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'Work with them!' advised Dean Wilson

Mr. Knowles, former managing editor of The Plain Truth, published by the Worldwide Church of God, makes his living as a writer. This article is part of his "Out of the Box" series of columns.

By Brian Knowles

MONROVIA, Calif.--Dean Wilson died last night (Jan. 11, 2005) after a long battle with Parkinson's. Mr. Wilson lived in retirement in Oregon with his wife, Marolyn. In the 25 years since I left the Worldwide Church of God I had lost touch with the Wilsons, but I'll never lose the great memories of knowing them.

If I remember correctly, Mr. Wilson took charge of the Canadian "Work" in 1962, when the first Canadian congregation formed in Vancouver, B.C. I seem to remember that we had 42 people for that first service in the Scottish Auditorium.

Mr. Wilson also headed up a new Canadian office for the WCG. Before his arrival, most of us had trekked down to Seattle, Wash., for services, a drive of 150 miles one way. Jimmy Friddle had taken good care of the newly baptized Canucks until Mr. Wilson arrived.

First impressions stick, and I'll always remember fondly Dean's warm, easygoing ways.

Around 1963 or '64 he began to take me visiting with him. His patience in working with problem people was legendary. No matter what problems the visiting team brought to him, his advice was almost always the same: "Work with them! Work with them!"

To my knowledge he never gave up on anyone. Fortunately, that applied to me as well.

My first wife and I often baby-sat his children, Linda, Douglas and Matthew. They were first-class kids.

In the fall of 1964, right after the Feast, Mr. Wilson hired me in the Vancouver office to "stuff lit" (booklets, magazines, etc.). There I learned how the system worked. Bob Lay took me under his wing and taught me how to answer letters.

The first time Mr. Wilson asked me to lead an opening prayer, I panicked. It took me three months to work up the courage. Finally I broke through. He didn't push me; he just waited until I was ready.

Later he gave me a chance to give my first sermonette at the newly formed Victoria church. I remember him saying, "Now, Brian, a sermonette is only 10 to 12 minutes. Try not to go overtime."

Of course I had no experience in timing a sermonette. I went 22 minutes and explained the whole of Psalm 73.

I fully expected to be marked, disfellowshipped and perhaps even decapitated. But, no, he worked with me. Eventually I learned to control myself.

I recall, with some regret, a time when the whole church was playing softball. I think it was at Douglas Park. We didn't have enough men for teams, so the women and men played together.

Mrs. Wilson pitched me a pitch, and I hit it: a line drive straight into her nose.

I couldn't look her in the eye for months so great was my guilt. But Mr. Wilson worked with me, and at some point I did get over it. I'm not sure whether Mrs. Wilson did. I think I permanently changed her profile.

In 1962 my first wife and I had the honor of being the bride and groom in the first wedding Dean Wilson ever performed.

In the fall of 1965, after working with us for several years, Mr. Wilson sent us off to Edmonton, Alta., to assist Richard Pinelli, pastor of the rapidly growing church there.

In the 40 years (!) that have passed since then, I have always retained warm memories of Dean Wilson and his family. He was the man who got the Canadian work going and built it up with a strong, cohesive ministerial team. All on the team were fiercely loyal to him and to each other, and with good reason: He worked with us.

He patiently, but firmly, implemented policies that made sense, including the requirement that we wear hats in the winter.

Many winters have passed since then, but the legacy of Dean Wilson in building up the Canadian branch of the Worldwide Church of God will never be forgotten, especially by those who were privileged to be a part of his team.

Dean was a kind man, a good man, a pioneer, a man of integrity. He was a man I hope someday to share a resurrection with.

Marolyn Wilson receives mail at 12175 SE 106th Ave., Portland, Ore. 97266, U.S.A.

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