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Celebration of Ministries at the 34th Synod in Session. Photo: Supplied

34th Synod in Session: Memorial Minutes honour members who have passed away

The celebration of ministries worship service at the 34th Synod at Alexandra Park included Memorial Minutes for Uniting Church members who have passed away since the last Synod in Session. The following list provides a precis of each Memorial Minute.

Pauline Ann Denning (1954–2018) was trained as a nurse and worked in aged care before commencing work in the Pastoral Care Department of the Toowoomba Hospital. She was the first Uniting Church laywoman to be employed as a Uniting Church chaplain and pastoral carer and was committed to developing an ecumenical pastoral care model.

Pauline’s greatest love was to work and minister in the palliative care and oncology wards. It was here that she built relationships with patients, their families and staff.

She was an active member of the Presbytery of The Downs and a member of the Presbytery Standing Committee.

Pastor Viki Ashford (1963–2018) began work as a TAFE teacher in Innisfail before becoming Director and Counsellor at the Mount Isa Neighbourhood Centre. She worked as a counsellor for the Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service, travelling to many remote Indigenous communities around the southern gulf area.

Viki’s lifelong love of learning saw her completing a Masters in Social Science (Policy and Welfare) in 2001, a Bachelor of Counselling in 2001, a Graduate Diploma in Psychological Studies in 2006 and a Bachelor of Psychology (with Honours) in 2008.

Viki completed lay preacher training and become a pastor at the Mount Isa Uniting Church in 2010 and Thursday Island in 2013, where she pastored the congregation and served as a chaplain at the Blue Care Star of Sea aged care facility.

Rev Graham Dudley Hall (1926–2019) was ordained in the Congregational Church in 1955 and placed in a cluster of churches around Goombungee on the Darling Downs before serving in Rosewood.

He served in various appointments including part-time chaplain at Amberley Air Force Base and Superintendent of the Marsden Home for Boys, Kallangur. In 1969 Graham was employed in the Children’s Services Department working with children, young people and families.

Graham retired in 1986 but maintained an active ministry, often supporting smaller, rural congregations. His voluntary ministry concluded when Graham reached 90 years of age.

Rev James Francis McConaghy (1918–2018) attended Theological Hall at Emmanuel College from 1946 to 1949 when he was ordained as a Presbyterian minister and inducted into the Redcliffe Charge.

Ministry over the next 15 years included the opening of two new churches, a new manse and a Sunday School hall on the Redcliffe Peninsula, a new church at Stanthorpe, and a new manse and new church at St Andrew’s, Toowoomba.

Jim served two terms as Moderator of the Presbytery, developed the Marriage Guidance Council in Toowoomba and helped establish of the new St Andrew’s Hospital.

After a period of ill health Jim accepted a call to the Fortitude Valley Church where he established the Kalparrin Family Counselling Centre, started a successful coffee house experiment and became the first chaplain in the retail field when appointed to Waltons.

In 1969 Jim accepted a call to the Kenmore Presbyterian Church and in 1972 accepted the position as Lecturer in Criminology and Social Psychology at the new Oxley Police Academy. He spent five years at Kenmore until his retirement.

Rev John Edward Gillanders (1929–2017) was ordained in the Presbyterian Church in 1959 and inducted into the Maryborough North Charge after initially serving in missionary service at Mornington Island.

His 39 years of active ministry included Proserpine, Aurukun Mission, Allora-Clifton Cooperative Parish, Woodleigh Residential College, Hamilton-Hendra, Bowen, Lockyer Valley and Pioneer Valley.

John played an important role in the Aboriginal land rights movement within the church. He had a strong commitment to gender and cultural equality within church and community.

Among the symbols on John’s coffin was a special fighting stick from Mornington Island made for the purpose of honouring a person deemed to be a “strong man” who uses his strength only with restraint and care in order to make peace.

Rev Graham John Desmond Wessel (1932–2018) was appointed assistant at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Murwillumbah in 1960. During his training by the United Faculty of Theology he served as a home missionary until his appointment to Coonamble. During this ministry (1966-69) he served as Moderator of the Dubbo Presbytery. He was called to Deniliquin in 1969 where he served until 1974, including as Clerk of the Presbytery. St Columba’s parish, Canberra, called him in 1974.

John served his final 10 years of active ministry at the Tweed Coast parish from 1987. The parish grew from a membership of 200 to 600, the church at Kingscliff was renovated, a new church built at Banora Point, the old church at Tweed Heads sold, and the Tweed and Coolangatta congregations combined.

John led a progressive faith group (Sofia) for some years on the Gold Coast. Among his many writings were reflections on ‘The Jesus Experience,’ ‘A Future Vision’ and ‘At Home With All Religions.’

Rev Jovilisi Nataro Ragata (dec. 2018) came to Australia from Fiji in 1970 to work in East Arnhem Land communities. In 1976 Jovilisi began work as the lay pastor at Milingimbi. He trained as a Community Development Officer and in 1978 moved to Galiwin’ku before returning to Darwin to train for ministry in 1981. In 1984 he began lecturing at Nungalinya College and was ordained in 1985 as a minister with the Methodist Church of Fiji at Nightcliff Uniting Church.

In 1988 Jovilisi ministered in Queensland before returning to the Northern Territory where in 1998 he became the Arnhem Region Presbytery Minister for the Northern Regional Committee of Congress (NRCC) and was ordained a Minister of the Word in the Uniting Church.

He was offered a chaplaincy role at Kormilda College in Darwin and in 2007 appointed as theology teacher and Dean of Students at Nungalinya College.

On retirement in 2009, Jovilisi worked part-time at the Brisbane Fijian Uniting Church in Annerley, Brisbane.

Rev Owen Marks (dec. 2015) began home mission service in 1947 and was ordained to the Methodist ministry in 1953. His ministry ranged across Queensland, starting at Emerald and then to Imbil, Pittsworth, Biggenden, Kilcoy, Gladstone, Wesley East Brisbane, Hervey Bay, Redlands, Wynnum, Beaudesert and Isis.

While at Gladstone, Owen ensured that land at Tannum Sands was paid for and a building moved on to it for a youth centre. The Blue Nursing Service at Hervey Bay became autonomous during Owen’s ministry there, and the start of Meals on Wheels was indicative of his concern for the community. Offering the gospel was a paramount priority for Owen and missions were organised in each settlement in which he worked.

At his retirement in 1989 the Synod celebrated Owen as “a faithful pastor, a keen opponent of social injustice and community evils, a man filled with compassion and decisive in his preaching”.

Rev Alan George Anderson (1939–2017) was a teacher who initially felt a call to ministry in 1962. However, after a year he decided to return to teaching and in 1965 joined Field Educational Enterprises (later called World Book Encyclopaedia) where he worked for the next 30 years until retirement.

At age 62, Alan undertook a Certificate IV in TESOL and taught ESL to international students before deciding to complete his Bachelor of Education at Christian Heritage College in 2003. God’s call to ministry returned and Alan commenced theological studies at Trinity Theological College at Auchenflower.

He was commissioned as community minister at Morningside Uniting Church in 2006 and transferred to Garden City College (Sydney), graduating with Master of Arts (Biblical Studies) in 2008 at age 70. Alan served at Morningside Uniting Church for the next 14 years. In 2017 Alan served at Aitkenvale Uniting Church in Townsville.

Rev Bruce Alexander Ross (1934–2018) commenced preaching in the Methodist Stanthorpe Circuit before accepting an appointment as Home Missionary in 1955. He was ordained in 1964 and was appointed to the Cairns Circuit. This was followed by appointments to Mareeba, Ayr, Allora Clifton, North Ipswich, Chermside and Windsor parishes including Wilston and Grange. 

Much of Bruce’s ministry was in helping people see where God might be leading them and to develop a vision for future direction. He was among the first to develop the ministry team concept in North Ipswich and later in Chermside. 

Bruce had significant ministry as industrial chaplain in the sugar mills at Kalamia in Ayr and in the railway workshops of North Ipswich.

Rev Douglas James Brandon (1935–2018) was influenced as a young man by the Rev Fred McKay. He initially trained as a teacher and in 1958 became a home missionary at Charleville when he developed an outback patrol ministry. Doug completed his training at Bible College and engaged in a vigorous ministry program involving 11 congregations between Surfers Paradise and Coolangatta. Later they moved to the Redcliffe peninsula where Doug engaged in parish ministry and was involved in Meals on Wheels, hospital chaplaincy and aged care.

Doug was called to Indooroopilly Presbyterian Church where he spent 11 fruitful years. Doug served as Moderator of the Queensland Synod from 1981 to 1982. During this time Doug began studying the effects of stress on ministers, completing a Master’s thesis on the topic. He then responded to a call from Kenmore Uniting Church, after which Doug pursued a full-time PHD further exploring burnout in ministers, which led to the creation of a mentoring program for at-risk ministry agents.

Rev Dr Bruce Warwick Upham (1928–2018) was ordained as a Minister of the Word in the Congregational Church in 1956 and began ministry at the Balmain Congregational Church. He served in churches in Newcastle until moving to Brisbane in 1970 to take up the position of Principal of the Congregational Theological Hall, a role he served in until church union in 1977.

Bruce was involved in the Joint Commission for Church Union and in the years leading up to church union was a member of the Joint Faculty of Theology of the Congregational, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches and minister of the Chermside Congregational Church.

He went on to serve with the faculty of Trinity Theological College, initially as Professor of Church History (1977–80) and later as Professor of Systematic Theology and Lecturer in Church History (1980–93) and a term as principal. Bruce was awarded a PhD in 1993, the same year he retired.

Rev Dr Lewis Arnold Born (1928–2019) was ordained as a Methodist Minister in 1953 and began service in Caloundra, then Blackall, Moorooka, Coopers Plains, Sunnybank and Bowen/Collinsville, Doncaster (Church of Christ) and Redcliffe, and later at Newlife.

Lew became the Associate Director of the Methodist Young People’s Department in 1957, later the Methodist Department of Christian Education, and then Director. Following church union he became the Director of the Division of Christian Education.

His organisational and fund-raising abilities were seen in the formation of the Stewardship Promotion Division and the setting up of the first professionally staffed church fundraising agency. His fundraising activities funded youth work and the early development of Lifeline in Brisbane, Alcorn College and the Wesley Hospital.

Lew developed comprehensive training for Sunday School teachers and youth leaders. He instigated a new concept in ministry training through the three-year Youth and Education Assistant course. During his ministry, Lew was responsible for secondary school camps at Southport which he grew to 1,000 young people. 

In 1982/83 Dr Lew Born was appointed Moderator of the Uniting Church in Queensland.

Rev Dr Norma Spear (1934–2017) was ordained in 1971, the first woman ordained as a Minister of the Word in the Methodist Church in Queensland. She trained as a deaconess at the George Brown College and then embarked on a Diploma in Religious Education. A move north in 1962 to Townsville saw her continue to offer leadership in youth work, Sunday School, and religious education.

Norma spent 1969 in Boonah, Fassifern Circuit, and while serving there candidated for ministry. For her year of probation, she was placed in the Indooroopilly Circuit.

Following church union Norma remained in the new Kenmore Parish, helping people navigate the changes into the new denomination. She then spent 18 years in her next appointment in Ipswich and continued to work on a dissertation for her Doctor of Ministry program through Fuller Theological Seminary. This was completed in August 1992.

Her “official” retirement began in 1999 and included non-stipended ministry to the Forest Lake congregation. 

Rev Sidney James (Jim) Hamer Tame (1935–2018) entered the Home Mission Training College in 1956 and was ordained by the Methodist Church in 1964 while at Surfers Paradise. He served in Kingaroy, Lowood and Mt Isa circuits and created the “Cattle for the Kingdom” fundraising scheme.

Following church union Jim was called to Bundaberg, Aspley, Sandgate and Holland Park St David’s parishes. Jim completed an outstanding achievement in the construction of the Sandgate Uniting Church. He was instrumental in uniting the various congregations—seven in total—in selling their existing properties, and in planning and building the multi-purpose worship centre and erecting retirement dwellings on the acreage at the rear of the centre.

Rev Leslie John Tilse (dec. 2016) served the church in Holland Park, Ipswich East and Wavell Heights before taking early retirement in 1984. His health improved and in 1994 Les returned to full-time ministry, serving in Gayndah, just down the road from his first appointment at Mundubbera as a probationary minister in 1967. He subsequently retired in 1997.

As part of his rehabilitation from the severe stroke that disabled him in 1983, Les engaged in courses in fine arts, earning a Diploma in Fine Arts, a Bachelor of Arts and later a Certificate in Clinical Therapy.

Les retired to Torbanlea, where he served the wider church in preaching and pastoral support.

Rev Silas Wolmby (dec. 2018) was ordained at Aurukun in 1983. He and the Rev Keith Warner were the first Queensland Aboriginal people to be ordained into ministry. Silas retired from full-time ministry at the end of 1991.

Silas served his people from the time of his ordination both in the township of Aurukun and in homeland centres. He was a member of the Aurukun Shire Council for four years.

Silas’ ministry had an impact on the non-Aboriginal church. He challenged its prejudice and racism by his words and presence. He was not afraid to put the case for his people to government and the wider community as Aurukun and other communities struggled for self-determination and land rights.

He was a strong supporter of the worshipping life of the Aurukun Uniting Church—encouraging younger leaders to grow in leadership and helping with funerals and baptisms. During the Aurukun revival, Silas played an important role in having visions and dreams of what God was doing amongst them, and in hosting family fellowships of worship and dancing.



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