In our continue series featuring friends of CCS, we bring you Ken Delisle – diaconal minister, CCS volunteer, and Companion of the Centre.
“There’s an old song whose chorus is, “I’ve been everywhere.” It then rattles off names of towns and cities throughout North America.
I haven’t actually been everywhere but my ministry has taken be places I never expected. Since I was commissioned to Diaconal Ministry in 1994, a graduate of the Western Field Based Program out of St. Stephen’s in Edmonton, I have served in 3 Conferences; 5 Presbyteries; 8 congregations and 3 outreach ministries. And I have learned so much from each of them. Thank God for life-long learning.
My settlement was also the longest position I held. For 6 years I was minister for Winnipeg Church of The Deaf (WCD). The cross cultural learning in this outreach ministry helped me see scripture through a different lens and to understand as never before, the gift of ministry of all people.
As the first openly gay person to be commissioned, settlement was stressful. But WCD welcomed me because I knew what it was to be a part of an invisible minority and how to advocate.
As Mission and Service support was cut, I needed to find other work. I was chaplain at the University of Manitoba until it too, lost Mission and Service support.
Then my spouse, John Robertson and I, became team ministers for Rainbow Ministry – an outreach of Winnipeg Presbytery to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. We believe we were the first gay couple hired as a team. We spent most of the first 3 years fighting to stay alive, never mind reaching the community with whom we were meant to minister.
From there I went into interim ministry, which I believe is Diaconal in nature, as congregations examine who they are; where they are; the gifts the community has and then revealing the ministry God is calling them to do next. It’s a wonderful shared and empowering experience.
I also was called to a pastoral charge where I was teamed with another Diaconal Minister and had 3 wonderful years.
It’s not always been easy but it’s always been rewarding. I hold a powerful and beautiful image in my experience of serving communion to a woman who was breast-feeding her child. As I provided the bread of life she was providing the milk of life.
And when I had to reflect on Jesus healing the deaf man to the Deaf Community, it was that community who told me it wasn’t about “healing” but about opening the ears of one who refused to listen.
When I was Roman Catholic and came out, I decided then to do all that I could to help persons not deal with the oppression and hatred I had experienced. At first, my focus was, “You are loved.” I learned that wasn’t enough. Many felt that maybe God or others might love them, but they didn’t deserve it. Now, my focus is “You are loved and loveable.”
That vision led John and me to be foster parents. We have had 8 foster children. 2 identify as gay; 3 as straight (1 as a cross dresser) and 3 as transgender. We have First Nation, Métis, and African children and 1 Deaf child. We are so blessed and enriched by our ministry work in and outside of the church.
I have served with Affirm United and on Partners In Mission Unit (and it’s forerunners) for over a decade and I have been involved with human rights and social justice on many issues and levels. I have served with CCS as members of various committees, Chair of the Program Committee, United Church Co-Chair and am currently on the Tapestry and Communications Committees.
For me, CCS is the primary focal point for the Diaconal Community, keeping us connected and alive with new approaches and understanding of ministry. I was shocked and honored to be asked to become a Companion of the Centre in 2008.
Not bad for a Catholic boy who knew nothing about the United Church until 1984!
So what’s next? I can make plans but God will let me know where the next surprise is. I live in that hope, that assurance and that love.
God bless us on our journey.”