"A warm smile and an open ear"

KRESTON RAE LIPSCOMB March 23, 1953-Sept. 28, 2021

click to enlarge Pastor Kres leading the annual International Peace Day service around the peace pole outside First Church of the Brethren.
Pastor Kres leading the annual International Peace Day service around the peace pole outside First Church of the Brethren.

I remember a day in elementary school when I spent an afternoon with my dad. After a quick lunch at Cozy Dog, we went to Jewel Osco for groceries. Dad picked up a few items for the house and then grabbed some cat food. We didn't have a cat. After we checked out, we walked around behind the building to say hi to one of his friends. The woman sitting behind the grocery store was happy to see us. They chatted for a few minutes and he introduced me, we gave her the cat food, and we left. My dad told me on the drive home that she was usually back there by herself and he suspected she might sleep there in the field. He said she always welcomed his visits and she loved the stray cats who hung around, so he liked to help her with food for them once in a while.

That was my dad. Kres Lipscomb paid attention to people, got to know them. He checked on them and he did it quietly behind the scenes. He greeted everyone he met with a warm smile and an open ear.

Kreston Lipscomb, Kres as he was better known, was born in Parkersville, West Virginia, in 1953. He and his brother, Marc, were raised by their mother, Marian Russell. They moved to Dixon, Illinois, as kids and stayed there throughout their childhood. He was a graduate of Dixon High School, North Central College and Bethany Theological Seminary. He served as a pastor for 45 years, most recently at First Church of the Brethren in Springfield, from 1986 to 2018.

Kres was happily married for 45 years to Elizabeth Scudder Lipscomb. They began dating in high school in Dixon, and after some time on and off, were married in 1976. They raised three daughters together – Corinne, Rebecca and me. Our parents were dedicated supporters of each other and us. They worked together on everything. In our household, Dad often shopped and cooked dinner and Mom could be found doing handiwork around the house. They shared passions for social justice, the environment and numerous vacations to national parks around the country. Neither of them grew up in Springfield, but they found a community here and were quick to become a part of it. They valued family and faith.

Kres and Liz lost their son, our brother Andrew, in 1982. In the late 80s, they started leading SHARE at St. John's Hospital, a monthly support group for parents who lost children to infant death. In their over 25 years of leading the group, they met with hundreds of parents. The group was very special to them. "Many of us met in a time of grief and survived to remain friends long after," Liz says of their SHARE community.

Kirk Herren talks about his time at SHARE: "Kreston was a humble man who deeply cared about the parents he and Liz helped. They both attended countless memorial events, funerals and did so many good things for others."

Pastor Kres' sermons often carried themes of social justice, service work and peaceful living. In his 32 years at First Church of the Brethren, he challenged the congregation to embrace these themes. He encouraged many outreach projects of the church – packing school supplies for refugees, praying around the peace pole, volunteering with Compass for Kids, preparing holiday meals for homebound seniors. Any time people gathered in the church, Pastor Kres could be found wandering with a cup of coffee, talking to whomever he could catch.

Longtime friend Patty Drake remembers crossing paths with Kres several times throughout the last 30 years. "It started with peace work during the Gulf War, lots of hours working on the fair trade sale every December, and Thanksgiving and Christmas meal deliveries." Patty remembers preparing those meals with her daughter and says, "Kres always reminded us that we might be the only person that the people we deliver to may talk to that day. We prayed, we sang and we all felt the camaraderie in that basement before we left. I am grateful to have known Kres and will remember him as a person who put his faith into action. A lesson we could all learn. Peace."

My dad was a familiar face around Springfield. Whether he was at high school cross country meets, standing at a peace rally, welcoming people to the church or having coffee at the Hometown Pantry, Kres Lipscomb wanted to know the people around him.

Laura Lipscomb of Springfield, daughter, mother, barista and gardener, continues her parents' legacy of faith-inspired activism for peace and justice.

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