Diocese Farewells Bishop Rob and Janine Gillion

On Saturday the 21st of July atSt Albans Cathedral Griffith athanksgiving service was held tofarewell Bishop Rob and JanineGillion. Parishioners, friends andClergy came from far and wide tosay goodbye.

Neville Bamblett of BidgeeBoxing Narrandera gave theWelcome to Country.The Most Reverend GlennDavies, the Metropolitan of NewSouth Wales, gave a blessing toBishop Rob and Janine. The Bishopof Bathurst, The Right ReverendIan Palmer, also attended.The Sermon preached byBishop Rob follows: The Diocese of Riverinaencourages ministry of Biblicalproportions both Old Testament andNew.

The magnificent skies, the richred earth, the deserts and plainsand the ever unfolding experiencesof God’s creation.

But we have also experiencedplagues of flies, locusts and mice;faced drought, flood and fire; andtravelled almost as far as Abrahamand Moses! Everywhere in this vastDiocese we have encountered smallyet beautiful pioneering, courageoushope-filled communities of faithfulChristians from Griffith toTibooburra, from Tocumwal to LakeCargelligo.

The Diocese of Riverina reflectsthe pastoral nature of Jesus asShepherd of His flock and serving aprecious corner of God’s vineyard.As your Bishop, I have been given ashepherd’s staff like Moses. A symbolof servant leadership.

“What is in your Hand?” asksGod of Moses. “A rod”. All He hadin His hand was a simple Shepherdsstaff. A dry dead stick. But to God itwas much more than that.

When I was consecrated as Bishopin this very Cathedral by ArchbishopGlenn I was handed a ‘dry dead stick’albeit a rather ornate Crozier. Later,I was presented with a travellingShepherds Crook which happens tobe the same age as me and hasaccompanied me everywherethroughout our vast Diocese visitingmy far flung flock!

I have seen despair turn to hope.I’ve seen the care and compassion ofrural folk supporting each other. I’veseen the church community being abeacon of light. Hope rising.The rural church as part of thebody of Christ has a function andcontribution to make to the life of thewider church. First, it bears witnessto the power of belonging and theimportance of supportivecommunities. Small companies ofpeople gather as God’s Church inlittle churches, unpretentious hallsand homes to utter a prayer, to sing awell known hymn and participate inworship recognising Jesus in theirmidst. When worship is over theydiscuss the weather, the crops, thestate of the markets, the health ofsomeone in the community, theprogress of the kids at school and thearrival of newcomers to the district.They are people who have come tovalue one another and to accept eachother’s differences.

The rural church points us to anidea that is near to the heart of God. The emphasis of the Christiancommunity is not on status or size.The sheep that was lost was soughtsimply because it was loved. In this,our far flung flock, the ChristianChurch should be the last to leavethe Bush. It is called rather to findnew and creative ways to sustainthe spiritual life of the few whomake it their home. In God’seconomy there are no little peopleand no little places. His grace andHis love would reach out to findall, to include all, renew all and toserve all. The purpose of a diocesesuch as this, I suggest in part, is toshare experiences and celebrateour ministry to the often isolatedand depressed. Hope springseternal.

We are called to nurture the seeds of goodness in the small places.

So I have carried a shepherd’sstaff into my ministry. I have lovedgoing into our schools andexplaining its meaning. It has, forme, specific functions; to discipline,to rescue, protect and hold me firm.Discipleship and Salvation!! Loveand discipline. To remind us of Jesusthe Good Shepherd and Saviour.Moses held his personality and hisgifts in his hand. His shepherd’s staffto guide, lead and protect the sheep.He was after all a Shepherd in theearly days. His staff used to supporthim and help him climb up and downthe steep mountains. But still it wasjust a dry dead stick. But when thestick was handed over to God itbecame a living thing. He took hislife in his hands when he was told topick up the snake by its tail. We knowthat’s not a good thing to do. But Godchallenged him to trust him, to defeatthe enemy and glorify God. God tookthat insignificant stick and literallyworked wonders with it. Everythingwe hold in our hands is either aburden or a blessing. For the mostpart, this office of Bishop of Riverinahas been a blessing.

Moses climbed that mountain that day with a dead stick. He carried it around for many years thinking to himself perhaps that’s all he would be, a Shepherd keeping another man’s sheep. Sheep belonging his father-inlaw, Jethro. Moses had a calling to be the Shepherd of God’s flock. It was good training. God was determined to equip him for God doesn’t call the equipped he equips the called. I have held on to that truth throughout my life and ministry. I commend that thought to all of you. God invites us to use our skills and talents in His service.

I have often been nervous to use my acting skills for ministry, especially as in my ordination Bible was the quote Preach not yourself but Jesus Christ as Lord! As I toured around the Diocese with my one man show ‘The Visit’ I was so thrilled that so many said that Jesus was at the very centre of the drama. All our gifts should be used in His service. I was also clothed in Bishop’s attire at my Consecration. As a one – time actor some might say I love my props and I love dressing up. The truth is that an actor always dresses appropriately to the character he is portraying.

Once again I took it to heart when after my first sermon in a small country parish in Norfolk a lady shook my hand at the end of the service and said,

“I understand you were an actor before you were ordained?” “Yes that’s right”.

“So we won’t know whether you are telling the truth of just pretending!”

“I Hope we’ll get to know each other, and you will judge for yourself”.

Authenticity is key to any ministry. I also relate my Bishop’s clothing to the armour of God which as a Christian I need to put on at the beginning of every day. The helmet of Salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the shield of faith, the shoes, of peace, and the sword of the Spirit? to break through the darkness to bring the light of Christ. Finally we add the polish of prayer. All of which we heard about in our New Testament reading. All enfolded in God’s love. The robes and props in themselves are nothing, unimportant, but like Moses’ dead stick they take on a spiritual significance when used in God’s service to tell the good news to each generation. They remind me of an aspect of servant leadership and the authority under God that has been given to me as a Christian leader. I have been so blessed by Gaynor, a parishioner here at the Cathedral, who lovingly made my ‘non crushable’ robes with skill and artistry. Her gift of ministry in her creative hands.

We are invited in Paul’s letter to the Colossians to “clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Forgive as the Lord forgives us and over all these virtues put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Of course all of the material robes can be stripped away for we came into the world naked and we will leave this world the same. But as spiritual clothes their significance remains.

Photo: Bishop Rob Gillion and The Reverend
Glenn Maytum, after the farewell service at
St Alban’s Cathedral Griffith.

Jesus was clothed before His crucifixion with a royal robe of purple and a kingly crown to mock him. But the significance was powerful, for all they left Him with was a crown of thorns and a robe of His spilt blood. The symbols of costly suffering for the sins of the whole world.

Finally, the book of Revelation reveals Jesus clothed in Glory in Heaven. Reaching out His loving hands to welcome us to abide with Him and in Him for eternity. I am invited in this service to lay up my Diocesan staff representing the office of Bishop of Riverina, but not my own Bishop’s staff, for once a Bishop always a Bishop. So here is my simple wooden staff given to me by a Scottish Shepherd many years ago. It has now been exquisitely painted by Scott Lyons, an aboriginal friend from the town I have called home – Narrandera. He has combined the staff of Moses with the snake wrapped around its stem with the Shepherd’s crook of Jesus and it will remind me of the rich culture of this land of Australia.

My challenge for us all is what has been put into our hands needs to be given to God so He can take it and turn it into an asset for His glory. What you have may seem insignificant like Moses’ dead stick, or the dead wood of a Cross. But God transformed the Cross into a symbol of His unconditional love. Jesus’ last words sum it all up. “Into thy hands I commit my spirit”. Let us give our whole selves into His hands, both in suffering and glory, and await with anticipation what life has in store for us.

For everyday is a gift from God how we live it is our gift to Him.

The following is a thank you message from
Bishop Rob and Janine Gillion

From London to The Riverina

Leaving London’s Grandeur.
Where palace, cloister, hall
Give sense of ancient history.
There comes another call.

A call to proud Australia
A vast and open land
Where skies as wide as heaven,
Cause us in awe to stand.

By day a blue so seamless
Perpetuates the skies
By night a myriad of stars
Come new to awestruck eyes.

When light at dusk is fading
As the close of winter nears
There is magic in the air
As golds and pinks appear.

Through trees, light falls in pathways.
A promise and a sign.
On brick speaks transformation
Turns mundane to divine.

Driving through the country
In farmer’s fields we see.
The colours of Australia
In canola edged with green.

The proud gum forests also
Sits in seas of emerald green
Marbled bark and shady boughs
Stand ancient and serene.

In winters of old England
Colour hides in bark and ground
But not in bold Australia
Here colour shouts out loud.

We seek no competition.
Thank God and give Him praise
For the wonder of creation
So infinite in His ways.

Poem by Janine Gillion

The Anglican Women of the
Anglican Diocese of Riverina
will be hosting the NSW Provincial
Biennial Anglican Women of
Australia Conference at St Alban
the Martyr Griffith from 17th—
19th May 2019.
Enquiries to Judith Nolan
Email: judith.nolan@bigpond.com

A Sabbatical Journey
An Edited extract from
The Very Rev Rob Harris’ Journal

I had the great pleasure of spending four days at Seminari Theoloji Malaysia (STM) attending the Short Course Intensive, ‘Dynamics of the Spiritual Life: Legacy of Henri Nouwen.’ Dr Wil Hernandez from the USA conducted the course from the 10th to 13th of April 2018. Having spent several days in Kuching, my wife Shanti and I arrived at STM and I attended the lectures from 8:00am to 6:00pm each day while Shanti has some rest and recreation. We were hosted most graciously by Principal Rev Dr Philip Siew, staying in his apartment for which we are most grateful. Over the several days, my lasting impression was of the warm welcome I received not only from the staff, but primarily from many students who during lectures and at the canteen would stop to ask me why I was at STM. They also cheerfully engaged in conversation about their own Christian journeys from which I learnt so much. I therefore had the opportunity to tell of the family connection with STM, why I came to attend the lectures and why I was spending several months on leave from my Ministry position as Dean of the Anglican Diocese of Riverina. I have been Dean of the Cathedral Parish of St Alban the Martyr Griffith for over ten years.

So what of our family connection to STM? The answer is Rev Dr Canon Steven Abbarow’s wife, Anne, and my wife Shanti, are first cousins. last year while visiting the Abbarows, Rev Canon Dr Steven invited me to consider attending one of the English Theological Education by Extension (TEE) courses. In the four days spent at STM I had many comparisons and memories of my own Theological Education. Why? Because I attended the Brisbane College of Theology (BCT). BCT is also an ecumenical college with students from the Anglican, Uniting and Catholic traditions, along with some Independent students. So at your Thursday Chapel, the fond memories came flooding back of my college days with students and faculty from varied denominations, worshipping and sharing liturgy and communion. Yes, from different faith traditions, but all bound by our love of Jesus.

I certainly appreciated the invitation from Rev Canon Steven to participate in the course as an audited student. It gave me the flexibility to just ‘be’ rather than ‘do’. Too often in our church life, we are always doing. I have, at times, preached on the Ministry of Doing and the Ministry of Being; a very Nouwen theme of a spiritual life. To be an observer and step back, relating my Ministry context to my learning, in essence was an exercise in theological reflection. I must admit that I came to the course with some practical experience in the dynamic of the spiritual life in working with my own Spiritual Director, a Roman Catholic Mercy Sister. During 2017, we studied the Nouwen text ‘The Road to Daybreak, A Spiritual Journey’. So Dr Wil’s lectures certainly reaffirmed my previous reading which Nouwen called the Trilogy of an Integrated Life, Solitude, Service and Prayer. I must say I would certainly recommend lay and clergy consider taking this or a similar course.

We are returning to Australia in May and I will resume my position as Dean but also as Diocesan Administrator and Vicar General. In doing so I take responsibility for the Diocese in the interregnum as our Bishop has now retired and we enter the process of discernment for a new ‘Shepherd’ to lead our Diocese into the future.

I go away from STM with memories of new friends and feelings of renewal and refreshment

– Rob Harris


On Sunday morning of the Diocesan Synod the 17th of June, the Ordinations of two Priests and three Deacons
were held. A joyous occasion with family and friends joining Synod representatives for the service.

Photo: Bishop Rob Gillion with the newly Ordained
Priests Jocelyn Heazlewood who will serve in the
Parish of the Rock and Kenneth Dale who will serve in
the Parish of Culcairn-Henty.

Photo: Bishop Rob Gillion with the newly Ordained Deacons, Mary-Ann Crisp who will serve in the parish of Wentworth as a Honorary Deacon, Jenifer Bedding will serve in the parish of Narrandera as a Honorary Deacon and Timothy Kelly will serve in the parish of Mulwala, Berrigan with Oaklands, as a Student Minister.

Photo: The Diocesan Synod was held in Griffith, commencing on Friday the 15th June with representatives from most of the Diocesan Parishes attending. The Diocesan Synod is the authority on all matters and things concerning the order and good government of the Diocese.