By Rev. C. J. Rhodes
Jackson Advocate Guest Writer
A few years ago, I sensed the Lord calling me to lead our church in becoming more intergenerational in our worship, witness, and work with a focus on families. The vision was for The Helm to become a downtown church for the whole family – a sanctuary grandparents, parents, and children alike could call home. This emphasis on family is not just for us in the four walls, but sets the tone for our mission to the Jackson community and beyond.
Pastors know that we alone cannot fulfill the assignment of transformational ministry. It takes a village to raise a church and a child, and we count on members to understand they too have a charge to keep. I was overjoyed when members embraced this vision and committed to support with their time, talent, and treasure. One such member is Carlyn Hicks.
When Carlyn and her family joined Mt. Helm Baptist Church, they immediately got to work. In particular, Carlyn has put her legal mind to use by helping us host an expungement clinic, develop a justice ministry, and assist in deciphering legal matters. She has also advocated for our church and other churches getting into the fight for foster care reform, stating in a 2019 email, “There comes a time when the church is called upon to be the first responder in times of crisis and simply ‘be’ the church: a source of refuge, comfort, Christian compassion, and physical and spiritual safety. Today is one such day when our communities may find ourselves in need of a network of Christian families who can do just that.”
Another way Carlyn has served is through Dining with Dignity, an effort to feed homeless persons in a dignified, 5-star restaurant style way. Our church believed so much in her and this effort that we helped sponsor it. The impact her Jackson Foodies group has had on locally-owned Jackson restaurants and the local economy is also unparalleled. As you can see, Carlyn does not just warm the pew as a backrow Baptist, but puts feet to her faith.
But it was her pro bono work with Mission First Legal Aid, statewide child welfare policy advocacy, and stellar legal career that led her to being appointed to fulfill the unexpired term of Judge Melvin V. Priester, Sr. Since that time, Carlyn has transformed the court, serving with integrity and compassion. Her prior experience of training judges and prosecutors for child welfare and youth law matters made her ready Day One for the job. One staff member shared with me that they have not been this inspired in a very long time. Morale is up; employees are hard at work serving with excellence, and people who have their day in court find a firm but fair judge following the letter of the law with the love of God.
Hinds County is starving for leaders like Judge Hicks and should be proud that this JSU-educated Jackson native is applying her head and heart to noble work on the bench. As her pastor, I am proud that her good works shine there to the glory of God and the collective good. Hinds County Court, Sub-district One, is blessed to have Judge Carlyn Hicks serving us.