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The Rev. David B. Nickerson



The Rev. David B. Nickerson
A graduate of Crozer Theological Seminary

(A biographical sketch contributed by Kay Keenan, Editor of Delaware Communion which is a monthly publication by the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware.)

Nick’s Spiritual Journey

By Ethelrine Shaw-Nickerson

The Reverend David B. Nickerson and his wife, Ethelrine, will be leaving Wilmington for their retirement home in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the end of September. Nick began his Episcopal ministry in the Diocese of Delaware 44 years ago. After attending the General Theological Seminary, he was ordained to the office of Deacon at the Cathedral Church of Saint John on June 3, 1961. He served his Deaconate at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and was Priested in 1962. He was the first African American priest to serve at St. Andrew’s.

The seeds for Nick’s spiritual journey were planted in early boyhood by his parents. His father was one of the co-founding elders of the Church of God and Christ. Like some children of ministers, Nick had no interest in the ministry until after graduating from Delaware State College and completing almost 2 years of law school. It was during law school that he received and accepted his calling. He was graduated from Crozer Theological Seminary in 1957. Nick served as a clergyman in the Delaware Conference of the United Methodist Church from 1954-1959. For theological reasons, and with assistance from Bishop J. Brooke Mosely, Nick began his Episcopal ministry in the Diocese of Delaware.

After leaving St. Andrew’s in 1962, Nick continued his spiritual journey as Priest-in-Charge at St. Titus Episcopal Church in Durham, North Carolina. He and another priest were instrumental in changing a policy of the Diocese of North Carolina which prohibited the inclusion of African American children at summer camp. Also, while at St. Titus, Nick answered Dr. Martin Luther King’s call for clergy to come to Selma, Alabama in 1965. In defiance of his Bishop, and support from his Vestry, he went to Selma. While there he was assigned as a runner to carry information to the national press. With the Klan in pursuit, he and another reporter managed to escape to Montgomery by airplane.

In 1966 Nick became the Director of the Southern Field Service Program of the Episcopal Society of Cultural and Racial Unity. This was the arm of the national church in the Civil Rights movement. The focus of the program was to unite white and black Christians in dialogue about social justice. Nick traveled throughout the South and again at times was in harm’s way because of his efforts.

In 1968 Nick went on with his spiritual journey in the state of Ohio. The journey led him from the Church of the Incarnation in Cleveland, Ohio, to St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Columbus, Ohio. While at St. Philip’s, Nick earned his Master of Divinity degree in 1973 from Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, Ohio. After leaving St. Philip’s he continued his journey at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio. Nick developed and coordinated the Black World Studies Program at the University. After completing the M.A. degree in Black Studies at the Ohio State University, Nick was promoted to Assistant Professor and later received tenure at Ohio Wesleyan. Nick’s first wife, Floretta (“Nickie”) passed away in 1978. His four sons were in various parts of the country, and he began to feel a strong need to return to the ministry. In 1981 he eagerly accepted the call to become the 4th rector at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Delaware.

It was during his ministry at St. Matthew’s that (1) he and Ethelrine were married in 1983, and (2) he began his social ministries of growing food for the poor and needy and providing shelter for the homeless. For years Nick grew vegetables on his farm in Townsend, Delaware. Parishioners from various churches assisted with harvesting and the food was donated to the Emmanuel Dining Rooms. In 1987, prior to his retirement from St. Matthew’s, Nick co-founded and participated in St. Andrew’s / St. Matthew’s Ministry to the homeless which later became Sojourner’s Place.
Since retirement, Nick has served as supply in most of the churches in the Wilmington area. He has also served as interim at:

· Christ Church, Delaware City
· Trinity and Old Swedes
· Church of the Holy Spirit, Ocean City, Maryland. He was told by the Bishop of Easton that he was the first African American Priest to serve in the Diocese.
· Calvary Episcopal Church, Hillcrest

Nick promised God that any and all earnings accumulated after retirement would be used to help educate needy and deserving students. He has established scholarships at Delaware State University, Ohio Wesleyan University, and the Ohio State University.

Nick’s spiritual journey in the Episcopal Church began at the Cathedral Church of Saint John, and he and Ethelrine have attended services there when he was not in an interim. What wonderful memories of the cycle of events.




If you have any information and or pictures that you would like to contribute about individuals in Chester, please forward it to john@oldchesterpa.com

© 2004 John A. Bullock III.

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This page last updated 10/17/05