Flying over northern South Australia towards Alice Springs in May 1956 was adventure enough. There were only a few passengers so one could look out both sides of the Douglas DC3 aircraft and see the dry but interesting landscape slowly pass by. I was 17, going to my ‘job’ away from home in Melbourne and flying towards a lifetime of faith and adventure; but more of that anon.
This 1st step was to be the ‘cook’ for the staff and children of Griffiths House. In hindsight I was not up to the task but it led me into the insight and faith of two remarkable people in John Flynn and Harry Griffiths and into the guidance of two great ministers in the Revs Aub Quick and Arch Grant. Under their guidance I was to become member no. 66 in the first member role book of the John Flynn Memorial Congregation of the United Church of North Australia. Though I did not yet have a driver’s licence, I learned to drive both in town and on bush tracks. I saw the start of the Old Timers village (too far out of town some said) and experienced the start of the development of the other side of the railways towards Flynn’s grave (I missed the Melbourne Olympic Games).
Fast forward to 2000, by now I had been a Methodist and then Uniting Church minister for 35 years. Ordained in 1965, married to Nessie in 1967 we ministered in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. At age 60 we were coming to the end of a placement at Dandenong, Victoria. Ever since that early Alice Springs experience I believed that my call had been that at least some of my ministry should be back in the Centre. I had almost given up until our name came up against Alice Springs and the John Flynn settlement. The rest is history; we ministered there for five years. By then our children were all grown up and scattered around the world so we were free to answer their call to be there ministry family.
We were soon on the Old Timers Auxiliary helping with the running of that famous fete. I came to be on the council of St. Philip’s College (having been ‘cook’ at Griffiths House I saw this as a promotion). And surprise above all I was elected Moderator of the Northern Synod of our church, (Deaconess Lorna Stevenson of Old Timers became my chaplain). In that position we had many adventures including welcoming a staff conference for Frontier Services to the centre; representing the Synod at Assembly; being on the Nurses Board for the Territory and travelling to many places from Broome to Ernabella, as well as hosting local and overseas visitors (O and we missed the Sydney Olympics)!
John Flynn was born at Moliagul to a school teach family. His father was a Methodist Local preacher, when they moved to Footscray they attended the Presbyterian Church. From there John became a Presbyterian Minister. How appropriate that it is the Uniting Church Frontier Services that celebrate 100 years of God’s call to him to care for the people ‘beyond the furthest fences’.