Richard Lucco was presented with the 2021 North Park Theological Seminary Award for Distinguished Service in a virtual chapel service on April 15. He graduated from the school in 1979.
David Kersten, dean of the seminary, said Lucco was chosen for the honor because of the leadership he had shown at every level of ministry. He noted that as superintendent of the Great Lakes Conference, Lucco was beloved, ministered as a pastor to pastors, and demonstrated strategic leadership, which included helping guide the rapid growth in the number of church plants in the Detroit area.
Kersten added that Lucco and Debbie Blue, the former executive minister of Compassion, Mercy, and Justice (now Love Mercy Do Justice) “took the beginnings of the Sankofa movement and honed it into an art form and have led multiple Sankofa journeys focusing on the story of race and on beginning the conversations of healing the trauma of race in our country.”
Lucco preached a homily, “Carried by Hope,” in which he shared that he has exhausted all current treatment options for the metastasized prostate cancer he has been battling since 2015.
“Character is about trusting God and living a faithful life by faith,” Lucco said. “I’m not there yet. I have a long ways to go, but I know that Jesus is building that character in me. It is Jesus, who in his life, death, and resurrection, embodies the hope that has become such an important part of my life. Jesus who clings to me when I cannot or will not cling to him. Jesus who carries me when I cannot walk on my own. Jesus who sticks with me, who walks with me, who blesses me even when I cannot pray.”
Lucco noted that in a recent Companion article, Covenant chaplain Ieisha Hawley had quoted Parker Palmer as a source of inspiration: “The deeper our faith, the more doubt we must endure; the deeper our hope, the more prone we are to despair; the deeper our love, the more pain its loss will bring: these are a few of the paradoxes we must hold as human beings. If we refuse to hold them in the hopes of living without doubt, despair, and pain, we also find ourselves living without faith, hope, and love.”
“Palmer is exactly right,” Lucco said. “He speaks a deep gospel truth. I would prefer it would all be faith and hope and love, but it isn’t. Doubt, despair, and pain are always with me as well. I have resolved, in God’s grace, to hold them all together, all the faith, all the hope, all the love, all the doubt and despair and pain—to hold them all together, to live in the paradox, and to say, thank you, to be grateful. It’s hard spiritual work, but it is good work, hopeful work, gospel work.”
Lucco pastored congregations in Kewanee and Elgin, Illinois, as well as Salem, Oregon, before he became superintendent of the Great Lakes Conference in 2002. In 2011, President Gary Walter appointed him as the first executive director for ministry development at Covenant Offices. He currently serves as the part-time associate pastor at Northwest Covenant Church in Mt. Prospect, Illinois.
The service can be viewed on YouTube.