The Rev. Jim Hunkins recently retired a second time after being an assisting priest at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church of Edmond, which has been celebrating its 75th anniversary. Hunkins served in ministry for 50 years.
When he was in grade school, given his aptitude for mathematics, Hunkins’ parents encouraged him to consider pursuing a career in engineering.
During his senior year, when he encountered trigonometry, he decided he really didn’t want to be an engineer. He also thought about being an attorney. He had experience debating so he was used to being on his feet speaking.
At the same time, he had been growing up in the church where he served as a member of the choir, as an acolyte and participated in youth groups. Being in front of the congregation was preparation, he said. Also, back then clergy were very involved in staffing camps. Hunkins rode to camp with a man who was director of his parish.
“He opened up about himself and I realized that he wasn’t more holy, that he had probably been in the same kind of mischievous things that I had been in,” Hunkins recalled. “I realized that you didn’t have to be born holy, that this was a choice you could make.”
During college, Hunkins was asked to help lead Sunday morning services. He would later see that during his theological seminary experience he was ill-prepared for the core of the real ministry in a parish, which is communicating with people, in congregations with many different subcultures.
In 1962, Hunkins became the Rev. Jim Hunkins when he graduated with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s of divinity from Seabury-Western Theological Seminar in Evanston, Ill. He also would earn degrees in English and community development with an emphasis in gerontology, knowledge that would be later put to use. His father, who had been working in the U.S. Postal Service, was ordained shortly before himself.
Hunkins’ first call was within the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska, where he edited a publication and learned offset printing. In about 1981, while serving a downtown Kansas City (Kansas) parish, he put his community development and gerontology skills to work when he created a senior center; it recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.
During the mid-’90s, Hunkins received a call from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Lawton, where he formally retired.
Then in 2001-02, Hunkins served St. Mary’s Episcopal Church of Edmond as interim pastor following the departure of the Rev. Canon David A. Egbert (1981-2001) and before the arrival of the Rev. Mark D. Story (2002-present).
“I was surprised to learn how close you become to people in a year’s time,” said Hunkins, who has been an assisting priest until his recent re-retirement.
Hunkins said he was once challenged to come up with three verses of Scripture that he lives by. The first was the passage in John in which Greeks come to Jerusalem to worship during Passover. They went to Philip and said, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus (John 12:20-22).
Hunkins also recalled how during his preaching ministry church members put a great deal of emphasis on the personality of a pastor. “That’s not what it was all about. It wasn’t about me,” he said. To that aspect he related a passage out of John during which disciples of John the Baptist argued about the matter of ceremonial washing. They asked John who he was with on the other side of the Jordan, the one about whom he testified and who was now baptizing.
John the Baptist explained that he did not claim to be the Messiah, but was sent ahead of him. “He must become greater; I must become less,” John the Baptist said of Jesus (John 3:25-30).
The third passage related to a time when Hunkins’ family was experiencing crises.
“That experience in our powerlessness, that Christ’s power had been made known,” Hunkins said, referring to the fifth chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Christians in Rome.
Hunkins said Carol, his wife of 53 years, has been an extraordinarily valuable lifelong partner in ministry. They have three children — Linda, Joani and John. Hunkins said he is taking the transition to complete retirement slowly, looking forward to spending more time with his wife, children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
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