Order Member and House of Studies Alum Launches Podcast
Bill Hinkle is a founding member of Prophet Elijah Antiochian Orthodox Mission in Ellensburg, WA, a member of the Order of St. Ignatius, and a graduate of the Antiochian House of Studies. Bill's varied history also includes a stint as the Minority Whip of the Washington State House of Representatives, a career as a firefighter paramedic, service as a county commissioner, civic involvement in boards and a leadership institute, and a career in health insurance. He recently launched a bi–monthly podcast with the Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) called "Our Life in Christ and in America." Antiochian.org spoke with Bill about the many hats he wears.
1. How long have you been Orthodox and how did you discover the Church? Tell us a little about your parish.
I told my wife on our first date that I wanted to know God, live a Christian life and find the Church, but wasn't sure how to do any of that. Almost 10 years later in 1999, we met Fr. George and Pres. Dianthe Livanos on a ferry dock in Port Angeles Washington the week before Thanksgiving. He had travelled from Canonsburg, PA and we were on vacation six hours from our house. We spent 45 minutes crossing the Strait of Juan De Fuca on a ferry talking about "the historic church" as Fr. George explained it to us. I kept saying "if it's not in the Bible, I don't believe it!" He finally said, "how do you think we got our Bible?" Well that question burrowed into my soul and I went to visit Fr. Joseph Copeland at Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Yakima 5 days later. Father Joseph spent a little over an hour with me and I realized I had found the Church!
We spent five years driving an hour to Church every week while we were learning the faith. We were baptized on Holy Saturday in 2001. In December 2004, we started a mission with a few others in Cle Elum Washington moving to Ellensburg a couple years later where now we have about 60 people at the Prophet Elijah Antiochian Orthodox Mission. We have a priest now and are a growing community through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!
2. You are an alum of the Antiochian House of Studies and have started an Alumni Association for them. Can you describe what the House of Studies has contributed to your life?
I love the Antiochian House of Studies! I've gained so many friends and mentors from the students, faculty and staff, from around the country and world for that matter. My time at the Village with the AHoS has broadened and deepened my understanding of the Church and our patristic tradition, as well as focused me in my ministry. AHoS also provides a huge value in helping prepare workers for Christ's Church, as well as spreading the gospel with instruction to laborers for the harvest.
3. After years serving as a firefighter paramedic, you entered the political sphere. What was behind that decision?
I loved working as a paramedic, but after 17 years of witnessing human tragedy and illness every day at work, I simply had seen too much. I got "burned out" as they say. I was recruited to run for office, having been a union president for the King County Paramedic Association. It took a couple of years to decide to run, but we were having our second child and figured one of us had to have a day job. My wife works for the Seattle Fire Department and we were both working 24 hours shifts. I served six years as county commissioner for Kittitas County and then was elected to the Washington State House of Representatives and served five terms, finishing as the Minority Whip the last five years there.
With an invitation from Fr. Chris Metropulos and the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Joseph we have started " Our Life in Christ and in America" discussing the challenges of our modern-day social and political problems through the lens of our Holy Orthodox Faith. We will address the common conflicts between our faith and the political life in America. So often we get pulled into waging battles that may not be part of our vocation as Orthodox Christians. All types of voices flood our ears, but what is our calling, and how do we balance our lives as Orthodox Christians and citizens of the freest country in the world?
5. How long have you been in the Order of St. Ignatius and what is the most meaningful aspect of being a member?
I think it's been six years since I joined the Order of St. Ignatius. Two things come to mind when I think of the Order. It was a great blessing for the St. John of Kronstadt Orthodox School in Yakima to receive support from the Order. Most of all however, I remember the testimony of a seminarian's wife, and how important the support of the Order was for them in a time of real struggle to raise a family while her husband prepared for the holy priesthood. Till that moment I really didn't understand how much the Order provides for various ministries.
6. As a health insurance broker, active Antiochian Christian, founder of a leadership institute, and politician, you wear many hats! Of these many roles and activities, which would you say is taking the most time and energy these days, and which ones are your top priority?
On the last day of my last legislative session as a state representative, we found out that my wife had breast cancer. It was a tough summer, but by God's mercy and through the prayers of many of our brothers and sisters, my dear wife has gotten through surgery and chemo therapy and is back to work and healthier than she's been in the last 10 years! Needless to say, my priorities have changed a bit. I had to drop being a health insurance broker, and passed the leadership institute to the next generation after five years. I've been the executive director for the Rental Housing Association of Washington for the past year, which is my day job. Being out of public office has allowed me to focus on my family and our parish life. We're planning for another House of Studies Alumni Weekend for 2013 so stay tuned; and I hope to finish my Masters degree program this year. We thank God for His mercy and strength to serve. Glory be to Jesus Christ!