Obituary to Ken Patterson

May 30th, 2014

Kenneth John Patterson,OAM

21st November 1922 – 12th April 2014


Strategic church planter, astute administrator, practical theologian, precise historian, passionate pacifist, empathic pastor, encouraging mentor, humble servant of the Christian way – these and many other phrases call Kenneth John Patterson (known to many as Ken) to mind.


Born to Harold and Jessie Patterson in Ascot Vale, Victoria, and the eldest of four boys, Ken was a son of the manse where he and his brothers were nurtured in an atmosphere that encouraged a healthy sense of self-worth, careful thought and dedication to the Christian way. While each son was encouraged to express open and strong opinions on a range of life matters, they were also nurtured to be careful listeners, appreciative of others’ thoughts that may differ from their own, carefully weighing alternative ideas for value.


Early formal education took place at Ascot Vale State School followed by Gardiner Central School, then Melbourne High School. Upon matriculation, Ken joined the State Savings Bank and gained his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor Commerce degrees at Melbourne University.


In 1941, Ken was called up for military duties but registered as a conscientious objector and was granted an exemption. Enrolling at the Federal Churches of Christ College of the Bible in 1943, he joined with others becoming members of the Victorian branch of the Christian Pacifist Movement which stated: “Sincerely believing that under no circumstances can participation in war be reconciled with the spirit and teachings of Christ, and desiring to work for the removal of the causes of war, I wish to be enrolled as a member of the Christian Pacifist Movement (Victoria).”


At the conclusion of his ministry studies in 1947, he and Vera Coventry married and took up ministries at Ivanhoe and Oakleigh (Victoria), then Prospect and Balaklava (South Australia).


As a banker and commerce graduate, Ken was interested in the proper use of money to better the cause of churches from many denominations across Australia. His time with the Wells Organization, a pioneer church fund-raising program, helped to raise many thousands of pounds.

In 1963, having been appointed State Organiser of Churches of Christ in Western Australia, Ken and Vera moved the family to Perth. As well as the development of the Christian Centre in Beaufort Street, he was able to organize for the provision of church properties in new suburbs, even before the suburbs themselves were developed.  His foresight, fundraising skills and careful management were his forte, leaving a significant legacy for Churches of Christ in WA.


Apart from the estimated 450,000 kms he travelled over 25 years forging relational links with churches and ministry entities associated with Churches of Christ in Western Australia, Ken Patterson networked cross-denominationally, working with the Churches Commission on Education, precursor to today’s YouthCARE, in establishing a chaplaincy program for WA schools. A keen biblical and theological student, he attended and participated in many theological forums across various denominations and ecumenically, well into his retirement years.


His interest in promoting peace continued with a steady persistence. On arriving in Western Australia, he joined the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) which met at ‘Quakers House’ in Mount Lawley. He was appointed President up to its discontinuance after the successes of the protests against the Vietnam War. Throughout the 1960s and 70s FOR continued to mount peace vigils (generally alongside Wesley Church), be associated with the anti-Vietnam marches and also with the United Nations Association in seminars on peace and international questions. Ken was also involved in attempts to have a Chair of Peace Studies set up in the new Murdoch University, as was Betty King of the Church of Christ, Inglewood, a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.


Ken’s philosophy and social outlook was clearly articulated. He said:


“To be a Christian is to invest our lives with the character of the Master.  Our baptism and our weekly communion should dramatise this to us.  Let us make Christ real not only to ourselves but to as many other people as we possibly can by Christ-likeness.  And let us beware of mythologising Jesus and the prophets of Scripture, as if they did not live in a real world with social and political as well as personal, educational and religious issues, all of which they met face on.  It is not enough for Christian witness to be pietistic and otherworldly if we do not allow the Spirit of Jesus working through us to play upon all of life.  I would urge myself and my brethren to out-think and out-live the rest of men in every area of human experience.  To do this we require both a lively piety and an operative social conscience.”


No stranger to conflict within and beyond the Church, he exhorted:


“Let differences, where they exist, be honestly faced, not uncritically and prejudicially damned.  The one real heresy of the Christian church is sectionalism, that Christians fail to love one another, that they begin to work against each other instead of for each other’s good.  This of course was the heart of the message of the Campbell’s and the early pioneers of the restoration movement and their pleas was that we eschew division and dissension among Christians and seek unity in love.  Division they said was a horrid evil.” 


A dedicated and enthusiastic supporter of continuing theological education for all, Ken’s leaning was towards, practical, biblical, locally centred leadership.


Current principal of Stirling Theological College (previously College of the Bible), Dr Andrew Menzies noted Ken’s commitment to ongoing growth and discovery, learning from the past in order to get on with the future, and generosity of heart and resources, emphasising his vision, determination and stamina.


In 1991, Ken Patterson was awarded the Order of the Medal of Australia “for service to religion, particularly through the Churches of Christ.”


Ken Patterson is survived by his widow Vera, 5 children, 14 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.


Ken’s family testifies to his prowess as a principled and loving family man, taking a deep interest in each one’s capacity, interests and talents and encouraging them towards fulfilling their potential. They recall how he set a high standard, reflecting on how his Christian stance, sharp intellect, wit and family values shaped their thinking.  They and many within Ken Patterson’s orbit of influence will remember ‘a man of God, who dedicated his life serving others’… ‘a man of empathy, compassion and vision’ and ‘a much loved wise man of words and book’