by the Rev. David M. Rider, President & Executive Director
On Thursday, May 13, Paducah area friends of the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) met in the Founders Room above the Paducah Center for Maritime Education for dinner and celebration of Chaplain Jim Wilkinson’s years as SCI's first Ministry on the River Chaplain.
Fittingly, perhaps a dozen working towboats and barges passed along the Ohio River across from the Founders Room, which guests quickly dubbed as the towboat parade in Jim’s honor.
Great food and fellowship, laughter, and funny stories mixed with reflections about Jim’s dedicated pastoral ministry. With natural spontaneity, guests shared vignettes and gentle roasts, such as Jim’s tendency for extensive invocations at industry events.
Accompanied by his wife, Kay, Jim happily recalled rounds of delivering Christmas on the River and Easter on the River packages to far-flung inland mariners. A typical Christmas delivery encompassed 5,000 miles over several weeks.
Among several gifts, SCI gave Jim and Kay a beautiful photograph of a towboat at Paducah by Gregory Thorp.
Jim will join in Ministry on the River activities from time to time in retirement. Meanwhile, he turns his duties toward work as volunteer archivist for the Diocese of Kentucky, located in Louisville.
Jim’s successor, the Rev. Kempton Baldridge, takes up residence in Paducah and begins his river ministry on June 1, working in close coordination with Lower Mississippi River Chaplain Mike Hammett.