- Growing up in a family that volunteered its time and service to the parish of St Elizabeth made it easy for Reverend Paul Neil, as a teenager, to decide that he wanted to give back to his community.
- For his more than 40 years of dedicated service to religion and community service, Rev. Neil was recognised for his contribution to national development at the National Honours and Awards ceremony, held recently in Kingston.
- He was among 215 persons, including members of uniformed groups, who were honoured.
Growing up in a family that volunteered its time and service to the parish of St Elizabeth made it easy for Reverend Paul Neil, as a teenager, to decide that he wanted to give back to his community.
For his more than 40 years of dedicated service to religion and community service, Rev. Neil was recognised for his contribution to national development at the National Honours and Awards ceremony, held recently in Kingston.
He was among 215 persons, including members of uniformed groups, who were honoured.
The Minister of Religion was awarded the Badge of Honour for Long and Faithful Service.
According to Reverend Neil, having recognised the value of active service to his community at a young age, he decided to follow in the footsteps of a specific family member.
“My family was always community-oriented, so I saw them always working for the greater good. My uncle was a Marriage Officer and officiated over 3,000 weddings. He was also a Justice of the Peace and a chaplain for a high school in the community, and I wanted to be like him,” he tells JIS News.
Similarly to his uncle, Reverend Neil became a Marriage Officer in 2005 and has officiated over 2,000 weddings across the island.
“That was one thing I admired about my uncle’s work, because I believe marriage is a very honourable institution, so I have been happy to marry persons from across the world. My approach to that service is very holistic, as I counsel them about relationships, forgiveness, conflict resolution and life itself,” he adds.
Of his role as a Justice of the Peace, which he has been since 2007, Reverend Neil says it has been a learning experience.
“I deal with persons from so many walks of life, and it continues to teach me how to relate to people, no matter where they are from or what they do,” he says.
Reverend Neil tells JIS News he has learnt many lessons in his role as a mediator for peace in St Elizabeth.
“I have intervened in situations of civil and political tensions or conflicts between individuals to restore calm. That has taught me that there is always a solution no matter how big the problem is,” he explains.
Reverend Neil says in his various roles, which include Chaplain to the Jamaica Constabulary Force and a Minister at the Seaview Baptist Church, his approach to serving is that each person deserves a second chance.
“No matter what someone may have done in their past, I always believe I must try and help them to a new and different path. I encourage young people by speaking with them and also showing them how they can advance themselves, so I make a lot of recommendations,” he explains.
The St Elizabeth native says he wants more persons to become active members of their community and parish.
“I see volunteering and taking on various roles in my community as a way to contribute to its development, so I advise persons, especially the youth, to seek out ways in which they can offer their time to the various organisations that exist in their community,” he adds.
Reflecting on his recognition at the National Honours and Awards ceremony, Reverend Neil says he feels motivated to continue his work in his community.
“When I heard the news, I felt really good as it not only serves to inspire me to do more of what I am doing now but I hope it will encourage even one person from my community to volunteer, no matter how small. I hope they will start,” he says.