Nickerson Will Retire as Executive of General Convention

Episcopal News Service. May 8, 1998 [98-2168]

Nan Cobbey, Features Editor of Episcopal Life

(ENS) The Rev. Canon Donald A. Nickerson, 58, executive officer of General Convention since 1986, has announced he will retire June 30.

Nickerson oversees the office that organizes General Convention every three years and oversees arrangements for all meetings of committees and commissions between conventions. He also serves as secretary of Executive Council and registrar of the church.

"I'm going to miss him terribly at the next General Convention, " said Pamela Chinnis, president of the House of Deputies. "He's been a very steadying influence....When he called to tell me that he had made the decision to retire, I just broke down and wept."

Former Presiding Bishop Edmond L. Browning said he felt similar affection for Nickerson. "Don is a deeply spiritual person....He will be hard to replace. I thank God he was there when I was.

"I think maybe his greatest gift is that he is a wonderful communicator. When he went out to visit the dioceses to talk about General Convention...he was received with a lot of thankfulness. He helped a lot of people have a better appreciation of what [convention] was all about."

Chinnis and Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold will choose an interim successor to Nickerson to present to Executive Council in June. A permanent successor will be elected at General Convention in 2000.

Nickerson was appointed 12 years ago by Browning and the Rev. David B. Collins, then president of the House of Deputies. He had been a six-time deputy to General Convention and was serving on the Executive Council at the time of his appointment. He and his wife, Susan, moved from Brunswick, Maine, where Canon Nickerson was rector of St. Paul's Church for 12 years. Susan Nickerson, who has worked for the Church Pension Group and now serves as the members' services coordinator for the Church Medical Trust, also will retire. "Sue is just a wonderful minister in her own right," said Browning.

Health is one reason Nickerson, who has been ordained for 35 years, is retiring and leaving a staff he calls "wonderful people...wonderful friendships." Diagnosed with Parkinson's disease 10 years ago, he now hopes to get some rest before deciding about his medical options.

He said his return to Maine in March for Bishop Chilton Knudsen's consecration made him realize "how much 1 missed the clergy and the people...and so many friends." He and Sue will move to Naples, Maine, west of Portland, in July in time for the birth of their fourth grandchild. They have three children.

Yet, the move home is bittersweet. "I deeply regret not being able to be with Pam at her last convention. I also regret not being with Frank Griswold as he takes his ministry to the whole church," Nickerson said.