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On Sunday 4 October 2020, I began my time as locum at St Andrew’s South Brisbane and I have committed to staying here up to the end of May 2021, if required.

I am working 5 days a week with Wednesday and Saturday being my days off (except of course for emergencies). As locum my basic task is to work within the pattern already set, encouraging the church community until a new incumbent is found. I am working with existing staff and regularly keeping in touch with the churchwardens who are the custodians of the parish during a vacancy.

I grew up in Sydney, part of a dynastic Anglican family. My father was a minister as were his three brothers and his father. My brother is a retired minister and his son is at present the rector of Hornsby Heights. None of that history demanded that I go into ministry but while I was attending a communion service in my last year of school, I heard a voice saying ‘minister’, and that was that. It may have been someone calling out ‘heh mister’ but I heard ‘minister’ and God used that voice as my call.

Over the course of my life I have been in the army twice. Once as a National Service Officer and 20 years later as a Padre or Chaplain. Those experiences have had a profound impact on my life.

From 1973-6 I studied for the ministry, but having married Helen, a Tamworth girl, I chose to be ordained in the Anglican Diocese of Armidale serving at Narrabri, Collarenebri and Armidale where I was University Chaplain. It was at the end of my time in Armidale that I went back into the army as a Chaplain before coming to the University of Queensland as Principal of Cromwell College in 1995. I retired in July 2010 and have been doing locum work on and off ever since.

I am a widower with three children and eight grandchildren. In 2001 my wife woke up one morning in extreme pain which turned out to be bowel cancer. While surgery and chemo were tried, the cancer was too advanced, and the process of decline began. I nursed her through the process, but she died in my arms at home in December 2002.  In 2011 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, an aggressive form that required surgery. Going through that experience without a partner was a very lonely experience and if is of course, an operation that many men find psychologically difficult to handle. I have, however, had no recurrence of the cancer.

The last 17 years for me have been very challenging. I have found living alone difficult and have had to work hard to keep my life in some kind of order. While I am getting better at it over time, living with a permanent ‘absence’ has been a wild journey though I am grateful for my family and the church friends who have walked the journey with me.

I mention this not to evoke sympathy as many of you have experienced trauma, and my journey is not unique, but to let you know that I come before you as what one writer called ‘a wounded healer’.  Yes, I come to share the Gospel with you, but I come as one scarred and damaged, a man who understands the meaning of grace, mercy and forgiveness in a new way. And hopefully, through this somewhat brutal adventure, I have gained some wisdom and empathy. At the very least I have been reminded that God can take bad things and, while they remain bad things, can bring good things out of them.

Hugh

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