The Rev. Neil Heidrick's retirement on June 2 will end 50 years of service to Methodist and United Methodist churches.
Asked Friday if society was much different today than when he started in the ministry, the soft-spoken Heidrick said, "No, I don't think a lot. Times have changed, you know. Basically, I feel that the church and its ministry and the things that I believe in haven't changed much in my 50 years."
Heidrick grew up on a farm near Madison, a small town 20 miles south of Emporia. He graduated from Madison High School in 1938 and from Baker University in 1948. He earned his theology degree in 1951 from Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology, in Dallas.
Heidrick, who was ordained after graduating from the seminary, has been involved with 20 Kansas and Texas churches since he joined the ministry in 1941 at Olpe Methodist Church in Olpe.
HEIDRICK IS retiring from Worden United Methodist Church, where he came on board in 1982. Most of the churches he's served have been in small towns, which he said he prefers.
Heidrick said he grew up on a farm and originally planned to be a farmer. But Heidrick said his involvement in church youth groups influenced him to become a minister.
"I grew up in a church in Madison, and quite a few ministers came out of that church," he said. "We always had a good ministry there, I think that influenced me."
Heidrick said he has ``enjoyed the variety of things that you do in the ministry. You work with people of all ages. There were a lot of interesting challenges."
Although times have changed, Heidrick said he thought people still hold stock in the church. For example, he said membership at Worden has climbed from 131 in 1982 to 191 this year.
"We've had such a wonderful ministry here at Worden," Heidrick said. "A lot of the people who've joined have been young people, and I feel the interest in the church is the same as when I started 50 years ago."
HEIDRICK SAID he and his wife, Mary, whom he married in 1947, now plan to finish restoring their 108-year-old home in Baldwin.
He said they also hope to travel and "do some of the things we didn't have time to do before." That includes visiting their two children, Kevin, who lives in Ashland, Ore., and Dayna, who lives in Burlington, Vt.
"We expect to be very busy," Heidrick said.