Thank you to all of those who attended or watched the thanksgiving service for Kevin Conner today at CityLife Church in Melbourne, Australia.
You can watch a video of the service online at any time.
It is hard to summarise 92 years of a life well lived in a few minutes but here is the Eulogy of Kevin’s life, as read out by his daughter-in-law, Nicole Conner, at the service. See also, Mark’s poem which he wrote about his dad, Nearing the End as well as “What’s next for Kevin’s ministry?“
The Early Years
Kevin John Conner made an entrance into this world at the Women’s Hospital in Carlton, Melbourne on the 6th of February 1927. We can only imagine how overwhelmed his 20-year-old, single mother, Joyce Miller, would have been. While the birth certificate listed the child’s name as ‘Kevin John’, his mother wrote her name as ‘Ruth Connor’, which was not her real name. These appear to be the actions of someone who was desperately trying to work out how to raise a child in the harsh depression years. She only managed a few months before he became a ward of the state. Kevin grew up as an orphan in multiple foster and children’s homes, including the Salvation Army Boys Home in Box Hill where he lived from ages of 8 to 14. He never met his mother or his father.
Later in life, he did discover he had a stepsister, Noeline, living in Tasmania, whom he contacted. Both Noeline and her husband Terry, were very warm towards him. From them he also found out that his mother would often wonder how he was doing. Sadly, she had passed away at this stage.
Kevin described himself as a somewhat dreamy, shy, and withdrawn boy. The environment and circumstances of these formative years left him feeling insecure and lonely, with many questions about his worth and identity.
He took his first job at the age of 14, working on a farm in Culgoa, near Swan Hill in Victoria – feeding cows and pigs and doing maintenance work. It was during this time, in 1941, while on holidays in Melbourne that Kevin decided to attend a Salvation Army church service at City Temple on Bourke Street.
He had enjoyed the Salvation Army style of singing since his time at the Box Hill Boy’s Home. He didn’t remember much of the sermon that was preached that day, but at the end of the meeting he found himself walking forward while the band was playing the closing song Only a Step to Jesus.
Only a step to Jesus
Come, He waits for thee
Come and thy sins confessing
You will receive a blessing
Do not reject the mercy
He freely offers thee.
He knelt at the ‘mercy seat’ and committed his life to Jesus. No fanfare, no emotion, only a sense of inward peace.
In a twist orchestrated by grace and providence, Kevin would return to this very place, in February 2002, at the age of 75, to speak at a seminar.
Kevin found employment in diverse workplaces, including working as an orchard hand, processing 16mm and 35mm film of people’s lives at a Kodak film shop in Abbotsford, (which required a 20 mile ride on his bike each day from his home in Box Hill), a grocery shop, a bakery, and a Shell service station.
At the age of 18, Kevin was no longer a ward of the state. He joined the Royal Australian Air Force and was based in Townsville, Queensland, where he served for 18 months before World War II ended. These were difficult days, and his Christian faith was tested through various temptations and ridicule from those who mocked his religious beliefs.
After returning from his time in the Air Force, Kevin poured his life into the Box Hill Salvation Army. These were happy days for him as he devoted himself fully to his Christian faith and the life of the church. He learned to play a number of brass instruments, including the Euphonium (which he learned from Bandmaster Stan Wellington through many tears of frustration), and eventually the Flugel Horn, Second Cornet, and Double B Bass (BASE).
These formative faith years in the Salvation Army greatly influenced Kevin’s life. He loved the army band music, and you would have heard that being played as you came into the auditorium tonight.
He was also profoundly influenced by General Catherine Booth’s book “Aggressive Christianity”. Reading this, he began to develop a hunger for more of the Holy Spirit in his life. This eventually led him to attend services at a number of Pentecostal churches in places such as Richmond and Kyabram where it was reported that God was doing some amazing things.
After his own personal experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Kevin felt a vocational call to the pastoral ministry. He applied to be the pastor of the Bendigo Assemblies of God – a congregation of 35 people. He was just 21 years of age. Kevin had always wanted to be an evangelist but now he was a pastor – and in his own words felt, “totally unprepared and totally unqualified”.
Marriage and Family
It was during this time in Bendigo, that Kevin met a young woman by the name of Joyce Douglas. He said he noticed her as she sang like an angel and played the piano. They shared a mutual love for music and their friendship blossomed. Eventually, Kevin proposed and they were married on the 10th of May 1952.
A year later, on the 24th of May 1953, a beautiful baby daughter was born to Kevin and Joyce – Sharon Ruth. She was a happy, healthy and contented girl who brought great delight to her parents. Eight and half years later, on the 26th of October,1961, Mark Andrew arrived, and to everyone’s surprise and delight, with a head of red hair … just like Joyce’s two older brothers, Stan and Ken Douglas.
Kevin and Joyce had 39 years of marriage that could be described as harmonious and loving. Joyce’s sudden death on the 20th of October 1990, left everyone devastated. Kevin again found himself battling those feelings of loneliness. Grace and Providence would again step in, but we will come back to that.
Church Ministry Life
Kevin was greatly influenced by what came to be referred as “The Latter Rain Movement” – a spiritual renewal movement that began back in 1948 in Saskatchewan, Canada and spread from there to many Pentecostal churches around the world. His relationship with people such as Ray Jackson from the USA, Rob Wheeler from New Zealand, and W.H. Offiler from Bethel Temple in Seattle, Washington shaped his understanding of God’s Word and God’s purpose for the church.
Kevin was also always hungry to know and experience more of God – language that described the Latter Rain movement. This led him on a journey through a number of churches and Christian denominations in his lifetime. This was not without cost, as he often faced rejection, criticism, and misunderstanding. For example, Kevin was ex-communicated from three different churches in his lifetime.
By 1970, Kevin had become a renown travelling minister, teaching and ministering in many churches around Australia and New Zealand. In 1971, Kevin travelled to the USA where he taught in conferences all up and down the West Coast for 18 months. This led to an invitation by Dick Iverson, Senior Pastor of Bible Temple in Portland, Oregon, to come and be part of the leadership team.
Kevin moved his family lock, stock, and barrel to the USA. They travelled for thirty days by boat in August 1972, on the P&O passenger ship, the ‘Oriana’. Kevin and the family spent 10 years in Portland. This was an enjoyable and healing season for Kevin and Joyce, especially after the recent rejection they had both gone through from their previous church. During this time, Kevin was Dean of Portland Bible College where he wrote many of the textbooks that have been read by students of the Bible all around the world and translated into many languages.
It was at PBC, that students and young leaders such as Ken and Glenda Malmin, Wendell and Gini Smith, Mike and Marsha Herron, Rick and Merilee Johnson, Lanny Hubbard, and Frank Damazio (who later married Sharon) grew in their love for and understanding of the Bible under Kevin’s teaching and eventually became influential church leaders in their own right.
During this time, Kevin’s reputation grew, primarily for his ability to teach the Bible in insightful ways, his genuine love for people, and his unique sense of humour.
Some of you might remember these unique Kevinisms …
- He would ask an unresponsive audience, “Is anyone out there?”
- “I was born in a hurry.”
- “If you are taking notes, be sure not to muck it up when you preach it!”
- “The bigger the nose the more fresh air you get!”
- “I’m living under the spout where the glory comes out.”
- “Got my name on heaven’s roll – which is better than a sausage roll.”
- “None of those bells, smells, incense, and nonsense.”
- “Stay away from those cemeteries, I mean ‘seminaries’ and demon nations, I mean ‘denominations’.”
- “They gave me the left foot of fellowship … I was there two times – the first and the last.”
- “I can’t stand to watch my wife mow the lawns, so I close the blinds.”
- “Why are you looking at me like a cow looking at a new gate?”
- “Don’t be a Pentecostal frog … jumping from one church to another.”
- “That’s from the Reversed Version of the Bible.”
- *Some Christian minds are like cement – all mixed up and set hard.”
- “I am not looking for the undertaker, I am looking for the uptaker!”
- “If you have any complaints, send them to post office Box 666.”
- “The rest is written in Acts 29 – and not fit for publication.”
- “Stop looking for a sneaky rapture!”
- “A little Kevin leaveneth the whole lump.”
- “Can I help it if I am right?”
- “And all the sheep said, ‘Aaaamen.’”
In 1981, Kevin, Joyce, and Mark returned to Australia. Sharon stayed in the USA. She and her husband, Frank, and their family, moved to Eugene, Oregon, to plant a church.
Kevin became part of Richard Holland’s leadership team at what was then known as Waverley Christian Fellowship (now CityLife Church). Kevin’s teaching, his establishment of ACTION night (All Church Teaching In One Night), church membership, elders and deacons, a missions committee, and home meetings, helped the church grow from strength to strength. When Richard, due to health issues, resigned in 1987, Kevin became the second Senior Minister of the church and served in that capacity for eight years, from 1987- 1994. The church continued to grow under Kevin’s leadership, supported by faithful team members such as David and Rosemarie Searle and John and Julie Steele from New Zealand.
Kevin was also instrumental in facilitating the INTERMIN ministers’ conferences (‘inter-ministry’) in partnership with other ministers and churches, including his long term friend Hal Oxley, Senior Minister of Life Ministry Centre at the time. These conferences provided inspiration and quality teaching to 100s of ministers for many years.
Kevin’s son, Mark Conner, became Senior Minister in 1995. At that time, he wrote his dad a new job description. Kevin found himself busier than ever – teaching in Bible College, writing more books, leading a local ministers’ fellowship (MFI Australia), hosting the ‘Key of Knowledge’ seminars, and continuing his travelling ministry. These years brought him great joy and fulfilment.
Joyce, as you remember, passed away in October 1990. Eighteen months later, on the 10th of April 1992, Kevin remarried a long term friend of the family and partner in church ministry, Rene Arrowsmith. Rene and her family, which including her son Greg Arrowsmith and her niece Lorraine Pearson made Kevin feel very welcomed.
Kevin and Rene had 26 happy years of marriage together before Rene passed away on 4th October last year. Together, Kevin and Rene travelled to over thirty nations around the world bringing teaching, inspiration, and encouragement to many churches and ministers.
Kevin passed away peacefully at the Villa Maria Aged Care Centre on Monday 18th February at 2.00 pm. He was 92 years old and had been cared for and loved by family and dear friends during his last days.
Kevin grew up as an orphan with no family or place to call home. He finishes this life with a worldwide family of thousands of people who loved him deeply. Despite his popularity as a great teacher, spiritual father, and wise mentor, he always carried himself with a humility and simplicity of heart. The name “Kevin” means “kindness” and the name “John” means “beloved”. Kevin truly was a kind man loved by all. A gentle man who shook the world.
May his life and legacy continue for years to come.