of you don't know Rick Hopkins from Anthony Hopkins.

Well, Rick is beyond being a great person. He is simply the best.

A great man, a man of God. A good friend.

The rest of this column, he will be known as Bro. Rick.

Sunday was his final day in the pulpit after 28 years at Hopewell Baptist Church just outside of New Bloomfield. Hopewell is a warm, fuzzy place with great people, a great pastor, with roots in all the right places. My church.

Wait, I'm a Baptist? Absolutely. Although I do borrow a few pages from the Catholic playbook from time to time.

"It was a hard decision, very hard," Bro. Rick said. "The people there are like brothers and sisters ... it was hard on them and hard on me, too.

"The opportunity to do baptisms through the years and to see the growth --- a new church, a new fellowship hall, paved parking lot. And we have completely zero debt."

This was the end of an era.

"At some point," he continued, "you think you've done all you can at one place. I probably won't quit, I'll do something, I just probably won't be as active."

Bro. Rick, 62, was born in Mexico and grew up in the Auxvasse/Hatton area, where he still lives and raises cattle.

He briefly attended the University of Missouri, went back to farming for a time, before attending the Midwestern Theological Seminary in Kansas City for five years.

What's next?

"I'm going to take a sabbatical for a few months and visit some other churches," he said. "I really don't know, I'm just waiting for God to tell me what to do."

But it won't be at Hopewell, at least for a while.

"That would be unfair to the transition pastor (Gary Mathes) and the next full-time pastor. I'll wait a year or two."

After serving as a youth pastor for three years, he joined Hopewell in 1986. Church member Paula Allen wasn't just there for all 28 years of his pastorship, she's been going there for 60 years.

"As a pastor, he was the greatest," Allen said. "He never said no. If you needed him, he was there."

Bro. Rick --- who's been a season-ticket holder for MU football and basketball games for 30 years (there's your sports hook, if you needed one) --- spent more time visiting people at hospitals, nursing homes and other places, than he did at home.

He will certainly be missed, both inside and outside of the church.

"It just put a pit in your stomach," said Allen, whose husband, Jerry, has been a deacon at Hopewell for 40 years. "Although we were expecting it, we weren't expecting it just yet. Somebody's got some big shoes to fill.

"But it doesn't take just one man, every church is bigger than just one man. It's a loving church and we're just one, big family."

That family had a tough day Sunday.

"Everybody was tearing and crying," Allen said. "It was a very, very emotional Sunday."

God Bless you, Bro. Rick --- although that's probably being redundant.

He surely has more blessings than we could ever imagine.