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DYK: How Tall is He?

Posted: October 21 2022 at 12:04 PM
Author: Rev. Arlene Christopherson, Asst. to the Bishop/Dir. of Connectional Ministries

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Bishop Hopkins (center) is one of the tallest on the NIC cabinet.

For the last two years, the Northern Illinois Conference has been led by interim Bishop John L. Hopkins. As we move into the last couple of months of the year, our attention turns to the announcement of a new bishop and the transition into a new era. Before that transition takes place, I want to celebrate the leadership of our interim bishop and invite you to reminisce on this two-year journey. 

One of my favorite questions, circulating before the beginning of the 2022 in-person Annual Conference, was, “How Tall is He?” For the first 18 months of Bishop Hopkins' time with us, most of us only saw him on Zoom, in a preaching video, or through his leadership during our virtual annual conference session. With no benchmark for height when someone sits in front of a computer monitor, we’ve all learned that shoulder-up views are limiting. 

As we finally gathered in person, people's curiosity peaked. I heard the question repeated through the hallways, “How tall is he?” We finally had the answer when the bishop stood in front of the session live for the first time. (Answer: Bishop Hopkins is 6 feet tall)

Called out of retirement to lead us in January 2021, Bishop Hopkins came to the conference with 20 years of episcopal experience. Stepping into a new context during a pandemic cannot be easy. Moving from retirement into active service required some juggling of priorities. With a primary residence in Indianapolis, we had our first taste of being led by a commuting bishop. 

Bishop Hopkins has been part of many unprecedented events these last few years. Two hybrid ordination services in 2021, two virtual annual conference sessions. Appointment making via Zoom. Clergy sessions online. Meeting clergy and leaders throughout the conference and giving leadership all via Zoom. Recording sermons, greetings, and messages rather than gathering in person. There has been very little over the last two years that one would categorize as normal. Even for a bishop who served actively for 20 years, there were new experiences.

Last month when Bishop Hopkins met with our Conference Lay Leaders, Connie Augsburger, Mark Manzi and Eugene Williams, in person, for the last time, he celebrated their gifts and leadership, their wisdom and energy. They thanked Bishop Hopkins for his prophetic voice, call to connectionalism and calm, stabilizing demeanor in this time of change. 

Unlike the celebration and sendoff we have when a bishop has served us in a “normal” season, Bishop Hopkins will come and go in a flash. I invite you to take time to write an email, send a card, or offer a word of appreciation to someone who left the comfort and routine of retirement to step into this unique moment in time. We give thanks to Bishop Hopkins for offering a foundation for our witness, mission and service to our communities, our conference, and the world. 

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