The Right Reverend Rob Gillion – 10th Bishop of Riverina
Bishop Rob Gillion was Consecrated Enthroned and Installed as the 10th Bishop of Riverina at St Alban’s Cathedral, Griffith, on Friday 15th August 2014 by the Archbishop of Sydney Archbishop Glenn Davies.Bishop Rob joins our Diocese all the way from the Diocese of London, England. He and his wife Janine both share a love for the arts, teaching, helping those in need, and of course, sharing the ministry and love of God with all.
Bishop Rob’s path to becoming 10th Bishop of the Diocese of Riverina
As told by Bishop Rob himself…
My life leading to my coming to Australia as your Bishop has been diverse, exciting and fulfilling.
Born to clergy parents in rural Norfolk, my brother, sister and I grew up in rectories nurtured by loving parents who brought us to an understanding of country ways. It was through their endless capacity for loving, giving, self sacrifice and joy, that we were shown their commitment and passion for serving God.
I was fortunate to attend Norwich school where I sang for my education as a Cathedral Chorister. A good solid start you may say, but even as a teenager I rebelled against the plans the school had for me. However, with my fathers blessing and his words of “follow your dreams” I ventured forth to do just that at a Drama school in London, culminating in gaining professional engagements for the following twelve years as a professional Actor. It was while at Drama School I met Janine who was also studying for the professional stage and teaching qualifications. On her graduation we married in her home village of Cumnor in Oxford.
I enjoyed every aspect of my life as an actor, whether in Shakespeare productions, repertory theatre touring Britain, as a film actor or mime, dancer, presenter and for one brief spell, a stand up comedian; I loved the work and was fulfilled.During this period Janine taught, acted and gave birth to our first son, Alexander.
After twelve years, I began to hear God’s call on me to serve him as a priest in the church and once having heard the call, I had no regrets about leaving the stage to engage in studying theology at Salisbury and Wells. I was ordained in Norwich Cathedral, where I had sung as a chorister all those years ago, and our new life began. The other great event at this time was the birth of our second son, Arthur.
People have often asked me how I felt about leaving such a varied and exciting life as an actor; the truth is, that life being an Anglican priest has been even more varied and exciting.
I don’t believe there is anything more exciting than seeing God at work in the world and in the life of his people. Janine and I have been given the opportunity to be witness to this in a wide variety of places and communities.
From rural ministry in Norfolk, to suburban Richmond in Surrey, international Hong Kong, city ministry in London and finally rural Australia. Each of these places and the people we have served hold a special place in our hearts and we remember each ministry with tremendous love and thanks to God. Each was unique, but people are people the whole world over and in each community we shared the love of God in Christ through the many joys, sorrows, challenges, milestones and changes that life presented to us and the people wherever we were.
In my early days as an actor I trained to present the character I was playing using many techniques to help me step into their shoes; discovering how that character felt, the backstory that led them to feel as they did and say what they said and with no judgement, learning who they were and then presenting them with understanding to an audience. This has been invaluable to me in my life as an actor and also as a priest. May I be bold enough to suggest that is not a bad way for all of us to consider in all of our relationships one with another?
We have been blessed to have a myriad of tales to tell of God being present in miracles and joyful encounters, but as Janine and I ministered in prisons, Vietnamese refugee camps, with those struggling with addiction, within the drug ridden walled city in Hong Kong, with the isolated and lonely in both country and city, with the unemployed and young people at risk in the inner-city, we have also felt God’s presence tangible in the struggles and dark times.
And so to this next chapter and our ministry together in this the glorious Riverina region of NSW…
Janine and I travelled 14,000 km in the first three months of being your Bishop. The most important thing for me to do as your Bishop was to visit you all and get to know you. We are family and I want to walk in your shoes, whether you’re in Broken Hill, Ariah Park, Griffith, Finley, Leeton or in all places in between.
As a Diocese, we have all been made aware of the challenges of falling populations and financial straight jacketing, but what we have also discovered is something wonderful and encouraging. We have found faithful people who despite the challenges are strong in their faith, caring of each other, churches reaching out to the community and witnessing by example to their following of Christ’s teaching in their lives. I am encouraged by the desire of all the churches to find ways to do more to encourage others to join the church family, find ways to find the finances to retain their priests and fund mission and as just one example, have enjoyed several ‘Messy Church’ sessions.
We love hearing your stories of past days and celebrate the “we used to” glory days, but let us now look to the future to create new stories of transformed lives in Christ set amid his vibrant churches within the Riverina, so that our children and their children will have new stories of glory days to tell.
Whether priest in charge, a vicar, a Rector, a member of the Archbishop of Canterbury’ s College of Evangelists, a Prison Chaplain, an Area Dean or as Bishop, I have always been committed to evangelism and mission.
I invite you now to join me in both prayer and action, so that our joint voices will be heard and the Riverina sing with excitement of good news of the gospels.
With every blessing,