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Vale Geoffrey Collins

Rev Geoffry Wayne Collins

No matter what happens, God is with us.

This is how Rev Geoff Collins ended his Sunday service only two days before his unexpected death on 14 October. He was 49-years-old.

Geoff was born in Stanthorpe, Queensland on July 11, 1959 to Stuart and Rene Collins. A difficult birth meant that Geoff was born with a paralysed right arm. At only 10-months of age he became ill with Cow Pox which led to a lifetime of asthma. Even in light of these circumstances, it was obvious to both Rene and Stuart that God had a special purpose for Geoff’s life.

Both music and gardening became a passion for Geoff at a young age. He loved to help his father water and fertilise the half acre block the family lived on in Stanthorpe. The results of Geoff’s green thumb could always be seen in the houses he lived in.

Geoff’s ill heath in his early years meant that he spent a large amount of his first school year in bed and it was during this time that he was given a battery operated musical organ. His natural talent and an ability to persevere enabled him to become an accomplished musician. He shared his gift of music throughout his ministry.

Geoff’s family moved from Stanthorpe to central Queensland with three years in Clermont followed by six at Biloela. He completed his secondary school education in Nambour before moving to Brisbane to take up a cadetship as a Cartographer in the Department of Mapping and Surveying. While a promising career awaited him as a Cartographer, Geoff felt led to change course and enrolled at the Kelvin Grove College of Education to become a teacher. During this time, he was involved with Evangelical Outreach which included singing with the Big Band as it toured around Queensland in the semester holidays.

In his final year at Teachers’ College he felt a definite ‘call’ to the ministry within The Uniting Church and was accepted into Trinity Theological College. These years proved both exciting and formative. The group of students who began their training at this time developed a very strong bond that still exists today.

Geoff’s first appointment as ‘Reverend Collins’ was to The Bayside (Wynnum/Manly) Parish. There he met Liz Drummond who was the youth worker, newly appointed to the same Parish. First impressions were not particularly favourable with Geoff feeling Liz was far too forward, referring to the senior minister as ‘Nev’ and Liz feeling that Geoff was far too old fashioned, referring to him as ‘Mr Stoddart’. Despite this less than promising start, romance did blossom, and Liz and Geoff were engaged just over one year later. They were married in Liz’s hometown of Adelaide, in January 1986 and remained in Brisbane for one more year of ministry in the Bayside Parish.

At the end of 1986, Geoff received a call to the mining town parish of Moranbah in central Queensland. This was a unique experience in terms of the isolation of the town and the strong mining culture, but one in which Geoff thrived. The sense of community was strong, and never more evident than the support received after the birth of Liesl in 1988. The celebration of Liesl’s baptism on Christmas Day was a particularly meaningful occasion in which the wider church (through Don Whebell) shared.

In Geoff and Liz’s third year in Moranbah, Liz’s Mum Leonore died after a battle with cancer. Liz wanted to move closer to her Dad and brothers and despite his enjoyment of ministry in Moranbah; Geoff supported her desire and accepted a call to Kadina, South Australia. The five years spent in Kadina were a wonderful family time, with the births of Joshua in 1991 and Felicity in 1994.

In 1995 the family moved again, this time to the Parish of Port Pirie. It was there that Geoff was able to develop and express his passion for caring for those in need through his involvement with the Port Pirie Mission.

A move to Adelaide was the next one for the family as Geoff took up the position of Chief Executive Officer for what is now known as UnitingCare Wesley Bowden. This was a huge challenge for Geoff. His passion for the work of the organisation was unquestioned. His pastor’s heart made certain elements of the business world difficult for him. He finished after four years in this role having played an integral part in the formation of the UnitingCare Wesley partnership.

Throughout his ministry Geoff had been passionate about strengthening relationships between different church denominations. When he was asked to consider a call to the Seaford Ecumenical Mission (a joint initiative of the Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Church of Christ and Uniting churches) he was instantly excited at the prospect and thrilled when he began his ministry there. From Geoff’s perspective it was a match ‘made in heaven’. He loved the people there, and was loved in return.

In July this year, Geoff, Liz and family made a family holiday to Brisbane. For Geoff’s 49th birthday, all the family on the Collins side (including his mother who also flew up from Adelaide) were able to gather for a dinner – a dinner that now takes on significant meaning for the entire family. It was also during this trip that Geoff unexpectedly dropped in to see Mr Stoddart, who he was now comfortable to call Nev.

Geoff Collins was a loving husband, father, son, son-in-law, brother, brother-in-law, uncle and friend. He was respected for his wisdom, passion, faithfulness, gentleness, creativity and sense of humour. Of particular significance and remembrance was his desire for justice for all people. This will be his legacy.

Photo : Rev Geoffry Wayne Collins