By Sue Tiffin
Published Sept. 11 2018
Haliburton County offers an abundance of nature a multi-point parish and a thriving arts community which is exactly what Reverend Ken McClure the newly appointed priest-in-charge of the Anglican Parish of Haliburton had on his wish list.
McClure was coming to the end of his curacy at Grace Anglican Church in Markham when area bishop Riscylla Shaw made a connection between his interests and the Haliburton area.
After living city-life for almost 10 years McClure and his family were looking to settle in a place outside of an urban area. Having grown up in a multi-point parish he was hoping to find something similar much like what is offered in Haliburton County – both St. George’s in Haliburton and St. Margaret’s in Wilberforce are part of the Anglican Parish of Haliburton. With his background in theatre arts the artistic nature of this community including the connection with Highlands Opera Studio within the specific congregation seemed like an ideal opportunity for McClure to Bishop Shaw.
“Those elements she thought would be a really good fit” he said. “She asked me to think about it and pray then she arranged for me to meet with the wardens the leadership body here. We all thought it would be a good fit and so she made the appointment.”
And so as of the beginning of August McClure and his wife Becca with their young son Jack have been immersing themselves in the area stopping for chats on the street and at Foodland and marvelling at event-filled weekends and an abundance of wildlife. McClure has already played a part in HSO’s La Boheme Jack has explored Haliburton Forest’s wolf centre and Becca has started working on a masters degree in social work which will have a practicum at Soldiers Hospital in Orillia. McClure a lifelong rock hound was also quite pleased to learn of the reputation Highlands East has for mineral specimens.
“It wasn’t a normative application process this was more of an appointment because we fit nicely” said McClure.
The reverend grew up in Keswick but because of his interest in performance theatre and arts he went to a satellite elementary school and high school for artistically gifted kids outside of the area. He graduated from George Brown theatre school in 2000 and became a professional actor performing mostly in musicals in regional theatre across the country.
“I ultimately I didn’t feel enough of a sense of purpose in it for the kind of sacrifice that it requires” he said. “I was having fun with it but I was thinking of other things.”
He then moved to Guangzhou China to teach English for a year.
“It was in China that I started to really coalesce around where I was going next” he said. “Ever since I was a kid I knew I had been drawn to acting but I also had a connection with the church. There was a nagging appeal to me. I felt it was going to be my future too. And then politics the only sport I follow. I was going to be an actor a politician or a priest. In China I figured out I wasn’t moving toward the political but I was moving toward the priest more.”
Back in Canada McClure began an honours degree in classical studies at York University.
“I didn’t go to seminary immediately because I wanted to have a broader educational foundation” he said. “Theatre taught me how to communicate it taught me how to read – I don’t mean that literally but I do mean it in the fullest sense of reading. The kind of critical eye that textural deconstruction as an actor requires prepared me for the kind of large-scale textural deconstruction that academia requires but also that spiritual interpretation requires. As an actor you’ve got to be able to get into the text you have to be able to see yourself in it it has to become so real to you that you are able to make it real. Scripture you don’t need to do that kind of heavy lifting with but having the kind of imagination that allows you to do that gave me greater access of visual language to deal with when I’m preaching.”
McClure said his education in classical studies gave him the contextual foundation to understand the place and time that most of scripture comes out of. When that second phase of schooling was done he went to Trinity College for his masters of divinity a three-year program. He was ordained deacon and worked alongside a senior priest at Grace Anglican Church in Markham for two years before arriving in Haliburton.
McClure said the opportunity has been everything he hoped it would be.
“It’s unbelievable in so many different ways” he said. “The people have been fantastic. The leadership did a fantastic job preparing everything everyone has been so excellent in the church community but in the broader community as well.”
His office is already decorated with framed comic books and in his introductory letter to the parish he notes he is a superhero and horror film movie buff and loves “the nerdiest of TV” including Star Trek and work by Joss Whedon and Aaron Sorkin. He notes he’s a different generation compared to past incumbents more recently ordained and in a different part of his career than some of his predecessors.
He’s an amiable guy laughing deeply and openly and said he likes to smile and meet people.
“I think I bring a sense of welcome – it’s a place that has had that but I think I can build on that” he said. “I think I bring a place within that sense of welcoming I think I provide a place where people who might not go to church or belong to a church or have any connection to that sort of thing I think they can feel comfortable chatting with me. I like the idea of that particularly that I can bring a way for the church to be the church outside of the church.”
Besides that he is trained for just such a position his background in performing in theatres and musicals brings something to his role at the church too.
“And I sing well” he laughs acknowledging the musical talent of the congregation. “I’m nothing transformative but I am a nice new ingredient.”
For more information or to read McClure’s writing visit http://www.haliburtonanglican.org.