Family, friends, and associates will gather on April 2 at 12:30 p.m. at Calvary Church, East Liberty, for a memorial service in Lee’s honor. He died February 13 at the age of 82.
When the Pittsburgh diocese began its task of recovering from a painful split in 2008, Lee Hicks knew that God had given him gifts that were needed.
“I am committed to the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion,” he wrote in agreeing to fill one of many vacancies on the then-governing Standing Committee. “My ecumenical experience, working with different theological positions, will be helpful in rebuilding the diocese. I want to serve my Lord and the Church.”
Lee had a broader vision of Church than many of us. His was the Church Universal. It was what brought him to Pittsburgh more than 50 years ago, to lead the local Council of Churches. Under his guidance, and the willingness of the Roman Catholic Bishop John Wright to work with him, the group evolved into the present-day, 26-member Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania.
“It is our privilege to continue his legacy,” said the Rev. Liddy Barlow, CASP’s current Executive Minister.
Lee’s personal life was equally ecumenical. Raised a conservative Baptist and moving about the country with his father in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, Lee also chose a form of service in becoming an ordained minister in the American Baptist Church. But when his work brought him into contact with the likes of Bishop Robert Appleyard and the Rev. Arthur McNulty of Calvary Church, Lee found his home in the Episcopal Church.
“As he got older, he evolved,” said Barbara Hicks, Lee’s second wife. “And through his work in ecumenism he got to know other faiths and what those churches were like, so I think moving into the Episcopal Church was a fairly natural thing for him to do.”
At Calvary, Lee served at worship as a Lay Eucharistic Minister, and in parish leadership on vestries and rector searches. He led stewardship drives for Calvary Church and Calvary Camp, applying the same skills that he offered in his second career as a Ketchum, Inc. fundraising consultant to nonprofits far and wide. He was quite successful. Calvary’s final capital campaign under his direction raised $4.5 million.
“What’s most impressive to me was just how quietly he did everything, never drawing attention to himself” said the Rev. Leslie Reimer, who knew Lee through much of his 25 years at Calvary.
True, Lee loved the quiet life, whether in the solitude of sailing – he and Barbara once spent a year alone navigating from Ontario to Florida – or in summers at Georgian Bay. Yet, he once referred to himself as a “pipe-smoking, martini-drinking minister” whose personality endeared him to many. And that is where he made his mark.
Lee’s tenure on the Standing Committee began when it was the Ecclesiastical Authority in charge of a fractured diocese without a bishop. His term ended as the Standing Committee recommended that, with Bishop Ken Price in place, it was time to call a permanent bishop. When Dorsey McConnell was elected as such 17 months later, a moment of coming full circle since the split, Lee was a deputy at that special convention.
Beyond fulfilling the requirements of any of his official positions, Lee was known to jump in to help in any way at any time.
“He drove the truck through a snow storm to get our things to Monroeville,” recalled Dr. Joan Gundersen, who was setting up the Jonnet Building office in those wintry days of 2009.
Lee would also represent the diocese in its Appalachian ministry partnerships and lend a guiding hand and moral support to diocesan communication ventures.
“He was an enabler,” said Barbara Hicks about her husband of 25 years.
She said that even days before he died, Lee was focused on the need for unity within the Body of Christ.
“He was able to get people of different faiths to join together at the same table and help them understand what they should be doing, but allowing them to be in the driver’s seat.”
And in Lee’s own words, that was service. “If we’re going to be Christian,” he wrote in 1969, “we’ve not only got to be concerned about God, but we’ve also got to be concerned with our fellow man.”
Well said, good and faithful servant. And, well done. Rest in peace.