By Gisele McKnight
The diocese finally has a parish development officer to replace David Edwards, who vacated the position in 2014 after being elected bishop.
Ken Neilson begins work Jan. 18.
Ken and his wife, Fay, are the owner-operators of InTheStillness retreat centre in West Quaco, near St. Martins. He is also a certified marriage and family therapist and a deacon in the Church of the Nazarene.
While Ken is not Anglican, he’s not exactly unfamiliar.
“For literally decades, my guide to prayer has been the lectionary,” he said.
He has two bachelor degrees and two master degrees, and expects to graduate from Acadia Divinity College (Acadia University) this year with a doctor of ministry degree.
“The timing has worked well,” said Ken. “Part of it I attribute to God and to the bishop. I’m graduating, and over the last while we’ve felt this stirring — a time to leave something behind and find something else.”
Ken may be familiar to some, having facilitated conciliation training for Anglicans last spring. He also taught at Taylor College with Threshold Ministries from 2002-2010.
That’s where he met Bishop David, who had come to Canada to be its principal.
While they kept in touch over the years, it wasn’t until Ken was a speaker at a 12-12-12 gathering in December that Bishop David decided Ken might be a good fit for the open position.
“It came into my head while he was speaking, ‘why not ask Ken to be the parish development officer?’ but I thought, ‘no, that won’t work. He’s too busy,’” said Bishop David. “But I couldn’t get it out of my head.”
The diocese has been seeking to fill the role since David became bishop, without success. Even an ad in the Church Times in England didn’t work.
“We’ve been trying to fill that position since I was elected bishop,” said David. “It’s not something I expected to happen.”
Nevertheless, they met, struck a deal for Ken to work at .75 of full-time, and, said the bishop, “I’m looking forward to what God has in store.”
Ken, 59 and a native of Saint John, says his role as parish development officer will be one of support.
“I will be helping support the deaneries to action the charge of the bishop,” he said. “I will be supporting the parish leaders, equipping and empowering them in missional initiatives — how to reach out into their parishes.”
Ken’s faith statement: We must actively seek the face of God and then put that into action. You can’t have part one without part two. You become insular with only part one. If you really know the heart of God, you’re compelled to go out and act.