Bio: Dix, Reverend Ken (Last Sermon - 2009) 

Contact: Robert Lipprandt


Surnames: Dix, Schultz 

----Source: The Tribune Phonograph (Abbotsford, Clark Co., WI) Wednesday, August 26, 2009, pages 1 & 8, By Ben Schultz 

Dix, Reverend Ken (Retirement - August 30, 2009)   

Rev. Ken Dix delivering final sermons Sunday 

The Reverend Ken Dix, a longtime minister serving Colby and Athens, will deliver his last sermons this Sunday. His entire professional ministry has been tending to two parishes, the First United Church of Christ in Colby and Christ United Church in Athens. 

He started Aug. 15, 1965, making it almost exactly 44 years of service as he steps down Aug. 30. 

The reverend has always demonstrated his belief that there’s little that separates a church from its broader community. 

"To me, church and community are intertwined with people," he said. "You don’t look at time; you look at people and that makes the difference." 

He has served in city government in Colby for 20 years, including eight years as mayor. Dix was also one of Colby’s five original EMTs and served in that capacity for 30 years.

The reverend splits his time between the two counties he’s in. He serves on the board of the Marathon County Housing Association and the Clark County Economic Development Corporation (CCEDC). 

Serving the two communities has kept Dix comfortably close to home. He grew up in Stratford.  

From there he went to Lakeland College in Sheboygan before attending United Seminary in the Twin Cities. His initial ministry took him to Berne, Ind., and a downtrodden area of North Dakota. He later worked with a mentor in Lasuer, Minn. 

When he finished his schooling he said he didn’t intend to return to the area. Dix was looking for just about any parish in the Upper Midwest that he could ease into. He had interviewed at a number of churches before settling into the Colby and Athens churches.

"I felt at home; I knew I belonged," he said. "I saw things that needed to be done here as opportunities." 

Initially Rev. Dix thought he’d only stick around for five years or so. But the churches had become such a natural fit he figured he’d stick around. 

"At the end of five years I thought, ‘I have no reason to leave,’" he said. 

Rev. Dix said most ministers shy away from taking two-point parishes. However, he sees some benefits from serving the pair. When the pressures of one grow overwhelming he noted the other can be sort of a relief valve. 

He’s travelled the farthest of any reverend for a two-point parish in the state, making the 20-mile trip each Sunday for almost as long as the two churches have been together. (They joined in 1960.) 

In small towns where one person sometimes has to wear several hats, Dix said his relationships often go beyond his work in the pulpit. 

"I’ve shared a lot of events with a lot of people," he said. "Many people say they think of me not only as their pastor, but as their friend." 

Serving 44 years has also given him the rare opportunity to watch the generations go through his congregation. He now ministers to the third generation of some families.

"Certainly there’s great joy, but also a sense of your mortality," he said. "The joy outweighs the other." 

As minister he has faced several tragedies in his communities, including being part of crisis teams. He’s grown used to being on call for schools, police departments and health care centers. 

"It’s part of what I figure is my ministry," he said. 

He said the biggest change he’s seen in his years in the ministry is the shift away from family farms to corporate agriculture. That, in turn, has affected the small-town character of his communities. 

Even with those changes he noted some tight-knit towns have resisted some of the trends. He pointed to the two parochial schools, two grocery stores and the bakery in Athens as evidence that the old sense of community loyalty has not gone by the wayside.

For retirement, he’ll be taking things easy. He said he’s moving into an apartment to get away from the busy work of home ownership. 

Rev. Dix will continue his work with the Rural Arts Museum in Colby and said it’s his mission to find a caboose to display in front of the old depot. He’ll also stick with the Marathon County Housing Association and CCEDC. 

As for why he’s stepping down as reverend, he put it quite simply, "I thought it was time," he said. 

His daughters, Lynn and Lindsey, have graduated from college. His wife, Sue, has a few more years left teaching second graders. She has been at Colby Elementary School for two decades. 

The two churches will have an interim reverend for the next six months to a year. Marlea Gilbert is the intentional interim who will reside in Colby. 

In the meantime a search committee will go through profiles of prospective reverends to search for a permanent successor. Dix will remain with the churches through all this.

"They’ll still accept my check for the offering," he said. 

The reverend said he was proud to see the Athens church put up a new building after the congregation outgrew the old one. Now, he said it looks like they’ll have to consider expanding it. 

In Colby he said it’s always a joy to gather in the great room each Sunday. He said it extends the services as the congregation gathers later. 

"It’s just a great fellowship area," he said. "You need that fellowship with your faith."

With his final services approaching he doesn’t want to make a big deal of it, telling his parishioners not to host a send-off in his honor. 

"It’s not necessary that we have anything official," he said. "I’m not going to make a big issue about saying goodbye." 



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