“A warm smile and an open ear” | Remembering

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Reverend Chris leads the annual World Peace Day service around the Pole of Peace outside First Brethren Church.

I remember a day in elementary school when I spent an afternoon with my parents. After a quick lunch at Cozy Dog, we went to Jewel Osco to buy groceries. Dad picked some things for the house and then grabbed some cat food. We didn’t have a cat. After checking out, we wandered 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 she introduced me, we gave her cat food, and we left. My father told me on his way home that she usually came back there alone and he suspected that she might sleep there in the field. He said she was always welcome for his visits and that she liked the feral cats hanging around, so he liked to help her with food once in a while.

This was my father. Kres Lipscomb cared about people and got to know them. He checked them out and did so quietly behind the scenes. He greeted everyone he met with a warm smile and an open ear.

Kreston Lipscomb, Kres as he was 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, when they were children and stayed there throughout their childhood. He graduated from Dixon High School, North Central College, and Bethany Theological College. He served as a pastor for 45 years, most recently at the First Church of the Brethren in Springfield, from 1986 to 2018.

Chris has been happily married for 45 years to Elizabeth Scudder Lipscombe. They started dating in high school in Dixon, and after a while, they got married in 1976. They raised three daughters together – Corinne, Rebecca and Anna. Our parents were loyal supporters of each other and of us. They worked together on everything. In our house, Dad would often shop and cook dinner and Mom could be found doing crafts all over the house. They have shared their passion for social justice, the environment, and many vacations to national parks across the country. Neither of them grew up in Springfield, but they found a community here and soon became a part of it. They valued family and faith.

Chris and Liz lost their son, our brother Andrew, in 1982. In the late 1980s, they began leading SHARE at St. John’s Hospital, a monthly support group for parents who had lost their children to infant deaths. During their more than 25 years leading the group, they have met hundreds of parents. The group was very special to them. “Many of us met in a time of grief and survived to remain friends for a long time,” Liz says of their SHARE community.

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

Pastor Chris’ sermons often featured themes of social justice, service work, and peaceful living. During his 32 years in the First Church of the Brethren, he has challenged devotees to embrace these themes. Encourage many of the church’s outreach projects – packing school supplies for refugees, praying around a peace pillar, volunteering with Compass for Kids, preparing holiday meals for seniors living in their homes. Anytime people gather in church, Pastor Chris can be found walking around with a cup of coffee, talking to whoever can pick it up.

Old friend Patti Drake remembers crossing paths with Chris many times over the past 30 years. “He started doing peace work during the Gulf War, working long hours on the fair trade sale in December, delivering Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.” Patti remembers preparing those meals with her daughter and says, “Chris always reminded us that we might be the only person we could talk to that day. We prayed and sang and we all felt camaraderie in that basement before. We left. I’m grateful I knew Chris and I will I remember him as someone who put his faith into practice. A lesson we can all learn. Peace.”

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

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


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