Book Review: Child, Arise!

Giving victims of abuse the courage to stand

Child ,Arise! is a privileged insight into the lives and challenges of sexual abuse survivors.

 There are no words to describe the betrayal and trauma of child sexual abuse.

I met, apologised to, cried, prayed and sought to walk with survivors of child sexual abuse during my time as Bishop of Tasmania, 2000-2015. The suffering of survivors has affected me deeply: I struggle with vicarious traumatisation. It is somewhat embarrassing to speak of vicarious trauma because my suffering is but a pale shadow of that of survivors. Nevertheless, it is real and Jane Dowling through Child, Arise! has strengthened me.

Jane Dowling, a survivor of child sexual abuse, shares in vulnerability and hope, spiritual resources discovered in her own journey through suffering. Survivors, family members, friends, clergy and professional counsellors, all those who walk with survivors will benefit from this handbook.

The prayerful engagement with Scripture is clearly and beautifully shared. Here is a treasure of prayerful reflection on Scripture and an ongoing unfolding of God’s narrative. God’s resources are engaged to raise life from its deathbed of betrayal, of trust destroyed.

Jane does not detail her sexual abuse except to say that it occurred from early childhood to her mid-teens by a family relation and then during her teenage years by a Roman Catholic priest. Her abuse is not the focus of the handbook. The author’s purpose is to seek God and so to tell the story of the destructive consequences of her abuse, her suffering and survival, from God’s perspective.

At 21 years of age Jane Dowling entered an international Roman Catholic missionary community of prayer and ministry of the Bible in which she completed a theology degree. In her mid-twenties the trauma of her abuse erupted in pain and anguish, and through the two decade long quest for healing, the resource of praying with Scripture guided her quest and brought her life.

The vulnerability in the telling of her story, the prayerful listening to God’s voice and her decision to trust God in the living out of what is heard, usher the reader into spaces that both inspire and pose the challenge: Is my prayerful listening through the Bible engendering trust in God and personal courage?

This is a “handbook” to be dipped into, and its waters are deep; in particular, the second part of the book which looks at themes of suffering and pain from the trauma of childhood sexual abuse, and ways of gaining strength to stand to face them.

The first part of the handbook is a compilation of truths about God and humankind’s identity, dignity, purposes and strengthening. Listening to our personal story from the perspective of a loving God brings comfort and healing. Jane Dowling recaptures the power of the Word of God to change lives.

In the second part of the handbook the author shares her personal engagement with aspects of trauma such as hopelessness, lack of self-esteem, being harsh with herself, channeling anger for good, being set free from paralysis, and panic attacks.

A series of reflections using the simple following structure illustrates the author’s working through specific issues with God: a. naming the issue; b. reading Scripture; c. Praying the Scripture reading; d. The Scripture experienced in the author’s own life; and e. The Scripture experienced in your the reader’s life. These reflections provide a treasured sharing of Jane’s transformation through great pain. They are a rich resource for those of us experiencing pain.

Jane’s struggle and pain on the day of her private hearing with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse were immense. The fear that the abusing priest had instilled in her was overpowering. The anticipated re-traumatisation in retelling her abuse of some twenty-five years ago was overwhelming. Struggling to prepare herself to attend, Jane turned to her Scripture reading, Isaiah 43:1-3.

The third step, “Praying the scripture reading”, is facilitated by a number of questions specific to each reading. I found they aided my engagement with God.

Through the fourth step, “The Scripture experienced in my life”, we enter into the head and heart of the author and her working through of Scripture to a place of seeing her story from God’s perspective: “You will not be burned, the flames will not consume you.” Jane’s experience is too tender to insert a quote here: it needs reading in context and I think this is a strength of the handbook: this book is made for working! Hence the fifth step: “Were you able to experience the Scripture reading in your life today? If so, how did this happen? You may like to write down your account.”

This handbook is a testimony to the power of God’s transforming grace through the prayerful reading of the Bible while in deep pain and suffering.

Importantly, the author affirms that without the support of family, psychologist, spiritual advisor, health professionals and the organisation ASCA (Adults Surviving Child Abuse), she would not have reached the day of her private hearing. The role of counsellors, family, friends and community are clearly affirmed in the author’s struggle for survival. The emphasis on a range of supportive resources is repeated throughout the handbook and underlines the book’s contribution as a “spiritual” handbook. All of these resources are to be marshalled for the survivor to stand again, scarred but not broken: “Child, arise!”.

For those of us who have struggled to empathise with survivors of sexual abuse, this is a privileged insight into their life and challenges. It educates and enhances our empathy.

A relationship with God prior to abuse is a rich resource in dealing with the trauma of abuse. This book alerts us to deepen our discipleship and in particular with the prayerful reading and living of God’s Word, the Bible.

This is an outstanding and multifaceted book. Little wonder it was awarded the Australian Cristian Book of the Year 2016.

Child, Arise!: The Courage to Stand: a spiritual handbook for survivors of sexual abuse by Jane N. Dowling, (David Lovell Publishing Melbourne Australia 2015 $29.99). Winner, Australian Christian Book of the Year 2016.

This review was published here.

Responding to Sexual Abuse in Church Settings

Upon my election as Anglican Bishop of Tasmania in 2000, I began to hear the stories of people who had suffered child sexual abuse. At my first media conference I apologised to all victims of child sexual abuse.

As the crisis of the church’s failure to respond to child sexual abuse unfolded, I met more and more survivors, reports of abuse appeared in the media and a growing suspicion of clergy was palpable. I was out of my depth and in urgent need of guidance.

God’s gift to the Diocese in this darkest hour was an intelligent, wise and experienced advisor. Without her guidance I would have been at a loss. Despite my best intentions I would have compounded the pain of the survivors who came to see me.

My advisor wishes to remain anonymous but has agreed to make available to you the fruit of her experience and reflection in assisting churches to be better prepared to deal with the complex and varied issues involved when responding to child sexual abuse.

In the pages of her article, Responding to sexual-abuse-in-church-settings is difficult, you will find Spirit-given insight beyond our superficial understanding of this devastating tragedy. You will be led to a deeper appreciation of the issues confronting congregations and denominational leaders as we seek to respond to survivors and offenders and above all protect children.

While this is not an easy read, nor an academic article, church leaders and those training for leadership would be well advised to be forewarned by reading this article well before sexual abuse impacts their churches. Otherwise leaders can easily fall into the trap of starting their response using and relying upon their normal pastoral practices, not realising that when the issue is child sexual abuse, some of those common pastoral practices and mind sets have  led to great additional harm to children, victims and congregations. You will find a great deal of practical help here.

The author also reminds us: This (article) is not meant to distract from your obligations to comply with government legislation, inform police or follow your denomination’s protocols.

Make sure you know current government legislation and reporting requirements in your state or territory!

To bishops who attended the Bishop’s Conference 2019, and received a copy of my adaptation of her material, the following is the  author’s material that I used as the foundation for that version you received. There are some variations including layout,  but everything that was in my version is also contained here.

May God help us to keep the child at the centre of all we undertake.

See also, ‘St Mark’s Review, Remembering our Future: response to the Royal Commission’ which offers constructive proposals for how Australian churches might respond to the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that were handed down earlier this (2018) year).

Book Launch: Confessions of a Meddlesome Economist by Ian Harper

 I had the privilege of launching this important book, here, whose aim is ‘to illustrate the power of good economics to improve people’s material lives and the power of the Christian faith in helping a practising economist, Professor Ian Harper, keep his professional life in proper perspective’.

We styled the book launch as a conversation between the two of us. Please find the questions, Ian Harper Confessions of a Meddlesome Economist Book Launch 2019, with which I sought to give direction to the conversation: attendees can decide how successful I was! Thanks to my son, David, for his input to the questions.

Professor Harper’s replies re the book’s title and cover art:

“I thought up the title myself. It’s intended to be a play on the “meddlesome priest” of “Murder in the Cathedral” fame (“Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?”) with a touch of Augustine’s “Confessions” thrown in.

“It’s intended to be ironic. Many people don’t welcome economists’ policy recommendations, especially when they upset a comfortable status quo for protected firms or require people to change jobs or locations. Yet, properly conceived and implemented, economic policy improves people’s material lives.

“So, yes, I confess to being a meddlesome economist because I believe that proper meddling makes a positive difference to people’s lives – it’s like a medical doctor whose interventions might also qualify as meddling but which are efficacious in most instances!

“The ‘confessions’ part has a double meaning – I’m confessing to being one of those ‘troublemaking’ economists but also confessing that there’s more to my motivation than a desire to practise my craft. I’m confessing to a deeper calling and faith that many might be surprised to see linked to my profession.

“The other aspect of being meddlesome is that many economists (not unlike priests) are quite happy quietly performing the ‘sacraments’ without getting involved in the world of affairs. This economist might be regarded as meddlesome even by his own kind. Why not just stick to academic research and teaching? Why meddle where your ideas are not welcome?

“The cover illustration is supposed to be hornets but it looks like bees! The notion, again, is that the meddlesome economist is always stirring up hornets’ nests by making recommendations that might be in the public interest but have little attraction to those whose vested interests are challenged in the process. Someone needs to get rid of the hornets’ nest but the person who takes that on is likely to get stung!”

St Mark’s Review, Remembering our Future: Response to Royal Commission

“We share (Prime Minister) Scott Morrison’s convictions that churches must be kept accountable and “on the hook”, and that only concrete action can give practical meaning to the apologies that various churches have already offered. To that end, this issue of St Mark’s Review offers constructive proposals for how Australian churches might respond to the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that were handed down earlier this (2018) year).”

You can read the Editor’s Introduction: Remembering our Future which includes the index of the six articles.

This issue of the Journal is available for purchase here, as are each of the six articles, including a summary of each one’s content, found here. Note, the Journal’s modest price, $17.50, and articles $4, cover the costs of the Journal and I receive no remuneration for the article I contributed – I’m ‘the Anglican bishop’! – see following.

“There is a range of voices and perspectives here: from theologians and ethicists, both local and international; from a barrister who has worked extensively with the Anglican Church of Australia; from a clinical counsellor; and from an Anglican bishop. The focus here is on constructive, intentional, and targeted proposals that can move churches beyond what one article contributor describes as mere “words and handwringing, to church cultures that are robustly safe for every child encountering them.” The following articles deal predominantly with the Anglican Church of Australia, along with one article specifically relating to the Catholic Church in Australia.”

Abstract of my article, How Australian churches might respond individually and collectively to the royal commission and its findings  –  St Mark’s Review   Issue 245 (Oct 2018)

Abstract: My passion in putting pen to paper for this article is simple: The child must be front and centre of all that we do.

“I will set the scene by outlining an early experience with a survivor of child sexual abuse and seek to draw out some emerging themes for our continuing vigilance and action in the churches’ responses to child sexual abuse. My story is one of learning from misunderstanding and mistakes, from empathy and actions, all made in seeking to work and walk with survivors. My track record is far from perfect, and I am grateful to the survivors who in anguish and vulnerability shared the evil of their abuse and suffering, and its destructive consequences on their lives. This essay is a work in progress. If time permitted, I would want to sit for a while in a safe place with a survivor to write again. I suspect that every survivor would retell his or her experience differently now, each shaped by his or her re-traumatisation, and by the faltering and too often backward steps of our churches’ responses.”

What the Editor’s Introduction, page 4, said,

“John Harrower, the current Bishop assisting the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, likewise draws powerfully on lessons learned from his experience of working and walking with the survivors of sexual abuse. He calls for a kind of discipleship that moves beyond mere strategy, structure, and compliance. Instead, he emphasises the need for deep empathetic listening and apology, and for better acknowledgement of the courage it has taken for survivors to come forward. But there are other practical needs: the need to pay attention to processes of socialisation in culture formation, the need for bishops to exercise courage and moral leadership, the need for further consideration of the role of the media in holding the church to account, and the need for making pastoral and liturgical resources available. Like Cameron, he stresses the importance of auditing, coaching, mentoring, professional supervision, and peer support for church leaders.”

May we have the heart and will to act, putting the child at front and centre of all that we do.

Safe as churches?

My Address, ‘Safe as Churches?’, NCCA Conference -Safe as Churches- Mar 2004 final formed part of the introductory presentations at the National Council of Churches Consultation in Canberra in 2004. I have listed it here on my blog in order to access it online.

Its concluding comment continues to challenge me, and us, the churches:

I recently released a Bishop’s vision for the Diocese of Tasmania in a booklet form entitled “a healthychurchtransforminglife“. Some ten days later I held a Service of Prayer and Reflection for all those who have suffered abuse. This Service was entitled “Out of the Depths” and the Order of Service was published in booklet form.

At the end of this Service a woman approached me with her husband and asked if I would sign both the “healthychurch transforminglife booklet and the “Out of the Depths: A service for those who have suffered abuse” Order of Service booklet.

I duly signed both the booklets. I was curious, however, and I asked if there was any particular reason for having the booklets autographed. The woman replied that when she heard my “transforminglife” launch address and read the booklet she was enthusiastic about its content but wondered whether this would just be another document collecting dust.

“But”, she commented, “now that I have seen you do the second booklet (“Out of the Depths”), I believe the first one. Thank you.”

The credibility of the Church depends on our commitment to making it a healthy church, a safe church.

May God help us to achieve this through our vital NCCA Conference ‘Safe as Churches?’.

Shalom, Bishop John Harrower

‘ahealthychurch…transforminglife’ 2004

A current writing engagement requires online access to this 2004 document, ahealthyChurchtransformingLife.

With the growing awareness in 2004 of needing to respond to survivors of child sexual abuse, the Anglican Church in Tasmania determined to do all that we could to build a culture of safety and wellbeing for children and the vulnerable. Our vision statement reflected our heart’s desire to be ‘a healthy church … transforming life’. 

The first part, ‘ahealthychurch’, was the challenge to examine our strengths and weaknesses with honesty and grace – nothing was to be ‘off the table’. As a diocese we committed to becoming what God wants us to be, mature disciples of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:28). In order to achieve this aim, every one of us needed to submit to the transforming work of God: ‘transforminglife‘ is God’s heart desire.

See the vision document, ‘ahealthyChurchtransformingLife‘ at, transformingLIFE[1] 

‘Mr Eternity’ – Book Review

‘Mr Eternity: The Story of Arthur Stace’ by Roy Williams with Elizabeth Meyers, Acorn Press, Sydney 2017

‘Eternity’, Arthur Stace’s copperplate script graffiti, continues to fascinate people in contemporary Australia, long after his death in 1967. However, not all aspects of this famous Australian are viewed positively.

“We generally do not like religion in this town (Sydney), are hostile to God-botherers and wowsers and bible-bashers. We could not like Arthur because he was ‘saved’, hell no! We like him because he was a drunk, a ratbag, an outcast. He was his own man, a slave to no one on this earth.” (Author Peter Carey)

So, who was Arthur Stace? The biography, ‘Mr Eternity’, provides many answers.

Arthur Stace, ‘using chalk or crayon every day for almost 35 years’, wrote a one word message: ‘Eternity’. He wrote throughout NSW on footpaths, railway stations, anywhere and everywhere – ‘perhaps half a million times in all’, including on the Sydney GPO’s main bell! Indeed, he was a ’God-botherer’ – his motivation and message came from God. It is also true that for decades he was a drunk and a criminal.

Arthur Stace’s criminal activity seemed to be the inevitable outcome of a life formed in a dysfunctional family of alcohol fuelled violence. Born in 1885, even as a young child he relieved poverty by petty theft. Abandoned by her husband, Stace’s despairing mother handed the children over to institutional care. The teenage Stace found that work in a coal mine gave access to alcohol. He became a ‘mean drunkard’ and increasingly ‘abandoned himself to the (Sydney) underworld’.

Trauma, following service in the trenches of the 1st World War, contributed to Stace’s periodic arrests for drunkenness, although by the 1920’s he no longer engaged in Sydney’s underworld. The Great Depression resulted in mass unemployment. In 1930 a down-and-out Arthur Stace attended a meeting in St Barnabas Broadway’s School Hall for ‘a cuppa tea and a rock cake’. He heard the Rector R.B.S. Hammond speak of Christ and in the ensuing 37 years Stace would say, “I went to the meeting for a rock cake and came out with the Rock of Ages”.

Stace’s life was transformed by Christ. He gave up alcohol. He joined in the mission of St Barnabas’ Broadway assisting to rehabilitate lives broken by unemployment, poverty, alcohol and war service. Thus commitment to their welfare now featured throughout the rest of his life. He was 45 years of age when he became a Christian. If he was once a slave to alcohol and criminal conduct, he continued a slave, but ‘a slave to no one on this earth’, rather a slave to Someone who created this earth.

In 1932, two years after his conversion, Arthur heard Baptist preacher John Ridley conclude a sermon, “Eternity! Eternity! I wish that I could sound that word to everyone on the streets of Sydney. . . .Where will you spend eternity?” In Arthur’s own words he “felt a powerful call from the Lord to write ‘Eternity’. I had a piece of chalk in my pocket and, outside the church, I bent down there and wrote it.” ‘Eternity’, chalked in copperplate script, would become our nation’s most viewed graffiti.

An intriguing aspect of this graffiti ministry is the hiddenness for two decades of the artist’s identity. Only the intervention of Baptist Pastor Lisle Thompson in 1956 caused Arthur Stace at the age of 70 to reveal his identity via the Sydney Morning Herald as ’Mr Eternity’. This resulted in even more opportunities for the septuagenarian to share of his conversion to Christ and the resulting radical transformation in his life.

Arthur Stace’s dual commitment to welfare work and evangelism is an important aspect of this biography. His own experience of degradation, and then transformation through following Christ, fuelled his life’s calling. His skill and humour in handling interjectors during his open-air preaching was noted. His ‘inimitable style’ made him a sought after speaker. A local newspaper announced his visit, ‘Domain “Deadbeat” to Preacher’!

The various characters and their ongoing roles in Arthur’s life are well fleshed out. It was the Revd Hammond’s sermon that God used to awaken faith in Arthur Stace. Hammond’s influence and friendship were long-lasting and it was he who conducted the marriage service of Arthur Stace and Ellen Esther Pearl Dawson at St Barnabas’ Broadway in 1942.

Arthur and Pearl met as volunteers in a city soup kitchen. Pearl was a decade younger than Arthur and, interestingly, it was she who proposed to him! They are buried together in the Botany cemetery, their headstone reading “Rewarded and rejoicing in the presence of their Lord.” The footstone is engraved with one word in copperplate. You guessed it, ‘Eternity’!

‘Mr Eternity’ is an easy and fascinating read: a fine gift and an encouragement to faithful preachers!

This book review was published in the April 2018 edition of The Melbourne Anglican, here.

Out of the Depths – Service for those who suffered abuse

A number of recent events have come together to remind me of the ongoing need for opportunities for those who have suffered abuse and those who support them to reflect and pray.

I had the solemn privilege of leading such a strong pastoral service – a service which was suggested by a survivor of abuse. The service was held in Lent 2004 at St David’s Cathedral, Hobart, and in the north and north-west of Tasmania, and it commenced with the welcome:

Some are here because you personally have experienced the destructive effects of sexual abuse either in the church,… in your home,… or in your community.

Some are here because you wish to support survivors of abuse and pray for them.

Some are here to repent before God this great evil that was done in our church – and it was a great evil – I wish to take this opportunity to apologise unreservedly to any who were abused in any way by Anglican Church workers. I am very, very sorry. It should never have happened.

So for all these reasons, let us come to God together and I include myself in this time of prayer and reflection.

See the, Order of Service booklet for ‘Out of the Depths: A time of prayer and reflection with Bishop John Harrower for all those who have suffered from abuse’, Out of the Depths with Welcome and I acknowledge my debt to Beryl Carmichael in the adaptation and formulation of this significant gathering. [pdf with white background! – Out of the Depths – Service and Welcome on A4]

See also, Prayers for survivors of abuse and perpetrators of abuse, here.

David’s Prayer

It is twenty years since the death of my father-in-law, David Robin, and in honour of him and in order to be refreshed by his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, I share a prayer that he wrote in his dying days. He simply entitled it:

David’s Prayer

Dear God, – in great humility – I thank you!

I thank you for the many, many blessings in my life.
I thank you for giving me a loving, caring wife and family.
I thank you for the family of the Church, for their prayers and their offers of help and support.
I thank you that you have given me (and have given Melva) great comfort and extra time of living beyond what was expected with the ill health we experienced.
I thank you for teaching me to ‘place my trust’ in you.

Mostly, I thank you for the guidance you gave me in my struggle over many years in trying to understand the mysteries of Jesus Christ.
For so long, I read and discussed the subject but could not come to grips with prayer. But then I experienced your wondrous love and the way you do hear us and answer us.
Thank you for all that – and, as I leave my friends and family, I look forward to the next phases of your promises.

I thank you in and through the name of Jesus Christ.

*A note from John:
David was profoundly helped in his searching and growing discipleship through the fellowship of the Church Missionary Society (CMS Australia) with which my wife (David and Melva’s daughter), myself and our family served overseas for nine years. The Bible teaching, shared experiences of God’s active work in the world, regular prayer meetings and the company of lively Christians from around Australia and elsewhere were treasured by him, gave him confidence in speaking of his faith, and helped him to increasingly place his trust in God. We thank God for David’s life, and for the ministry to us of ‘David’s Prayer’.

‘People of the Risen King’ – (Longer) Book Review

This is a more detailed review of Elizabeth Willis’ history of St Jude’s Anglican Church Carlton Vic Australia.

Essentials magazine, Autumn 2018, of EFAC Australia invited this contribution and I enjoyed the rewriting to expand on some features and include further features of the ‘People of the Risen King: a History of St Jude’s Carlton, 1866-2016’ by Elizabeth Willis, St Jude’s Anglican Church, Carlton, 2017

Encouragement and gratitude to God and his faithful servants: it was with these emotions that I closed this skillful interweaving of Church and society through 150 years: St Jude’s Anglican Church in Carlton.

Carlton’s socio-economic conditions and demography, clerical and lay personalities, theological emphases, liturgical practice, the Melbourne Diocese, and national and international affairs are colourfully integrated. Through testing times, diverse personalities and ever-changing ministries, the life and mission of the ‘People of the Risen King’ at St Jude’s Carlton is brought to life.

Carlton ‘larrikins’ blocking the entry of worshippers, the decline in attendance following the First World War, the depression, bulldozing to ‘clear the slums’, the building of Housing Commission estates, the opportunity to welcome ‘New Australians’, university ministry, discipleship training, parish partnerships, new congregations and relations with the Diocese of Melbourne: throughout it all we see the faithfulness of men and women to the work of God.

The ethos of the times is well captured. By way of example, the loss of faith following the First World War is highlighted: “subdued and grieving at the end of a horrible war when people were picking up the pieces and trying to make sense of a world where old certainties about progress and security had been shaken” produced stark challenges for the Church. A ‘Come to Church Sunday’ in 1919 seemed to miss the mark when it “exhorted people to go to church because it was a good thing to do, because it was a duty owed to God, and because their mothers would be pleased!”!

Anecdotes tell of incidents and characters. Vicar Lance Shilton in the early 1950’s was challenged at his first Women’s Guild meeting, ‘We’ve heard that you don’t believe in gambling. We want a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Can we have raffles at our fete?’ The Vicar concluded his ‘no’ with, ‘I am confident that by not having raffles at the next fete, you will make more money than you would ever have made before.’ The President replied, quick as a flash, ‘Would you like to bet on that?’ – This reader could not help but laugh!

The Parish’s social work encompasses the ‘free seats’ of the nineteenth century and the Debt Centre of the twenty-first century: a wide embrace of society that is at no time loosened. In the 1890’s wealthier people moved away from Carlton and the Depression hit Carlton and the parish hard. “In the winter of 1892 St Jude’s began a twice weekly soup kitchen . . . On one Wednesday seventy-six families representing over 300 people were provided with forty gallons of soup . . . and 140 loaves of bread, as well as , tea, sugar and a large quantity of clothing.”

These impacts of changing demographics bring their own demands to parish priorities and possibilities. Hardly imaginable in 1866 would be the translation of sermons into Mandarin and Farsi in 2015!

The issue of liturgical changes and their cost to parishioners and clergy is not avoided nor the struggle to settle the ‘culture’ of a congregation and indeed of the parish. Would a congregation’s services have robed clergy, hymns, public prayer, charismatic expression, expository sermons, be family/children friendly, welcoming to the outsider, lay or staff leadership or some combination – and all in ninety to a hundred minutes?

Change is costly: the cost not always valued. A gracious and poignant reflection in 2004 from a now senior member, “Us young things took little notice of the cost of all this to the older parishioners, who had continued faithful through the hard times, and to whom we owed the continued existence of the church. We failed to respect the work of the Spirit of God amongst them.”

Insight is given to the significance of the gifting and emphases of the clerical leadership on the life and ministry of the parish. I appreciated the honesty of the personal challenges faced by clergy and the conflict within the life of the parish. In particular, conflict between staff is named while at the same time holding the tension of naming a conflict without blaming and its associated ‘reveal-all’ narrative. This history is no hagiography – and praise be to God for that!

Photos add to the narrative. After viewing the impressive 1905 St Jude’s Football Team, I looked in vain for recent vicars Boan, Adams and Condie in similar football team pose of crossed arms and attired in football shorts and sleeveless footy jumper!

A deftly placed photo of a fully robed bishop, robed vicar, two women wardens in smart casuals and a male warden in shorts and thongs, delightfully illustrate the Vicar’s words to the 1988 AGM, “I think that St Jude’s still retains great deal of its off-beat, imaginative and risk-taking style. It is still fun to be part of and, despite the apparent order and sameness of our life, the erratic, the irregular and the very funny still occurs!”!

The relationship between St Jude’s and the diocese of Melbourne is honestly traced with its ups and downs – and current healthy state.

The irony of writing of the seemingly endless struggle to maintain the parish buildings fit for purpose at the very time it is uninhabitable due to a deliberately lit fire in 2014 is not lost on the author. A multimillion dollar building project is currently underway.

Truly a stimulating read! Do leave time for reflection along the way, for this history is a reminder that through the changing circumstances of parish and societal life the Church is the ‘People of the Risen King’.

Thank you, Elizabeth Willis, for your fine work in bringing this parish history to us, and to the faithful saints of St Jude’s Carlton. Copies are available via St Jude’s,

An insightful and inspiring history!

My previous Book Review of ‘People of the Risen King’ is here.

See EFAC website and earlier Essentials here.