James O’Callaghan profiles Stan Klan of Toowoomba who will soon celebrate 50 years of service to the Uniting Church as a Lay Preacher.
On Sunday 24 January 2021, Stan Klan of Toowoomba will take the service at St Stephen’s Uniting Church in Toowoomba. For many churches around the nation it will be just another Sunday but for Stan it’s a milestone event: he and the congregation will be celebrating his 50 years of service to the Uniting Church as a Lay Preacher.
An English and history teacher by trade, Stan says he was driven to become a Lay Preacher after seeing inspirational and well-grounded Christians growing up in the Beaudesert area.
“I saw a need and was told I had the skills required to candidate, so I undertook the necessary training,” says Stan.
“Back in the 1970’s, we weren’t Lay Preachers but local preachers who conducted services to fill in for the Minister in parishes with many small country churches. For example, the Beaudesert Methodist parish had eight such country churches. When the Methodist Church became part of the Uniting Church in 1977, local Preachers became Lay Preachers.”
Stan reflects on the contribution of Lay Preachers to the broader Uniting Church where he says they have a pivotal role, particularly in regional and remote areas. “If I use St Stephen’s Toowoomba for example, we have a full-time minister and one church in the parish, but I still conduct services on occasion when our minister might be on leave,” says Stan. “I also assist smaller congregations on the Inner Downs who have no minister.”
As he recounts highlights from his past 50 years of service to the faith, Stan cites a posting in Gladstone as a home missionary and also time living in the United Kingdom where he was teaching and preached in churches around Wales.
“Perhaps the most memorable experiences were travelling to regional towns who would often get one service a month,” says Stan. “It was truly a privilege to lead these services, which were sometimes only attended by a dozen people. They were much more than a service though, they were a coming together of the community.”
Now retired from teaching, Stan has combined his loves of history and travel by establishing a small travel company called Great Trains of Europe Tours. Their historical and cultural tours of Europe have included Christian Heritage Tours and the Martin Luther 500th anniversary tour in 2017. In 2022 he will lead tours to the once-a-decade Oberammergau Passion Play in Germany, presenting the last week of the life of Jesus in drama and song.
When asked what the church can do to provide further support to Lay Preachers, Stan suggests simple tools like a database of existing Lay Preachers and resources to encourage those who are considering the calling.
“I also think a ‘Lay Preacher Sunday’ would be a good idea where for one day of the year, we can celebrate and acknowledge the contribution of our Lay Preachers to the broader church,” says Stan.