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John and Betty Jean (BJ) (Neely) Klassen were a couple who were deeply involved in the United Church of Canada in various capacities.

John Klassen (1929-) was born in Saskatchewan. He graduated from United College at the University of Winnipeg with a B.A. (1951) and followed with a Diploma in Theology. Upon ordination by Manitoba Conference, he was settled at Sioux Lookout in Ontario from 1954-1958. Following that, he and his wife BJ both took a post-graduate year at Union Theological Seminary in New York (1959), then he returned to Wesley United Church in Welland from 1958-1964. While there, he held positions as Presbytery Chairman of Colleges and Students, Presbytery Christian Education Convenor, Chairman of the Vocations, and member of the National Board of Christian Education. These interests led to the acceptance of an appointment of Field Secretary for Christian Education for Manitoba Conference (1964-1968). He then returned to Kingston to work at St. Margaret’s Church from 1968-1977, where he was Chairman of the Bay of Quinte Conference Staff Committee, and a member of the Executive of the Conference and of the General Council Conference Staff Committee. He was Chairman of Kingston Presbytery and Chairman of the Committee on Candidates, and Professor/Director of Field Education at Queen’s Theological College. In 1986, he and his wife BJ became co-directors of Field Education at Emmanuel College.

Betty Jean (BJ) Neely (1929-2016) was born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. She attended elementary and high school in Fort Frances, then received a B.A. from United College, Winnipeg in 1954. Afterwards, she received a MRE degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York (1959), and a Master of Divinity from Queen’s Theological College in Kingston (1973). For a time, she was Bay of Quinte Conference staff with responsibility for Program and Leadership Development (1976-1985). In 1986 she and John became co-directors of Field Education at Emmanuel College. BJ was an ardent and dedicated volunteer with the church; taking part in The National Leadership Development Committee, The New Curriculum, The Task force on Sexuality and Morality, The Church and the World Commission, and The National Over-view Committee. She was also chair of the National Coordinating group for the United Church’s Study Program on Sexual Orientation, Lifestyles and Ministry. She was also deeply involved in her community and worked with the Ontario Welfare Council, Board of Directors of the Sunnyside Children’s Home in Kingston, was a member of the library board in Welland, and worked with unwed mothers, while being involved in CGIT, Student Christian Movement and Young People’s Movement. The Klassens had two children, Daphne and Gregory.


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