My name is Neil Alan Willard. I’ve been the Rector of Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, since 2014. In the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, I’m also currently a member of the Board of the Episcopal Health Foundation. Previously I was Rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Edina, Minnesota, for seven years and Associate Rector at Bruton Parish Episcopal Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, for over six years. Before that I lived in South Carolina, serving congregations on Hilton Head Island and in Surfside Beach. I’ve also worked as Bishop’s Clerk for the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia in Richmond.
I received my Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School and Diploma in Anglican Studies from Berkeley Divinity School, both in New Haven, Connecticut. At Berkeley, I was selected to attend the Excellence in Preaching Conference sponsored by the Episcopal Evangelism Foundation. I received my Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. At Wake Forest, I was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and received the Religion Department’s Albritton Award for excellence in biblical studies.
A native of the Old North State, I was baptized and my Christian faith was nurtured in the Moravian Church. It was during my college years that the words of the Book of Common Prayer and a desire to “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” drew me into the sacramental life of the Episcopal Church. They continue to do so even now in my ordained ministry as a presbyter — elder, priest, or pastor — within this corner of Christ’s vineyard.
My wife and I live in West University Place. She’s my best friend and a wonderful mother to our two sons. We also have two mixed-breed Labrador Retrievers in the household and one mixed-breed Great Pyrenees. Finally, a last bit of trivia: My father-in-law is an Episcopal priest here in Houston, my sister-in-law’s husband is an Episcopal priest in Aiken, South Carolina, and my brother-in-law is an Episcopal priest in Dallas, Texas (by way of Kapolei, Hawaii, and Wasilla, Alaska). No kidding.
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My, my Neil, you have certainly done a lot in the last 30 yrs since you were just an Eagle Scout. Keith and I said in Bruton Parish one Dec listing to music while we were in Williamsburg and I saw your name listed in the program and I knew it was you, but Keith said I didn’t know what I was talking about – but I knew I did. Mightly proud of you young man. Believe it or not – we have gotten on an airplane several more times since your family made sure Keith got on the plane for his 1st trip in 1987 when we went to Wyoming. That was quite funny. Keith has now retired and is a parttime tour guide at Bethabara and loving it. That was something you 2 shared was your love of history!!!