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Not gone, just graduated: Aberdeen minister Ken Gordon dies aged 85

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Tributes have been paid to Aberdeen Anglican minister of almost 50 years, Rev Kenneth Gordon who has died age 85.

Mrs Jessica Gordon is shown to the left of the picture next to her husband, the rev ken Gordon, who is wearing his dog collar and is carrying a Bible
Kenneth Gordon and wife Jessica of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Aberdeen and Orkney Diocese.

The devoted Christian, who was active in ministry until earlier this year, saw his death not as an occasion for sadness, but as his ‘graduation to Heaven’.

Capital upbringing

Born in Edinburgh on December 27, 1935, Kenneth Gordon was the only child of  Alfred and Alexanderina Gordon.

A stockbroker’s clerk from Corstorphine, his father died when Ken was just 15.

A black and white picture showing a young Ken Gordon holding the arm of his father, while his mother walks behind them on a busy Aberdeen street. Black cars and crowds are also shown.
Kenneth Gordon as a boy on holiday in Aberdeen with his parents.

Mrs Gordon, formerly Alexanderina Pittendrich, worked as a bakery assistant, bringing home unsold cakes at the end of the day.

And it was with his mother that he first encountered Christian ministry, accompanying her to St Thomas’ Edinburgh, an Episcopalian church.

Education

Ken attended George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh due to a bursary awarded after the death of his father.

A love of academic study would soon develop, leading to a place at the University of Edinburgh before moving on again, this time to Trinity College Bristol, for theological training.

A young Ken Gordon is shown at the stone doorway of George Heriot school. He is wearing a striped school tie and badged blazer.
George Heriot’s School where Kenneth Gordon, pictured, attended following the award of an academic bursary.

In later years he would achieve a masters degree from the University of Wales and Spurgeon’s College and would even begin a PHD into the life and works of missionary to India, Lesslie Newbigin. His death, on June 19, means this remains unfinished.

Ministry beckoned

Although brought up in a church-going family, it would be as a teenager that Ken would feel a call to pursue the things of God more seriously.

Phil Gordon, Ken’s son, explained: “There was a definite point in my dad’s life where he made a decision for himself to become a Christian.

“He was really influenced by the rector at St Thomas’s who he’d talk to and listen to. I know he was a real encouragement for my dad.”

A shared call

On completion of his training in 1960, Ken moved to St Helens in Lancashire, as curate of both St Helens Church and St Andrew’s Church.

But it would be on a young adult weekend in the Lake District when a new love would enter his life in the form of trainee teacher, Edith Newing, better known as Jessica.

Jessica Gordon is pictured looking lovingly at her husband, the Rev Ken Gordon who is pictured in tweed jacker and dog collar.
Both were committed to church work:  Jessica Gordon and husband Kenneth Gordon.

“My mum worshipped in the church where my dad worked, but until that trip away they didn’t really know each other. Mum was at teacher training college and I suppose it seemed like they were on very different paths, but actually as time went on, they both felt a call to serve God.”

After a year of courting the couple married on April 4, 1964 in St Andrew’s Parish Church, St Helens.

Kenneth and Jessica Gordon.

A move to Bolton in 1966 offered him his first charge, then, in 1971, Scotland beckoned.

Ken became rector of St Devenick’s Church, Bieldside, Aberdeen.

Phil said: “I was born in 1967 and my brother a couple of years before me so when we moved to Scotland we were quite young. I have one memory coming towards St Devenick’s on the North Deeside road. I remember the square tower ahead and dad pointing to it, saying, ‘that’s where we’re going’.”

A need emerges

Ken and Jessica would give their lives to the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney, serving within St Devenick’s for 30 years.

But watching the oil and gas sector begin to take off, Ken saw a growing need for a new church in the Westhill area of Aberdeen.

“He would also refer to the Bible verse in Matthew 9:37 that said ‘the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few’. He was someone who was always looking for ways to help people, and especially if he perceived a need that wasn’t being addressed,” said Phil.

A close up shot of Rev Ken Gordon pictured in his later years. His hair is greying and he's wearing black thin-rimmed glasses with a wide smile.
Kenneth Gordon, of St Devenick’s Episcopal Church, Aberdeen.

Initially Jessica continued to teach, working in Stoneywood and Scotstown primary schools. She also became deputy head of Denmore Primary.

But as Westhill Community Church, which began with just 10 people in an old scout hut, began to grow, both spent themselves in service to their congregations.

Legacy

Rev Ian Ferguson, who conducted what Ken termed his ‘graduation service’ rather than his funeral, recently retired from the church started by Mr Gordon.

He believes his loss, and his legacy, will be felt.

He said: “One of the great gifts Ken had was in laying foundations for future ministry.

“He was one a founding member of the Diocesan Lay Training Course. He laid the foundations of Westhill Community Church. He was involved in the planning of Trinity Church – a new church building for ecumenical use.

Rev Canon Ian Ferguson with wife Heather at the opening ceremony of new Westhill Episcopal Church.

“But he was also a proper pastoral minister. He cared for people and wanted them to know about the Good News. He spent his life to that end.”

Later years

In 2001 Ken retired and the couple moved back to Mawdesley in Lancashire but very quickly Jessica missed the people, and the Deeside scenery, and so they moved to Drumoak where they remained until Jessica passed away in 2015, age 76.

And even after the loss of his wife, Ken still served his parish.

“I remember my dad saying, ‘you don’t retire from the ministry’. And he certainly meant that. He was still leading and preaching part-time because a local church didn’t have a rector,” Phil added.

Indeed he took on the role of priest-in-charge for two years at St Clement’s, Mastrick, and helping at Christ Church, Kincardine O’Neil.

People person

Aside from ministry Ken’s other passion was his family.

He has two granddaughters, Libby (18) and Maddie (21), and daughter-in-law Kim, in Oxford.

Phil said: “Dad was very approachable. His life was marked by looking after people and supporting people. He tried to show great respect for everybody he met, including us.

“He was a wonderful, impressive, kind man. A godly man who dealt with things calmly and with integrity, never holding a grudge.”

Gardening, walking and still preaching into his retirement years: Kenneth Gordon.

Ken briefly entered Bellfield Care Home in Banchory before passing away in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary surrounded by his family.

Phil concluded: “I feel very privileged to have come from a Christian home. My dad worked hard and it wasn’t always easy but he wasn’t ambitious career wise. His ambition was to promote Jesus, which he did, every day of his life.”

You can read the family’s announcement here.

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