By Nigel Tapp
Ian Joyce remembers clearly the day he first knew he was going to marry his wife, Fay.
“I was walking home in (the North-West Tasmanian city) Burnie and it just hit me that I could not live without her,” Mr Joyce said as he held his wife’s hand at their dining table.
May 8 will mark the couple’s 65th wedding anniversary, a true partnership which has blessed them with seven children, 24 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. Mrs Joyce put their long marriage down to a willingness to nurture the love that they shared at the very beginning of their time together.
“You have to honour one another and accept that you are two people so there will be differences,” Mr Joyce said.
Their strong Christian faith has been very much the bedrock of their relationship
“When we say ‘Jesus is Lord’ it is with a sense of knowing he has shown us God in a powerful way. He has also taught us how to accept, love and honour each other,” Mrs Joyce said.
Mr Joyce is a former president of the Baptist Union of Tasmania, a trained Lifeline counsellor and spent about 10 years as an associate pastor at the Burnie Baptist Church. When he retired from his optometry practice in 1992 the Joyces moved to the New South Wales outback mining town of Broken Hill, located 1160 km from Sydney.
Mrs Joyce had just been approached to become the director of the local Lifeline office and Mr Joyce planned to enjoy the sojourn as a house husband and volunteer counsellor with the organisation. As with many things in their faith journey, God had other plans.
A year into their stay, the Broken Hill Baptist Church was seeking a new pastor and approached Mr Joyce about filling the role, which he readily accepted.
“It was a bit of a surprise,” Mr Joyce said.
“Some people talk about God leading them, but for us looking back we can see when God has lead us even though we probably did not realise it at the time,” Mrs Joyce said.
Mr Joyce’s ministry centred on helping people to work together. He sought to do this in Broken Hill by encouraging his church to consider how it would connect with an Aboriginal family if one chose to worship at the church. In a town where there was a divide between Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals it was a real challenge for his flock but one they accepted.
“Not long after that an Aboriginal family did join us and when we went back a few years ago that family was still there and others (Aboriginal families) had joined as well,” Mr Joyce said.
Despite thriving in the ministerial role, Mr Joyce never regretted choosing optometry as a career.
“I saw it as a calling as well so I stuck with it.”
The couple retired to Penguin in 2000 and joined the local Uniting Church. Mrs Joyce said it was an easy decision given they live next door. Both have become integral members of the congregation, serving on the church council and taking a variety of roles within the life of the church. Until recently Mr Joyce led a monthly service at the Coroneagh Park aged care facility.
The Joyces believe that people, particularly the young, are taking a different approach to faith issues today and the Church must be open to discussions in a new paradigm.
“The culture today is that people want to explore what is out there and the church needs to allow people to explore their faith and not dictate from the pulpit,” Mr Joyce said.
Mrs Joyce has noticed the couple’s grandchildren becoming increasingly willing to discuss faith issues.
“They want to talk about faith and that is a delight but too often the church does not really listen to young people talk about where they are. They, instead, want to tell young people what they should be,” Mrs Joyce said.
“And that does not work.”