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Peoria pastor focuses on community

Posted 11/23/23

Rev. Kathy Hickel, 49, is the pastor of The Church at Cactus, 8133 W. Cactus Road, in Peoria. She felt called to the ministry in childhood but worked in various careers before pursuing that call.

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Peoria pastor focuses on community


A pastor in Peoria has been putting her focus on supporting the community.

Rev. Kathy Hickel, 49, is the pastor of The Church at Cactus, 8133 W. Cactus Road. She felt called to the ministry in childhood but worked in various careers before pursuing that call.

She has been a hotshot firefighter, a paramedic and a high school teacher. Along the way, she experienced exuberant joys, crushing grief, and illness so serious that life and death were in delicate balance. God pulled her through in what can only be called a miracle.

Through it all, she relied on faith and God’s leadership, stating “God uses our experiences to knit together His purposes for us. All that I experienced, I now use as a pastor in my church and community.”

While attending seminary, Hickel served as an intern at The Church at Cactus. After receiving her Master of Divinity degree in 2014, the church ordained her. She served as associate pastor prior to becoming the full-time pastor in 2022 after her mentor, Rev. David Gunn, retired.

Her vision is to create a community-centered church.

“We want to let the community know we are here for them,” she said.

Hickel’s congregation is small, diverse and inclusive.

“When I look out from the pulpit, I see people from all walks of life with different cultural backgrounds, ethnicities and ages. We have immigrants, refugees, young people, seniors, and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Our desire to seek and follow God unifies us,” she said.

While many church buildings sit unused much of the time, Hickel is proud the facility is in use seven days a week. Three other groups use the facility: Cathedral of Faith, a Spanish-speaking congregation; Fireside, a new church start-up; and Benevilla, an adult day center.

“Everyone under our roof helps to meet the needs of the community,” she said.

Hickel puts the church’s land to use as well. With the expertise of her friend, horticulturist Lisa Ketchum, she initiated plans to create a community garden on the property. Under their leadership, church members broke ground, built garden beds, and planted seeds. Produce from the garden is used to prepare and serve monthly meals at no charge to anyone who wants to come.

Hickel hopes to increase community participation and is looking into applying for a grant to help make the garden an ongoing and sustainable resource for the community.

The church’s annual community market and craft fair also draws interest from the community. It features music, food trucks and vendors selling hand-made crafts, baked goods and produce. The next event will be on Feb. 24, 2024. Vendors are encouraged to register for a booth.

Hickel thrives in her pastoral role. She is married and has a daughter, 10. In addition to pastoring, she loves raising her daughter, reads voraciously, is a skilled musician, and of course, enjoys gardening.

Under Hickel’s guidance, The Church at Cactus continues to grow and seek ways to serve its community.

Editor's note: This article was submitted by The Church at Cactus, 8133 W. Cactus Road.