“Why are you a priest?”

There are many reasons why for nearly 40 years I have worked as a church pastor – or “minister” as I and my ilk used to be known. Although some people describe me as “a priest”, most priests don’t have a litter, and my wife and I do.

My parents were genuine and dedicated in their Christian beliefs, passionate people who were effective and respected by those they served as followers of Jesus Christ.  They really cared about the people who needed their time and commonsense, and were willing and able to put up with a fair bit of both hardship and (the occasional) personal unpleasantness that came their way.

Their 1930’s dream of doing Christian work in a developing country was dashed by the wash-up of the Great Depression, followed by World War 2. Between 1945 and 1949 my parents tried to catch up on some of what they’d missed out on – four kids were born in their Dutch home. Mum needed a break and waited with number 5 until we’d settled in Sydney in 1955.

All-in-all, my parents’ pluck, integrity and faith made a deep impression on many people, on their five kids – and perhaps most of all their oldest (moi) and the youngest.

Despite my genetic pedigree including engineering and architecture, and tech drawing being my favourite and best subject at high school, my love of writing and frustrations with maths drove me towards the humanities.  My growing Christian faith, the Arts subjects I delved into for my degree, my enthusiastic and stable Christian girlfriend and our youthful idealism all pointed me towards teaching or pastoring after I’d completed my university years.

Then came Australia’s decision to conscript young men to support our Great Ally in one of its less than successful adventures – this one in Indo China in the 1960s. I realised I could either waste two years of my life “becoming a man” (as people told us) “in the service of my country” (as our government’s propaganda ran) or continue my studies towards my life’s goals. So after Arts it became Theology.

It was becoming clear that God was pushing me towards something my pastor-dad never laid on me and for which my mum felt I was temperamentally unsuited – “too gentle and sensitive”.

Very few who start out in any Christian work last in it for long, let alone the whole stretch of their working life.  It’s pretty hazardous work… can I leave the list to your imagination?  But I lasted the distance and retired on schedule a few months ago.  For this I thank my one-an-only girlfriend who is now my wife of 40 years, the formative love, nurture and faith of my parents, the networks of friendship and encouragement in the church communities I’ve been part of, and the many A-1 people who helped me in various capacities.

In my branch of the Christian Church (Protestant and Reformed-Presbyterian) we emphasise that God is in control of our lives. Whilst this is true it’s also too often overstated. We must hold God’s work and our responsibilities in a creative tension.

Yet it’s obvious to me that God used many people to hold (or put) me together and keep me moving mostly forward.  But it also took some work on the home front.  Pastoring is in many ways counter-cultural and lonely work.  We’re often swimming against the stream, sometimes even against fellow believers.  When pastors are under the greatest work pressure (weekends, evenings, Christmas and Easter), most other people are relaxing.  If mum and dad are not “all together”, their marriage, health and family life become very vulnerable to breaking up.

But Helen and I have found it an honour and privilege to spend our lives working for and close to Someone we believe, trust and love, and who can do (and has done) so much for our civilisation and heritage, and for individuals and family – if we get and stay in tune with the God we know through Jesus Christ.

Working with people through their ordinary and sometimes extra-ordinary life stories is also very special.  I could continue but won’t.  This gives you the gist of why I am (even in retirement) a Pastor.

Happy to comment or answer questions!

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