Remembering Rev. Ken Dickson
Last week, we lost a man who gave his heart, soul, and entire career to Highland Park United Methodist Church (HPUMC). Because of his relentless passion, Rev. Kenneth M. Dickson exemplified HPUMC’s commitment to helping people become deeply devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
Ken Dickson joined the staff of HPUMC in 1957 during the tenure of Rev. Marshall Steel, after completing his studies at Perkins School of Theology. When Rev. Bill Dickinson became Senior Pastor, he also became a mentor to Ken. Bill taught Ken the importance and impact of pastoral care to help people through the darkest valleys, and Ken developed Bill’s knack of bringing an air of assurance and peace into hospital rooms, homes, and especially services of celebration and resurrection.
During the first half of his ministry, Ken made tens of thousands of hospital visits, often 30 or more per day, and he presided over several thousands of funerals as well. There is no way to estimate the number of lives and hearts touched because of Ken’s unique ability to provide a ministry of presence in times of crisis.
Ken’s 43 years at HPUMC connected him with six Senior Pastors, and he himself served as Interim Senior Pastor of HPUMC on two occasions.
Because Ken knew that the local church must extend its care to those outside church walls, he became a representative of HPUMC in numerous civic initiatives. Ken worked with the Greater Dallas Council of Churches in establishing the Pastoral Counseling Center of Dallas (now known as the Center for Integrative Counseling and Psychology), which continues to offer counseling services to people of all economic levels throughout the Dallas area.
Through his friendship with Dr. Jerry Lewis and the Timberlawn Foundation, Ken facilitated HPUMC’s participation in a groundbreaking family study in the 1960s and ‘70s, which helped establish the concept of family systems still used today. He also served as an adjunct professor at Perkins School of Theology and as the first chaplain to the Dallas Cowboys.
In a significant accomplishment, Ken worked with the Dallas Mayor, HPUMC member, Erik Jonsson, in implementing the Mayor’s ambitious “Goals for Dallas” plan. The goals sought to upgrade the quality of life for all in the city and to position Dallas for the future.
This initiative created “DFW”, the Public Library System and a new city hall, but also initiated increased attention to the needs of the poor in our midst. These goals called for churches and other agencies to create a culture of care that transcended differences of race, economic status, and faith through meeting direct needs, training, and involvement in schools. Although the commitment to serve was not new for HPUMC, under Ken’s direction, the church took a leadership role with other faith communities in the city.
In the early 1970s, Ken’s commitment to reaching those beyond HPUMC expanded even more as senior leadership and the Outreach Work Group made the decision to extend evangelical and humanitarian work beyond the borders of our country.
One of Ken’s favorite John Wesley quotes was, “Go not where you’re needed, but where you’re needed the most.” So, Ken consulted with the Board of Global Ministries, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, and HPUMC personnel, and the decision was made to go to the tiny island of Haiti nation, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
That decision marked the beginning of what is now the longest-tenured outreach ministry of our church. Ken oversaw scouting, planning, government relations, and the connection with the Methodist Church of Haiti.
Through countless trips to Haiti, Ken became the pastor to hundreds of HPUMC mission team members and to thousands of Haitians who received care. His influence on this ministry and on individuals impacted cannot be measured, but words from a note I received this week from a representative of the Methodist Church of Haiti summed up Ken’s legacy there perfectly:
“Our brother, Dr. Dickson, will always remain in our hearts and will continue to nourish our souls. He was a giant in God’s ministry and through his work in Haiti contributed to bring us closer to God and to understand better that LOVE IS AN ACTIVE VERB. We will be forever thankful to him and to those who have been touched by his vision, his compassion, and his love.”
Ken’s tenure at HPUMC afforded him the opportunity to know, serve with, and pastor, persons and families of impoverished and humble means as well as prominent industry, civic, and national leaders, yet he never considered one to be more important than another.
Lives have been changed and the love of God made real to people all over the world because of the ministry of Dr. Kenneth M. Dickson, and we praise God for his life and for the open-hearted way he shared that life with all who crossed his path.
A Celebration of Life service for Ken will be held in the sanctuary of Highland Park United Methodist Church on Friday, September 6, at 10:00 am.
Ken’s family has asked that memorial gifts be made to the Haiti Ministry of HPUMC. Gifts can be sent to: Haiti Missions, C/O Highland Park United Methodist Church, 3300 Mockingbird Lane, Dallas, TX 75205 or can be made online.