The Rev. Jerry P. Hankins died on Monday, October 4, at the age of 87 at the Northfield Retirement Community. Jerry was born March 30, 1934, in Xenia, Ohio, to the Rev. Cecil C. “Hank” and Viola Hankins. He married Elizabeth Nash on August 9, 1958, in Baudette, MN.
Jerry graduated from the University of Minnesota-Duluth with a BA in Geology and earned his Bachelor of Divinity degree at Andover Newton Theological Seminary in Newton, Massachusetts. He was ordained in 1963 while serving 3 United Church of Christ congregations in both Bertha and Verndale, MN. In 1966, he was called to Granite Falls Congregational Church and shortly thereafter was called to the Maynard Presbyterian Church. Serving these two churches fulfilled his call to ecumenical ministry. In 1973, he continued this calling when he served The Federated Church (UCC and United Methodist) in Morris, MN, retiring in 1999.
Among the highlights of Rev. Hankins’s ministry career are his service on the First Draft group for the UCC Book of Worship and the team that developed the Ecumentical/Shared Ministry Manual (a joint effort of the UCC, UMC, Disciples of Christ, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and American Baptist Churches. He and his wife Liz lived in the Philippines for a summer in a ministry exchange with a Filipino minister. He received the Jeanne Audrey Powers Ecumenical Award from the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He taught Old Testament for the Institute for Development of Lay Ministry (part of the Presbyterian synod) in western Minnesota.
Jerry had a lifelong interest in the arts. It began (and remained) with the Appalachian Mountain dulcimer. He bought and made his first dulcimer from a kit in the early 1970s. Throughout the years he made two more and purchased an additional one. His liturgical studies led to an increased awareness of visual arts and worked with local artists in Morris to create a new logo for the Federated Church, a baptismal font, a four-armed cross with a brass circle, and lectern. In Northfield, Jerry and Liz enjoyed the arts through classes with the Cannon Valley Elder Collegium; they even served as co-directors for two years.
Growing up in Ohio, he shared many adventures and conversations with his brother Karl, canoeing and swimming and developing a lifelong love of camping. He continued to camp and travel with his wife Liz, camping through much of the United States with his family, and traveled with his wife Liz to Europe, Jamaica, the Philippines, Korea and Japan.
Jerry’s great curiosity led him to pursue a variety of interests, many of which he shared with his family. With his daughter Sarah Hankins, he shared a love of books and poetry; with his daughter Susan Hankins, he shared a love of maps and looking things up; with his son-in-law Russ Meller, seeking wildlife sightings and talking politics; with his granddaughter, Grace Meller, rocks and metaphors, with his grandson Henry Meller, history and context, and with this sister-in-law, Donna Van Trees, theology and dulcimers.
It was through his faith that he shared with the members of the his congregations that endeared him to many – singing and playing his dulcimers for children’s time, parading newly baptized babies around the sanctuary with joy and wonder, connecting to his confirmation classes, and his ability to make ceremonies personal, both weddings and memorials, that brought out the best in everyone.
Jerry is preceded in death by his parents and sister-in-law, Kay Hankins; and is survived by his brother, wife, daughters, son-in-law, sister-in-law, granddaughter and grandson, and the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren of his brother, all of whom brought him much joy.
Memorial donations may be sent to the MN Conference of the UCC (122 West Franklin #323, Minneapolis, MN 55404, uccmn.org), First UCC in Northfield (300 Union Street, Northfield, MN 5505, firstucc.org, memorials fund). A celebration of Jerry’s life will be held in Northfield on June 18, 2022 at First United Church of Christ beginning at 11:00 AM. biermanfuneralhome.com.