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As locum Priest-in-Charge at St Andrew’s South Brisbane for the next interim period, I’ve been asked to introduce myself. After some reflection, I decided to start with my own story of God’s call upon my life which has led me to where I am today.

Very briefly, my working life began with training for a career in accounting which eventually led, after some time in National Service in the early 1970s, to undertake further study in economics. I later became a university lecturer in accounting and economics, which is where God “found and called” me into priestly ministry.

This was a time of discernment, a process that had already begun when I was attending my local Anglican Parish of Bardon in 1985. I had been feeling a strong call to “do something” for God, something that would involve passing on the Good News of Jesus Christ to those about me. Working 9-5 no longer suited me, I wanted more. I had a sense of urgency about me, the kind of fire in the bones that the prophets speak of. Upon reflection it seemed a good “decision” or appointment from God to follow this urging of the Spirit: “you did not choose me but I chose you …” [Jn 15:16]. But I had to test the call, to discern what God was saying to me in the still small voice that sometimes comes to each of us.

The calling of some of the great figures of the Bible I found inspiring and instructive for my Christian life and ministry during that time and ever since. Not that I consider myself a great figure; it is rather that the stories of God’s call upon their lives and how they followed can provide us all with solid counsel and courage for the Christian life. There is a long standing theme of God’s calling to us within the pages of Scripture and we would do well to study them and take them to heart.

Consider the call upon Moses at sight of the burning bush, or Samuel wakened in the night to hear God’s voice, or the prophets of the Old Testament, or Saul [later called Paul] on the road to Damascus, and of course Jesus calling each of the Twelve disciples. You cannot go past these stories without wondering just what was happening to them, and how it is that we too can “hear” God’s voice at any time calling us forward on our Christian journey. Our lives can be changed, but always for the better because God has a good and perfect plan for us and for those around us who will be affected by our response to the call. So it was I responded.

The journey has not been without its ups and downs, its struggles and its high points. For me I tend to be like St Paul, with some very high points and some rather low ones. But through it all I have had my faith and my family there to back me up. I rather think it has been a struggle for some of my colleagues whom I know personally. I am not telling things out of school, for it is public knowledge, when I say that nearly half of the cohort that I trained with at theological college have suffered the pains of divorce. I am especially blessed because my wife Anne and I were not married before my time of training began at St Francis College, Milton, Qld. We both discerned together the whole prospect of marriage and what it would be like to enter into such a union while also entering into a life of priestly ministry. So in a way she too was called by God to be the wife of a priest and she has stood by me these many years. I thank God for her every day.

Priestly ministry is not easy, at least from where I stand it isn’t. There are many demands upon a priest in God’s church, ministering to the various people that are part of the “flock” we are called to serve. One wants this, another wants that, some demand, some are patient, some are prayerful and some are well, who knows. We all come from very different backgrounds, and probably wouldn’t be together if it weren’t for a common love for God. Paul’s letters to the churches testify to this variety and the struggles that spring from that. This is not a criticism of congregations, simply a statement of fact and the need for us all to be more and more prayerful about how we are to love one another. This is why the life of a priest must be one that is a response to a genuine call from God. It is not something you feel like doing, it must be a call God has placed upon you. And I think that goes for all of us who call ourselves Christian as we face the challenge of what it means to speak up for God in our everyday lives. So, take heart that God has called you into the life you now lead in His service.

There were times I doubted that the call was there, or rather that the call was actually to become a priest. It was the farthest thing from my mind. All I wanted to do was “preach the Gospel”. However, through the process of discernment, my own checking things out with God, with other people of wisdom, and day-by-day growing in Christian ministry and leadership, my gifts, abilities and confidence grew to recognise that this was a genuine call from God. And even throughout the years as doubts do arise from time to time, God and those around me have been there to keep me going.

Well this is the man who has come to serve you at this time. I pray that I will serve you well.

Colin

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