Sunday was a bittersweet day for the Rev. Dick Kendall. It marked an end a new beginning for him.
After the better part of the last decade, Kendall stepped aside as minister at First Baptist Church, urging the congregation to look to the future.
In March 2020, I announced to the congregation at First Baptist Church that I would be vacating the pulpit in early January 2021,” he said. “The Bible says, ‘… but one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead …’ (Philippians 3:13). A pastor could develop a series of messages on that selection of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, but as I leave the pulpit at First Baptist Church, it is important for the church members to not look back, but rather to embrace what is ahead. I need to move forward, and the congregation needs to do the same.”
Kendall was born and raised in Green Bay. He attended a Methodist church and was president of the Methodist Youth Fellowship group in high school. He purchased a 4-acre piece of property in the Nicolet National Forest in 1970 while attending college. Eventually, it became the site of his cottage building.
Kendall married his high school sweetheart, Mary, in June 1974 after dating through high school and college. They raised three children in Appleton. Mary Kendall worked for a paper company until the children were born; then she took time as a stay-at-home mom. She returned to work when the children were in school full days.
Most of Kendall’s professional career was in human resource management and marketing in the insurance industry and in the manufacturing sector.
His road to the pulpit is unique.
“My mother-in-law got me started doing ‘pulpit supply.’ It was 1990,”he said. “The pastor at their church in Lakewood needed a person to occasionally fill the pulpit when he was traveling, out sick or attending seminars. She told her pastor, ‘My son-in-law would be glad to do that.’
“My reply would have been, “Hello, Mom. Do you want to ask me first?’ I did, however, listen to (the pastor’s) explanation defining his need for a supply pastor on occasion. The church was a three-point parish with churches in Lakewood, Wabeno and Laona. I agreed to give it a try. I filled in on two Sundays, about six weeks apart. When I drove to the Northwoods from our Appleton residence, I would stay at our cottage near Mountain.”
Then, tragically, the pastor suffered a massive stroke and never returned to the pulpit.
“Although employed full-time in Appleton, I agreed to fill the pulpit two Sundays per month. I did so for 18 months until a pastor accepted a call to the pulpit.”
Kendall believed his life in the ministry was done, until one day shortly thereafter when an 80-year-old woman approached him in the grocery store in Lakewood. Her church (a two-point parish in Athelstane and Wausaukee) had a pastoral vacancy. She had heard Kendall did pulpit supply and asked if he could help them.
“I agreed to do so and filled the pulpit several times over the next 12 months,” Kendall said.
Once more, Kendall believed he was done.
“A church in White Lake asked for some help, and for 16 years, I filled in one Sunday a month,” he said. “I also responded affirmatively to requests from Appleton, Green Bay, Center Valley, Kaukauna, etc., over those years.”
In October 2013, he was asked to conduct a Sunday service at First Baptist Church in Antigo. A request to “come back next week” led to 14 months of supplying that pulpit.
“In December 2014, I accepted a call to the pulpit, assuming the role that began on Jan. 1, 2015,” he said.
So, is he really done this time?
“I very much enjoy sharing God’s Word with people. We are instructed in Acts 1:8 to ‘be witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,’” Kendall said. “I will consider various pulpit supply opportunities that may present themselves going forward.”
However, he does have actual plans for retirement.
“Mary and I will do a bit of traveling and will knock a few things off the bucket list,” he said. “I want to work in my shop and create some things from reclaimed wood, do some kayaking, fishing, reading and biking.”
Mary Kendall said just because her husband will be home, she doesn’t believe his schedule will change much.
“Dick has been blessed by the Holy Spirit with various gifts, and he works passionately to evangelize, teach and shepherd the lost and those already saved,” she said. “His leadership strengths and zeal for service benefit the church and community. We will enjoy our time together relaxing, visiting family and friends and doing God’s work.”
Kendall will miss the church members but not necessarily the drive from to church, especially in the bad weather.
“I will miss the interactions with those church members and regular attendees who genuinely love God and His son, Jesus Christ, and are serious about their walk with Him. Mary and I have many friends who have been an encouragement to us in our attempts to be effective in the pastoral role. Encouragement in this capacity is very valuable, important and much appreciated,” Kendall said. “These past few months, travel on the roads has been good. I won’t miss driving 35 miles in the fog, and on snowy and icy and road surfaces.”