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A Jail Break in the Sun for Father Ken

When Fr Ken Gabbadon, Anglican priest and Prison Chaplain in Yorkshire UK was contemplating retirement from stipendiary work he decided to enlist the help of the Channel 4 TV programme, ‘A Place in the Sun,’ to find a place to live.

Fr Ken at a property in Cyprus looks out in the direction of the sea

A single man, he had been a frequent visitor to Cyprus and had friends there, and so set the programme makers the challenge of finding him a home. One whole programme was dedicated to the search which resulted in his buying a property in Larnaca. A year on, the programme team have been back to see how he’s getting on.

Fr Ken’s parents were part of the Windrush generation and he himself was born in the Caribbean, coming to the UK as a small child. His family background had been in the Pentecostal tradition, and they reconnected with that Church in the UK. Ken was fully immersed in church life and became an Elim Pentecostal Minister in due course. As time went on and as he had more ecumenical engagement through his prison work, he decided to test a vocation to the Anglican ministry. The resulting posts in the Manchester area brought him into contact with Bishop Michael Lewis, then Bishop of Middleton, part of Manchester Diocese. Neither man thought they would find themselves reunited in Cyprus!

Ken has always combined his work as an Anglican prison chaplain with parish appointments. He has been chaplain at some of the best-known prisons in England at, for example, Strangeways Manchester and Armley Leeds. Whilst chaplain at the latter he became priest in charge of a parish on the York side of the city and served there for thirteen years until 2023, in conjunction later with chaplaincies at smaller specialist prison units in the area.

He believes that the TV programme was attracted to him because he did not simply want to retire to sunbathe and drink Zivania but wanted to have an active retirement with a Permission to Officiate in the Church, which Bishop Michael had said he would provide subject to the necessary checks. Hence the new church was virtually as important as the new flat. The crew filmed at St Helena’s Larnaca as a result, and on this return visit did so again. Since his arrival earlier this year Fr Ken has not let the grass grow under his feet and has already been included on the Archdeacon’s rota, to minister in Famagusta, Deryneia, Nicosia and Limassol, as well as St Helena’s.

Fr Ken admits that he misses parish life as well as prison life, and has a strong commitment to both. He says that prison chaplaincy breeds a sense of urgency in ministry.

People you are dealing with today may be moved tomorrow.

He has a strong sense of 'there but for the grace of God…' and saw his role as a prison chaplain in affirming that everyone is the recipient of God’s love. He says

I was in the business of heart transplants. As it says in Ezekiel chapter 11: I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh that is soft and sensitive to the touch of God.

And that has been his maxim in parish ministry also.

A copy of Fr Ken's cvurrent newsletter showing a picture of him with the Channel 4 presenter:

Fr Ken is an avid publisher. During COVID he began a weekly pew sheet with the weekly readings and reflections, and he continues to produce something similar every week, with an email list of around 90 people from all over the world. He also produces a monthly newsletter, similarly distributed, keeping people up to date with his time and ministry in Cyprus. Archdeacon Christopher Futcher whose duties include parish priest of Larnaca says that Fr Ken has been well received by the congregation there, who are charmed by his love of singing – particularly in the middle of sermons!

He has a natural warmth and love of people, and people recognize and respond to that wherever he goes.


7th October 2023