Mum’s told us a bit about time with YWAM and I’ve talked to a fair few YWAMers, so I’m going to skip over that. We know you came back here, led the base here, which was great because that meant that I got to meet Moz and get married which is really important to me! And then you went and joined CPAF, and lived in the United States for 10 years, and then you came back.
After 10 years, we’d seen the festival grow from 50 students to 250 students, with an international constituency – most of them were from [the United States of] America [and] Canada, but there was quite a few from Europe and Asia, including Australia – and my role was a joint role, to look after all things to do with graphics and production and promotion, and all the recording side of things. My primary role was Director of Pastoral Care, and I worked with a dozen counsellors. On the internship program I worked with a dozen arts interns on all things audio and visual. But as the ministry grew, the electronic recording and graphics side of things was becoming increasingly dominant, and I felt that we lost balance.
Praying about that one day, I had a real sense – actually, it was coming back here after Roslyn’s mother died and being at St Clements, and Robert Legg had just retired, and someone said as a bit of a joke ‘We can’t find anyone to replace Robert, you should come back here as Rector’ and I said, ‘I’ll be in that!’ And we all joked about it, and then Roslyn and I were talking about it afterwards and said ‘Why did we have such an amazing response to that?’ I mean, clearly we weren’t going to come back to replace Robert because that needed to happen immediately, but we decided to press into the Lord on that, and He showed us that things had got out of balance in my life, and I had this sense that if I was ever going to pastor a church, now was the time, because if I didn’t do it then, the time would pass too quickly. I just wouldn’t have the energy.
So we prayed into that further and we really felt that was right, and we prayed about it with you and the other family members, and then we prayed about it with our fellow board members at Masterworks and Christian Performing Artists, and some people could see it and some people couldn’t. I remember Patrick, who was our director, he found it very hard to accept. His wife could see the call, but it was the fact that we sold our house before we even advertised it I think convinced Patrick. This was just before the global financial crisis, and we invited our neighbour over to say we’ll be going, and he said ‘What are you going to do with the house?’ And I said ‘We’re going to sell it.’ And he said, ‘I know someone who’ll buy it.’ And I said, ‘Who’s that?’ And he said ‘Oh, the guy over the road.’ And I thought he was talking about a young couple who lived in an adjoining house to theirs, and he said, ‘No, I mean this guy.’ And his wife said, ‘Don’t we normally talk about these things?’ But he’d seen a number of American companies collapse, and a company he worked for was on the brink of that, and he wanted to get all his super out of superannuation and into property, and the house that we had had 3 acres with it, and so he said, ‘We can shake on this. We can agree on a price and shake on it.’
And if we had waited another six months, we would never have got the money to pay back the mortgage and second mortgage we had. So we left America totally debt free. We didn’t have any assets, we didn’t have any super, we didn’t have any savings, but we didn’t have any debt. And that was God’s grace. I rang the bishop here, and I said, ‘You don’t know me’ – because he had come to that position after we left the state – everyone around him knew us, however. And I said, ‘This is who we are, this is my life history, we’ve worked in full time ministry for 45 years, and I believe the Lord’s calling me to pastor a church, and as we’re very at home in the Anglican system we thought we’d knock on that door first.’ He said, ‘Well, 45 years of following the Lord has got to count for something in leadership. I’ve got eight parishes, take your pick.’ And then his offsider called and said, ‘There are hoops you have to jump through, of course,’ and I said, ‘That’s fine, I’m happy to jump through hoops. But I know I’m welcome to try.’ And we came back, and we applied for a position at St George’s Battery Point, because it’s close to you here, it’s close to the Conservatorium. So we chatted with them, and they were unanimous in their acceptance, and we were there until I retired.
How does that work in the formal church, compared to working in YWAM or CPAF or something para-churchy?
The trappings are very different, the Lord is the same. I remember saying to the Lord as we were processing this, ‘I’ve handled a children’s home, I’ve handled a YWAM base, I’ve handled an arts organisation, but how do I handle a church?’ And immediately the Lord brought to mind that anointed song from Camelot. [sings] ‘How to handle a woman, is to love her, simply love her.’ Love her. And I thought, ‘That’s it, that’s the key.’ And yes the church has its own culture, the denomination has its own culture, but the Lord transcends all cultures. And so for me, because I was very familiar with the Anglican scene, there wasn’t any conflict there. Because the bishop at the time was someone who was very familiar with the working of the Spirit. He himself had been a missionary in South America for 10 years. He and I had a lot in common. I enjoy employing younger people to work with me, young curates. They were such a blessing and the church grew because of what they could contribute, as well as what we did. Roslyn’s gifts were fully occupied in developing a choir and stretching them, as she is wont to do. So yes, it’s like you can pour water out of a transparent plastic bottle into a coloured glass bottle and it looks totally different from the outside, but it’s still the same water. It’s still the same Spirit, it’s still the same Lord. If you’re aware God’s calling you, then you can expect him to enable you to work through whatever coloured glass you find yourself in.
Absolutely. And just briefly, I want to say that in your retirement you now have a house again.
Yes, yes. It is amazing that when we came back to Tasmania at the end of 2006 we had our piano, which at that time was en route and they did drop it en route, and our clothes and boxes of books, but that was about it. We had nothing else. And now, because of the way the Lord has worked – I guess partly also because our lifestyle has not been extravagant, because we’ve never been able to get into the practice of being extravagant – all my salary went into the mortgage first of all on a block of land, and then being able to move a house down, has enabled us to be in a position where we are now totally debt free. We own our own home, we own a geriatric motor home, and a car, and we are very content. And we have a replaced piano which is better than the original one we dropped.
It just shows God’s faithfulness and provision, doesn’t it?
So the other big question I have here is about your struggle with depression.
Yes. Well. As you know, in the process of putting the house back together – which is a house we had cut in half with a chainsaw and relocated, and has been being reassembled ever since – I fell off the deck about 5 metres, and experienced quite significant injuries which put me out of action physically for about 6 months. And I remember talking to my doctor, saying, ‘Can you get post-traumatic stress from these sort of events?’ And he said, ‘Well, you’re hiding things well.’ But he referred me to a psychologist who said – after we talked for an hour, and he gave me a test to do – he said, ’10,000 students answer these questions exactly the way you do, and they’ve all been clinically assessed as having severe depression.’ So there’s five levels of severe depression and then there’s a few more levels of chronic depression, and below that a few levels of minor depression. And he said, ‘I knew that as soon as you walked in,’ and I said, ‘Well that could have saved us a couple hours. How did you know that?’ He said, ‘Well you tripped over the step, you bumped into the doorframe, your peripheral hearing is incredibly reduced, and your attention is somewhat limited’ and I thought, ‘Oh, okay. All those things ring true.’ And so we then proceeded on a process of therapy to get to the root of that. Which was all very helpful.
But I realised returning to church, that in my congregation I knew of three people who were struggling with mental health issues that were more severe than mine, so I assumed there were probably others as well. And I thought it was totally disingenuous to get up and preach as though there was no problem when I clearly had a problem similar to what they had. So I got up and shared that, as everyone knew about my physical injuries, I also needed to share that I had been diagnosed with chronic severe depression, and was undergoing treatment for that, which did not in any way challenge my faith in God.
God’s healed me miraculously on the physical side of things, I no longer need to wear an aluminium frame and use a walker and all that, and he’s healed me on the depression angle too. It was a process in both cases, as it often is.
But after I shared that with the congregation, about five people came to me and personally thanked me, and three of those confessed that they knew that they needed to get help and they had been avoiding that, and my willingness to share that had enabled them to take the plunge. All of which I was very grateful for.
And I think it’s interesting that you didn’t just go to Christian counsellors, or to Christian whatever – the help that you got was from a psychologist who wasn’t actually a Christian.
No, he wasn’t, but we had lots of good talks. He was actually of Jewish extraction, but he would say he’s an atheist. But we did spend quite a bit of time talking about the similarities between Buddhist philosophy and the philosophy of Solomon, as exposed in Ecclesiastes and the book of Proverbs, and we talked about the nature of the Trinity, and even though he was a Jew he had no clue really about the Gospel of Jesus. Because he’d always written that off. So I then encouraged another minister friend of mine to go to him for therapy because once I’d got well enough not to need it, he still needed to hear more of the Gospel.
But he would never suggest I do anything in terms of therapy without explaining exactly what it was, the part of the brain it was affecting, what was actually happening in this therapy, so there was no blind faith in any of that, as there is no blind faith in the Gospel. We believe what we believe because we know it to be true, and because of the evidence that is there which is very clear. And so I demanded the same of him in his therapy and he was very willing to give it.
Fantastic. Alright. So that brings us to our last two questions: when do you feel close to God?
Well, when I’m really desperate, like I’ve got a sermon to prepare for the healing service and I need to get it done, and I am crying out to the Lord, and he may direct me to a particular scripture and I think, ‘I never saw that before in that scripture. I’ve read it 100 times.’ So times like that.
Times when I’m on my own in nature. I know a lot of people have that experience, I guess. And times when I really don’t know what to do, often in terms of dealing with a counselling crisis, or relational crisis, sometimes I just have to trust that I’m going to open my mouth and say what God gives me. And when I know God’s active in that situation, suddenly I feel really close to God. It can be quite profound.
And sometimes I just have to take it on faith that He’s there, because I don’t feel anything. I might be physically or emotionally too exhausted to feel anything, and have to go ahead trusting God anyway. But sometimes there is a real, almost tangible sense of God’s presence.
Fantastic. And what’s one thing about God or Christianity you wish everyone knew?
That He really, really, really loves them. I think, you know, everyone knows God is love. What does that mean? When you’re hurt by someone you really love, you realise how much you really love them. I see quite often people who have been hurt by a spouse or a child or something, and they didn’t know they could be so hurt. And they are so hurt because they so love. And I wish people could understand that that’s how much God loves them. ‘God is love’ is so easy to say, and the cross is such a well known symbol and story, I think it sometimes loses its impact for people who’ve been part of the nominal church and heard it all their lives, it just has no impact at all. But I really wish people could understand that God really, really loves them.
Me too. Thank you very much for sharing with us.
It’s a pleasure.