The nation, and especially the entertainment world, is in a state of shock and mourning over the suicide of comedian and actor Robin Williams, found dead at his estate in Tiburon, CA at the age of 63. An enormously talented man, widely known as a generous, considerate and compassion person, father of three, Williams will be missed by many.
Another man died suddenly and unexpectedly last week, a victim of homicide in the town of Durham, NC. Kent Hinkson was a pastor, not a celebrity. Also a generous, considerate and compassion man and father of three, his passing at age 71 did not generate national headlines or massive outpourings of grief. Still, he will be mourned and missed every bit as much by his beloved family and friends, as well as the people of the churches he served and the students he taught.
Kent was my friend and fellow pastor. We got to know each other during the seven or so years he spent in South Florida. The first time we spoke was when I called the Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church to wish my old friend Pat Arnold a happy birthday. Pat and had I worked together at Key Biscayne for several years, and I always called him on his birthday – conveniently, St. Patrick’s Day.
Kent answered the phone. “Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church, this is Kent.” I paused. How did this person know who I was? It was a “Who’s on first?” moment.
After an awkward second or two, I said, “I’m sorry – who am I speaking with?”
“This is Kent Hinkson. Can I help you?”
I laughed and said, “I’m sorry. My name is Kent Keller, and you caught me off guard when you said, ‘This is Kent.’” To top it off, he was sitting at my old desk in my old office. We continued talking, and by the time we had swapped basic info and I asked to speak with Pat, Kent Hinkson and I were friends.
In my entire life I’ve had two friends named Kent. We’re a fairly rare breed. He’s the only other PCA pastor (Teaching Elder is the technical term) named Kent I’ve ever known, in South Florida or beyond. When he and I saw each other at presbytery meetings, each of us referred to himself as “The other Kent.” One more odd coincidence (cue Twilight Zone music) – he graduated from the same college, Emporia State University (Kansas), my parents attended and where they met.
He was a terrific combination of pastor and scholar. He loved theology, and was good at it, as evidenced by his impact on his students at MINTS. I respected his thinking so much I interviewed him as part of my work on my doctorate. But he loved his Lord and people more, as evidenced by his impact on the members of the churches he served and the friends he had.
Why anyone would want to harm, much less murder, a man like that can only be understood in the context of radical, pervasive depravity and life in a fallen world. A very, very fallen world.
This is what Jeline, his wife of 48 years had to say about him:
“I was so fortunate to be married to the most wonderful man for 48 years – Kent Hinkson. He was an amazing spouse, father and grandfather to our family and a trusted mentor and friend to so many others. We are devastated by the loss and the nature of this heinous act. We are hurting immensely. At the same time, we know God has a perfect plan. We know Kent is in a much better place. We thank God for how he has been with us in the midst of this devastating tragedy. We would never be able to get through without being reassured of His promises, grace and mercy. … We want to thank the Body of Christ – thank you so much for your prayers and support from around the world. We ask that you remember us in your prayers in these difficult upcoming weeks and months ahead.”
And that, friends, is a better tribute than all the accolades being heaped on Robin Williams this week.
Kent Hinkson won’t be mourned by the Hollywood elite or scores of celebrities or thousands upon thousands of others. He didn’t make millions of people laugh or star in TV shows or movies or win any Emmys or Oscars.
He just faithfully loved his God and served His people, including – especially – his wife and family. And one day last week he heard the only accolade that truly and eternally matters: “Well done, good and faithful servant …. Enter into the joy of your Master.”
(The other) Kent
There will be a memorial service for Kent Hinkson Friday, August 22nd, 5:00 PM at Kendall Presbyterian Church.