Bishop’s dad whittling the ark of GC2012

Not one to sit idly by, Jim Bickerton of Calvary United Methodist Church in Moundsville, W. Va., is volunteering as a marshal at the 2012 General Conference. Sitting at his post during plenary sessions, he’s often busy whittling, creating pairs of animals for a Noah’s Ark.

A green bag beside his marshal’s seat contains a set of carving tools, a pattern book, and a growing menagerie of animals for the ark. He pulls them out once most delegates are seated and plenary sessions begin.

Bickerton has been whittling for about nine years. “I’m self-taught,” he said. “It’s just a hobby that I enjoy.” Although he usually uses patterns, one of Jim’s early projects required quite a bit of his own design creativity.

When his son Tom was elected a United Methodist bishop at the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference in 2004, he started carving a crosier. Symbols carved into the one-of-a-kind work of art represent significant moments in the life of Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton. It’s something the bishop cherishes and proudly displays in his office near Pittsburgh Area when he’s not using the pastoral staff.

Although Bishop Bickerton received his call to ministry as a college student, he credits his father and paternal grandfather with planting his deep Methodist roots. As he often has said, “In the Bickerton house, you went to church on Sunday morning and Sunday evening and Wednesday night. There was no question about it!” As a child, the bishop attended many West Virginia Annual Conference sessions with his father, who served as a lay member.

Now Jim Bickerton is a regular guest at Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference sessions. A gifted lay speaker, he delights the members when his son invites him to share a few words from the podium.

Jim Bickerton and his wife, Marlene, are now snowbirds, living near Ruskin, Fla., from October to April. There they are part of the Family of God United Methodist Church in Palmetto. They were especially proud that congregation was able to welcome Bishop Bickerton as a guest preacher on April 29.

Jackie Campbell is a news and information specialist for the Western Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference.

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