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Celebrating century-old cleric “He’s pretty much seen it all.”

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Cathy Dobson

He still takes part in church services 70 years after his ordination.

He’s baptized 1,083 people including his own great grandchild.

And at age 100, Rev. Gordon Pickell remains a popular and respected leader at High Park United Church in Sarnia where he is Minister Emeritus.

“The ladies at the church still fight over him good naturedly,” laughs Rev. Carol Ferguson who took over ministry duties at High Park 12 years ago.

“Rev. Pickell hasn’t lost his charm at all.”

Rev. Gordon Pickell sits with fellow clergy member Rev. Carol Ferguson at High Park United Church. Troy Shantz
Rev. Gordon Pickell sits with fellow clergy member Rev. Carol Ferguson at High Park United Church. Troy Shantz

The good reverend celebrated his 100th birthday this past weekend by co-presiding at High Park’s communion and enjoying lunch with his close-knit congregation.

Even though he doesn’t spring up the church stairs like he used to and his hearing is somewhat diminished, Rev. Pickell says he’s still feeling “pretty good” and only recently stopped visiting the sick.

He said he still enjoys the people at High Park on Brenchley Street. “I always found a certain satisfaction in ministry,” he explained.

As a young farmer in Westminster Township near London, he was working behind some horses to plow his fields many years ago when he was struck by the idea that he wanted to become a minister. He told his father that same day and his father promised they’d find a way to make it possible.

Rev. Pickell graduated from Western University and Emanuel College in Toronto. He was ordained in 1947.

“He’s a man full of love and kindness,” said Rev. Ferguson. “He brings a lot of quiet wisdom. He’s not showy about it but he’s pretty much seen it all.”

Over seven decades of ministry, Rev. Pickell has not only baptized more than 1,000 people, he’s conducted 421 burials, 691 weddings and 525 confirmations.

Through the years, he kept impeccable records according to his wife Donna Wright-Pickell.

“He’s had a very busy life and performed marriages and baptisms for many of his own family members.”

He’s also encouraged six people to become candidates for ministry.

Rev. Pickell started his work in Wawa, then moved to Thessalon, then Dorchester, then to High Park in Sarnia from 1959 to 1976.

Asked if he could point to any one event that stood out, Rev. Pickell recalled the installation of a beautiful stained glass window at High Park.  It was dedicated in December 1964 in memory of Phil Lewis, who was killed in the TCA 831 plane crash that killed five Polymer employees from the Sarnia area.

Lewis was a technical supervisor in the petrochemicals department and also the Sunday Superintendent at High Park.

Years later, Rev. Pickell went on to serve at St. Paul’s United in Windsor before retiring and eventually moved back to Sarnia.

Since 2006, he has been Minister Emeritus at High Park.  He and his wife rarely miss a Sunday and he frequently presides over communion and reads the scriptures with Rev. Ferguson.

“In my opinion, he has never stopped ministry,” said Rev. Ferguson.

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