Christian adventure, a memoir by AW Pederick
Edited by Leon Pederick and Philip Pope
Review by Rev Dr Peter Swain (OAM)
Anyone who remembers Rev Alec Pederick will be surprised and full of admiration on reading the story of his challenging, adventurous, at times exciting, and most interesting and impressive life. He completed writing his memoir in 1972 just before his unexpected death at age 70, and it is a delight to read.
Alec was born into a loving Methodist family in 1902 and left school at 15 to work on his parents’ farm at Wyuna, near Kyabram, in north-eastern Victoria. Answering the call of Jesus into the Methodist ministry and faced with academic studies, Alec applied himself assiduously, trained at Queen’s College, and received his first church appointment at Zeehan, Tasmania.
Wanting to look the part, he purchased a large clerical collar. It proved to be uncomfortable, being “so high you couldn’t spit over it”. He had a fine sense of humour which shows up throughout the book. The account of Zeehan and its inhabitants is very entertaining, including amusing references to the undertaker and his horse-drawn hearse, unusual funerals, other local clergy and memorable parishioners.
He was then called to serve with Methodist Overseas Missions in New Britain and New Ireland. Taking his new wife, the former Dorothy Clarke, the memoir gives fascinating details of missionary life. After some four years, ill health brought them back to Victoria. Alec was appointed to Beaufort Circuit and then to the Methodist Home Mission Department.
After World War Two began and Japan had entered the war in December 1941, Alec was called up as an Army Chaplain and sent on active service. The chapter about his ministry with the troops fighting in New Guinea is dramatic and on occasions very moving as it describes the harsh jungle conditions, tense battles, inspiring heroism, the casualties, deaths and burials, and constant danger.
Alec recounts how, at the Battle of Bobdubi Ridge, he was badly wounded by an exploding enemy shell, and for seven days was borne on a bush stretcher by native carriers down terrifying mountainous terrain. It took a further nine days for him to reach hospital in Port Moresby.
Discharged from the army in 1944, he resumed working with Home Missions, becoming General Superintendent and residing at “Otira”, the Home Mission Training College in Kew, at which he was also principal. Having myself been a student at Otira in 1955, this section brought back many memories of tutors and tutorials, preaching class, the matron Miss Ross and her ‘lambs’, gardening duty, and meals with Mr Pederick at the head of the table.
I am sure that former students of Otira and Esperanza, the Deaconess house next door, will appreciate having memories stirred. There are amusing anecdotes of college life, with photographs of the two residences, student groups and teaching staff.
Further responsibilities followed for Alec. He became one of the first chaplains on a ship bringing British migrants to Australia. In addition to Home Missions, he was made Director of the Federal Methodist Inland Mission, and there are heartwarming references to Fred Mackay and the frontier padres, and the founding of the United Church in North Australia and John Flynn Memorial Church.
The concluding sections of this remarkable book include revealing reminiscences of prominent churchmen who were Alec’s contemporaries. Alec Pederick’s memoir is constantly surprising, full of interest, and it is a pleasure to commend it to readers.
To order a copy of the book contact: Dr Leon Pederick, 31 Sydenham Ave, Manifold Heights, Vic 3218. Tel 03 5222 8202 Email firstname.lastname@example.org