Today we’re welcoming Anne to our show. Hi Anne.
Anne, in a little introduction, has worked as a solicitor, that’s the right type of lawyer isn’t it?
And she’s given a whole heap of her time to church and many other activities. So, she’s been church warden, so if you’re not an Anglican, that means she’s part of the management body the overseeing body of the church, so that’s in the parish church, the little church, Sunday morning church. But she’s also on the management committee of the Diocese, so that’s the whole Anglican church in Tasmania. And then she’s been the state commissioner for the Girl Guides, and a member of the school board of St Michael’s Collegiate, which is a local Anglican school here, and so much more, like ASIC and Anglicare and our local heritage museum that’s just down the road from here (you don’t even know where ‘here’ is but just believe me) and this one: Retail Tenancies Code of Practice Monitoring Committee, and LEADR, which sounded very interesting because it’s spelt LEADR and I could go on, but that’s plenty of things and I won’t go on.
And Anne’s retired, newly retired, but yeah, I wanted to talk with her about ‘full and amazing life’, I’ve written here, and I really think so. So to start with, how did you become a Christian?
Well I used to go to church regularly and I also went to an Anglican school. But it wasn’t until in my last year of school, we didn’t have a youth group at our church, which is the same church I’m going to as it turns out, and so I was bemoaning that fact to one of my friends and she said ‘well why don’t you come to the Presbyterian Fellowship Association?’ which was nearby. So they were a vibrant group of young people and one of the boys in particular took me under his wing and one day we were down at the beach and I asked for forgiveness of sins. And although I didn’t feel like I’d been really bad as such, I still felt an incredible weight lifted off my shoulders.
So about two years later I then went overseas. And I decided it was such a big trip to get to Europe that I decided I would go overland through Asia. And in those days you could go on a thirty day trip from Delhi to Istanbul so I went through India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey. And I discovered –
So, so how old were you then?
Wow. Oh that’s my daughter’s age. It actually sounds like something she would do.
Well the good thing was, we didn’t have internet in those days so my Mum and Dad had no idea what I was going to do. If they’d had they might have tried to stop me and they might have been successful in those days.
And were you with a group?
Yes, yes I was on a bus of about thirty people, with an excellent guide and great driver. And off we went and stayed in hotels every night.
Well I found it was an amazing life formative experience, as one might expect. But not only because of the various cultures we encountered and languages and topography and ways of life, but also because of the religions.
And what struck me was, I worship in a very plain, beautiful building, and the Hindus, the Sikhs, the Muslims all had very rich and ornate buildings. And I didn’t cope with that at all and I thought ‘Christianity isn’t like that.’
And when I left the trip I went down to Paris and I came across Notre-Dame and Sacré Coeur for instance and I thought Ooooh
Christianity is like that?
No I thought Catholicism is like this. So maybe Anglicanism isn’t. Because it’s not, because I’m not used to that.
I got to England, and found out it can be. And that really affected me. And in fact I didn’t really come back to a strong faith until in my early thirties I was asked if I would consider being state commissioner of the Girl Guides and of course they have a promise and part of the promise is ‘I promise to do my duty’ well, in those days was ‘to do my duty to God’ and I thought ‘how can I show that?’ And I thought the only way I could think of showing that was to go to church.
So I ended up going back to the same church as I’d gone to as a child. Because I had actually bought my house in the same suburb. And then through the Girl Guides I met up with this wonderful group of women who were very strong believers and they nurtured my faith. And that’s when my faith really took off in a big way.
So it took quite a few years actually. That’s fourteen years from the beginning when I made a commitment to when I really got more of the message of what I had really committed to.
So I was very grateful to God that I got back to that.
So that seed being planted early on that you just wait for it to [grow]
And how do you cope with ornate churches now?
They’re not my favourite but I realise that for different people, some people find that they express their joy in being a follower of God by spending a lot of money on a building. And that’s not my idea, but it is some people’s and it gives them a great deal of pleasure. And it means something to them. And I’ve learned that God speaks to each one of us in different ways.
Why did you choose to become a lawyer?
That’s very simple. When I was small enough that we were actually, my sister and I were lying in bed with Mum and Dad, and I thought I’d be a nurse, because that’s what Mum had been, but while we were there that particular day she told us about one time she’d been in a theatre and she’d managed to pour boiling water on her arm. She’d had a fortnight off work.
So I thought, ‘I don’t want to be a nurse after all.’ So I looked at my other parent, and my father was a lawyer so I thought, ‘I’ll do that too.’
So it’s a funny reason for doing it. But it worked.
And I didn’t write this in the questions, but did you find that going through uni there were less girls in your university classes and stuff?
Yes, very much so. In those days we were very much the minority. And in fact, when I was actually admitted to the bar, there were five women out of 28 who were admitted and we had our photo in the paper because we were so newsworthy.
Yes, absolutely. Awesome. So then I’m assuming in your initial work as a lawyer you weren’t really following the Lord but then how did you integrate your faith in with your legal work?
Well I found that the, what are called ‘Christian values’ today, were something that had been instilled in to me from childhood. And so I was using those and in fact, I have been on occasion told that I’m too honest, and I’m thinking, ‘how can you be?’ I’d rather be that than the other way.
And then I found it came to a crux, actually, where I thought, ‘what will I do next?’ and that’s when I became state commissioner of the Girl Guides so at that stage my faith started to kick in in a big way. And I found that the time required to be state commissioner was actually far more intrusive into the work space than I had anticipated. As well as being very time-consuming in my free time. And so I then had to commit to doing the right thing by work in finding time that was needed to do the work that was needed for my clients.
And I was fortunate that I was in a large firm so I had a mix of clients, from people who had very small transactional matters to even national and international firms that you were working with so it was quite a spread in all of that.
And also because I was a solicitor, that helped as well. Because it means you can actually make time your own whereas if you’re doing court work then if you’re told that a yeah … most of the time you can work around it but occasionally you can’t. And then you have to work out that work is the top job for that day.
So that helped a bit and I found actually that one of the lawyers who was very close to retirement was a trustee of the diocese. And he actually must have decided that he liked what he saw in what I was doing so he referred a lot of his clients, when he retired, to me. And he also, I suspect, suggested that when he retired as the trustee of the diocese that I could take on the job.
And it’s interesting when you start doing roles like that, that over a long period of time, then your bosses start to realise that you have a faith that you’re trying to live out. And they certainly see a church connection because that’s very real to them.
And a couple of other things happened. One was that on one review they decided that they were going to ask you how many extra-curricular activities that you did, and how that might help bring clients into the office. And they actually found that they didn’t need to ask me because they were aware of them all. Because after the state commissioner role I also made sure I went to them first of all before I took on anything new, and asked them. But I didn’t realise that with the state commissioner [role] because I didn’t realise that it was going to infringe on work time.
But just going to ask them is one way of saying, ‘this is the kind of person I am, this is the integrity that I stand with.’
And the other thing that I decided to do was to model what is servant leadership in a leadership role, to also model that in a workplace situation. And as sometimes I had 11 bosses, there’s a lot of servant-ing to do there. And getting to know them all and be in relationship with them, but also wherever you fitted in to the office, to be in relationship with everybody and to try very hard to treat everybody as I would like to be treated.
And that’s something you don’t always see modelled in a workplace. So that was one way that I was able to also show my faith.
There were other ways, but they were the two main ways.
Did you find that that led to conversations about faith?
No. One of the problems that I have in life is that evangelism has become very popular, for a very good reason, because we do need to reach out to people. But for whatever reason, it’s not my gifting. And I used to find, for instance, with my clients that I was doing a lot of wills. So often when someone comes in and asks for a will to be drawn up, they’ll say, ‘oh it’s taken me a while to get here, and I’m a bit concerned because after you make a will, the next thing you do is die.’ I’d always say, ‘well, I’ve never yet had anyone go outside and get knocked over by the proverbial bus’ and then I would say something to them, because that often brought up an end of life type of scenario, and it was really interesting, whatever I said ferreted out the Christians even though I didn’t know that they were Christians. But it never ever evoked a response in the non-Christians. So, for whatever reason, I still haven’t got that right.
No, I think that it’s more that you’re the ‘watering the seed on the way through’ person. I don’t feel like evangelism is my gift either so I really understand that.
It’s an interesting challenge.
Yeah, just living faith.
But many of them knew that I was a Christian.
And that’s the important thing really.
Yes, and the same thing is I found that we do a floodlighting appeal and so anyone that’s been living around this area for any length of time, my name’s on the bottom of that, so they’ve worked out that I’m connected with the church.
That’s an appeal to raise funds to floodlight the cross on the top of the church. So they know. Which I guess makes it all the more important to really live out your faith in those little things. Because it does come out, people do see it. Awesome.
So changing subject a little bit. So Anne has been single all her life. Which is not a disability, right?
No, not at all. I wouldn’t have done half of what I’ve done if I had been married. Which is half the answer.
So how did you cope when all of your friends started getting married, as a young person?
It was quite interesting in that sometimes it was very difficult. I’ve realised that two of my closest friends actually asked me about whether they should marry their husbands, and they were actually asking my opinion. And I didn’t actually realised that until they got married, or they said ‘yes’.
And one of my friends asked me to be a bridesmaid and so I was quite involved in her wedding and that was really nice. And my sister also asked me to be a bridesmaid and that was just after she moved to Melbourne so she actually got Mum and Dad and me to organise the wedding here. And she seemed to be really happy with what we did so that was actually in one sense a lot of fun.
But the flip side of that is that we had one neighbour, for instance, who said something to me, I don’t remember the words, but I found them quite cutting and unkind which may not have been how they were meant and I certainly tried not to react. Because she was my youngest sister and she’d married before I had.
And the reality is that all my sisters have married and I haven’t. And the reason for that, as much as anything else, is that I just haven’t met somebody who I want to spend the rest of my life with. It’s a very long time.
And particularly realised that when I became state commissioner because that was a five year term and I realised that that was the longest I had actually committed to, before I’d started, even though it turns out I’ve been involved in a lot of things for many, many, many years.
Yes but to make that previous commitment…
To make that previous commitment, it’s a really big thing. And I’ve always regarded it as something not to be undertaken lightly. And for me, the opportunity just hasn’t arisen in a way that would be in the least bit satisfactory for me.
And as you say, that’s just freed you up to do …
It has in fact, yes. I didn’t realise that at the time. The hardest time is actually when you are meeting with, for instance, your school friends, and it turns out I think now I’m probably the only one who’s not married. Most of them did marry, most of them had children, and quite frankly, the conversation when they have young children is about young children.
And they would say to me, ‘Oh Anne, so you’re still a practicing lawyer?’ ‘Yes’ ‘Oh, very nice.’
And that was it. And they moved on. And that was actually very difficult because they gave no value to what I was doing whatsoever. Because I was doing something that didn’t mean anything to them. And it wasn’t part of their plan. And who knows how they felt about it. I don’t.
But that was the hardest thing, I think, of all. In fact, when you find out that you’re not the same as your peers. And yet I have really good friends who have been very special in maintaining relationships and including me with times with their children, for instance. So there have been some really lovely things that have happened as well. But I’ve always treasured those as being extra special and not deserved. It’s been lovely, very special.
I guess that the way that the church could support the single people amongst them is really just to be interested in your life?
Yes, and to affirm you in what you are doing.
Absolutely. So then as you’ve gone along in life, and become a more mature person, has singleness been good?
Yeah well it has actually. In that I realised after a while, and this took quite a while, that for instance, if you’re married, and if you have children, then a single person can be inclined to think, ‘there’s already a ready-made people who are going to do the things you want to do with them.’ And it doesn’t quite work like that, does it?
It doesn’t work like that.
No. And even worse when they say yes, they’ll come along and it’s grudgingly and they don’t actually throw their heart and soul into enjoying it the way you want it to be enjoyed.
No, exactly. My husband and I, I go to concerts, he doesn’t. And so it’s much better that I go to concerts and he doesn’t than that he’s sitting there at the concert saying, ‘Ruth, sit down! Sit down!’ Which he does. Love him greatly but we don’t go to concerts together anymore. So it’s that.
I think it’s this idea that everyone’s got a better life than, or someone’s got a better life than you have. And that you know that somebody does. But you don’t. Everyone has their ups and downs and roundabouts. And that’s part of a normal life that God’s given us and we need to accept that. And it will be like that for the rest of our lives. The challenges will just change over time.
So live your own life, and live it to the full?
Yes, yes. And take the opportunities that come your way. It’s amazing what does. If those opportunities are the ones that you believe are how you want to spend your time.
I mean, looking at the list of things you did, I mean you must spend like 80 hours a week working on them?
I have at times, and yet times on your own are also really important to me. One of the things I love about being single is that I get most mornings to myself. And I’m a very slow starter in the morning, I’m getting slower and slower, and this started before I left work and they were very accommodating. I was at the same firm for 34 years so that helped us to get to know each other very well. And tells you a few things about me, that I like stability and loyalty.
And I found that that time and having a process in the morning, that set me up for the rest of the day to do things you do need time, whoever you are. And for me that’s a really important time. And if I had a husband and children well I’d have to find some other way of doing it. But that is something that’s quite special. I absolutely love that time. It’s really treasured.
Very nice. So you’re retired now, and there’s a massive adjustment. Are you still part of a few of your different bits and pieces?
Yes, I’m still involved with the church at both the parish and diocesan level. And so that’s actually keeping me quite busy. I’d always planned to go on holiday just after I retired–
Overland through Asia again?
No, no. No well actually as it turned out, I didn’t realise this was how it was going to happen but it turned out to be Israel, Jordon, and Palestine. It was an amazing trip. And then I added a bit more to it so that I was away for a bit over six weeks. And then I’d also been asked by our seniors’ minster, who is also the seniors’ minister for our diocese whether I would help him with some seminars. And that was in August.
So I thought, well I’ll wait until after August and then by that stage I should know how retirement’s going and what I can do to fill in the rest of the time. And now I’m wondering how on earth I’m going to fit anything else in because I seem to either have slowed down or otherwise I have found other things to do.
And it’s been quite interesting because I’m not sure what I thought the ‘other things’ would be. But they’ve turned out, at the moment, to be very small, in one sense, pastoral things which are really important to the people involved. One’s an older couple who have moved into aged care accommodation unexpectedly after they each had a fall. And the other one has been a really interesting situation as well. And it turns out that actually I’m enjoying this time. But it wasn’t how I thought I was going to be spending my time.
And there have been changes in one situation and I’m sure there will be ongoing changes. So I’m probably in for a period of more change than I wanted because, as you can see, I quite like stability.
And it’s the unknown isn’t it?
Absolutely. Stepping out again, not knowing.
You used to know you get up in the morning and go into work. Now you get up in the morning and then … it’s different. Dad always says that God’s retirement home is six feet long and two feet high and six feet under.
That’s amazing, yeah. I’m excited for you, I really am.
As you can see I’m excited too. Whatever it means.
When do you feel closest to God?
That’s a really interesting question. And one of the things it’s made me realise is that I am blessed that most mornings, I wake up, and the first thing I think of is either ‘Lord God’, ‘Heavenly Father’, or ‘Lord Jesus’.
I know, it’s very special.
So, that’s a really nice way to start. Do I make a proper use of that? No. I have to be honest and say.
I certainly feel close to God in nature. And we’re very blessed particularly because we have some places here where you feel that maybe man hasn’t been there before. And so you feel very close in those circumstances, but even when you don’t, when you just see a flower that you know has been grown since Australia was settled by white man then because we’ve imported them, then you still see this wonderful beauty.
And the other times when I feel close to God are when you are actually spending time with him either reading the bible or praying. And obviously it doesn’t happen every time at all but I do think it’s important to try and be regular about these things. And so I try to push through regardless.
So do you do that every morning? Is that part of your morning routine?
No I’m an owl, not a fowl. That’s one reason why the need for the slow in the morning. And in fact, I wonder whether one reason why I get those words in the morning is because often it [bible reading and prayer] has been in bed, so it’s the last thing I do.
So even when it’s very late I still try to do that. Just to make sure I do spend some time because I think that if we don’t spend some time in God’s word and some time praying, then it’s not to be unexpected that we don’t ever hear him.
That’s a good point.
And then, and the other thing I found is that sometimes you find you are unexpectedly close to God because you might send up an urgent prayer when you’re in a situation especially one of those when you think ‘oh my goodness, what am I meant to say next?’ or you get feedback on something that you did and you think ‘wow I never, ever thought it was going to have that sort of an impact on someone’ or … I find it’s amazing actually, how I get feedback which has probably got something to do with what my actual gifting is.
It’s a blessing to know that God wants to use us to build his kingdom.
Yes it is. Yes it’s unbelievable that he should want to use me, anyway. I’m generally not worthy and I don’t do anything really that’s all that exciting. But because he works through us then he does use you and so for some people the impact you can have becomes really exciting. So I find that’s exciting for me.
Now what exactly would you describe your gifting as?
Well my major gifting is actually encouragement.
Yes, it’s a really nice gifting to have. I find it’s no trouble at all to, I think actually, that while I possibly had the gifting for a long time, and before I recognised that’s what I had, again it’s when you see other people. And one time I was asked with the Girl Guides, before I became the state commissioner, to give a vote of thanks. And I knew that the person who I was thanking had been through a very difficult time, so I tried to make it really worthwhile.
And it was interesting because I had written out some great words and I’d said them so many times I knew them off by heart. And then I thought, ‘oh my goodness, we’re in the Town Hall, there are a lot of people there, I don’t know them all, I don’t want to get this wrong.’ So I decided to take the piece of paper up with me. But I could, I’m actually quite good at speech-making too, and so I was able to read the speech but also most of the time be looking out at the audience and also the person I was thanking. And there was one person who stood out to me. And she came up to me afterwards and congratulated me on the vote of thanks. And I wondered who on earth she was because I’d never met her before.
Anyway, she turned out to be a very faithful Christian, and we became really good friends. She took me under her wing and she became one of my mentors and it was very special indeed. And from that, I learnt that that was something I could do too.
So I’m not frightened to go up to somebody I’ve never met and say to them, ‘you did a really good job there.’
Yeah, and you don’t know what will come from that.
No you don’t. Most people find that really helpful.
Oh yes, just in itself it’s amazing. Absolutely.
Alright, final question, because I’ve grilled you for long enough. What’s one thing about God and Christianity that you wish everybody knew?
Well I’ve always got more than one thing.
OK, take it away.
So it’s John 3: 16 and the two Great Commandments. In other words, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life’ and ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength, and love your neighbour as yourself.’
And so if we could all learn that hard as it is sometimes, and that’s one of the things I’ve been taught in the last few years, that sometimes when you don’t really love yourself because of something you’ve done or perceived you’ve done, you’re still asked by God to use your giftings and to push through it. And to keep on working at it to find out what the truth of that is and whether you’re right in feeling so bad about yourself or not. But you are still to be His soldier and servant here on earth.
Wonderful. Well thank you so much for your sharing. I’m sure people will be very encouraged and blessed by it.
Thank you for the opportunity. I never guessed I would be doing this in my retirement either.