June 17, 1937 – February 16, 2023
The Rev. Paul Elder, deacon at St. Aidan’s Church, Malibu, and passionate advocate for the poor and homeless, died Feb. 16. He was 86 and had been suffering from cancer. He was active at St. Aidan’s until mid-December of 2022.
Survivors include his wife, Barbara Ann Elder, to whom he was married on Feb. 24, 1958; their sons David and Mark; and many grandchildren. Another son, John, died several years ago from leukemia.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. on Thursday, March 2 at Agoura Hills Recreation & Event Center, 29900 Ladyface Court, Agoura Hills 91301. The Rev. Joyce Stickney, rector of St. Aidan’s Church, will officiate at the service, which will be followed by a tea reception.
At St. Aidan’s, Elder administered The Deacon’s Fund to advocate for and directly assist the poor, needy and homeless of the Malibu area. He also was instrumental in forming the ecumenical and community-supported Malibu Task Force on Homelessness, which raised more than $500,000 to hire two full-time social workers, providing housing and support services. Elder and others at St. Aidan’s also launched Project Homeward Bound, which identifies homeless people who are willing to rejoin their families, but need financial and logistical assistance.
In addition to his work at St. Aidan’s and in the Malibu community, he also was a campus minister at UCLA through St. Alban’s Church, Westwood.
Born June 17, 1937 in London, England, Elder had a varied career before entering the ordained ministry. “For those that have known my dad for a long time, you know that he played a great many roles in his life,” his son Dave wrote in a message to friends and family. “The King of Reinvention, as it were. He was a loving father, proud poppa, and devoted husband for 65 years. Those roles were constant. Less constant, and much more wild and adventurous were the roles that made up what turned out to be less a series of careers, and more a tumultuous and adventurous life … a young solider in the British Army, a professional chef, a cowboy, an actor, and one point a successful real estate developer. He even held more ordinary roles like being an insurance salesman.
“With all that, I know in his heart that the most important career role he played was being a deacon at St. Aidan’s.”
Elder was an active member of St. Aidan’s for many years before his ordination, serving as a lay eucharistic minister and vestry member. He sang in the choir and was active in SABEL, St. Aidan’s Better Entertainment League, which sponsored one-act play festival that drew submissions from all over the world; the plays were produced with support from many area residents who worked in the entertainment industry. At the same time Elder became involved in serving the needy and homeless, working with the Malibu Community Labor Exchange, founded in 1990 to provide services and assistance to local day laborers; and with Dorcas House (now Vida Joven) in Tijuana, originally founded for children of incarcerated people and now operating as an orphanage.
In the early 2000s the Elders returned to their native England for a six-month visit. While they were there, they worked as volunteers to help turn a disused church property into a homeless shelter. Discerning a call to ordained ministry, Elder earned a certificate of diaconal studies from Bloy House (the Episcopal Theological School at Claremont, now Los Angeles), and was ordained a vocational (permanent) deacon on Dec. 20, 2014 by Bishop J. Jon Bruno
“Paul was always to eager to branch out and try the next thing,” said Stickney. “He had multiple careers and jobs. The one that gave him a sense of completion was his diaconate. That meant the world to him, and he felt at peace” as he approached the end of his days.
At St. Aidan’s, everyone knew Deacon Paul, said Stickney. “He was probably the first one to greet and welcome them to the church in a way so full of charisma and love that they knew they were home.