Stepping into the role of Moderator

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EVERY day, five days a week, Dan Wootton walks four kilometres to his local station and catches the train to work. As we enter into winter and the days are getting shorter, it is dark by the time Dan steps off the train at the end of the day to walk the four kilometres back home.

Dan Wootton

Dan Wootton

But the road home is so familiar to Dan, he could probably complete the trek with his eyes closed.

In a world where everyone seems so busy rushing to the next appointment, it is refreshing to speak with someone who makes an effort to find that most elusive of concepts – time.

Dan recognises that the simple act of walking each day has become something of a replenishing act, allowing him to clear his thoughts and preparing him for the next step in his journey as Moderator.

“Sometimes I can get off the train and think ‘gee, I wish I had the car, I could be straight home having my dinner in front of the fire’,” Dan said.

“But this walking for me has been a huge impact on my life. There’s nothing I can do about it but just put one step in front of the other.

“The way we do things, we finish doing one thing and we are straight into something else. But this is a gap between what I’ve just been doing and doing something else.

“People talk of it as being liminal space. The only way you can do it is do it. You have to make that space. It’s been really important for me.”

Growing up in the Presbyterian Church, in his mid-teens Dan’s parents gave him the option to stop attending church. He said that, “of course I decided not to attend regularly”. But when he was in his mid-20s, Dan felt the need to return to the Church.

“I suppose it was about the time I started going out with Kathy (Dan’s wife Kathryn). I just sort of felt an overwhelming sense of thankfulness about life.

“So I started going back to church with much more regularity.

“After we got married we became involved at Camberwell Church and Alan Reid was our minister. He had a big influence on us.”

Dan says he never actively sought the role of moderator. In fact, the opposite is more the case.

When he was first nominated for the role, he felt an obligation to honour the process, but is the first to admit he felt immense relief when the Synod voted for Isabel Thomas Dobson.

But then his name was put forward again.

“When the second nominating committee said I had been nominated again I thought: ‘I’m going to have to listen to this’. Lo and behold I was voted to be the moderator.”

Dan explains that his initial reluctance to take on the role presented him with a personal challenge.

Again, he found strength through his daily walks.

“I thought about how we pray and the Lord’s prayer – ‘Lead us not into temptation’. The temptation for me has been the level of comfort with the known. The discomfort or the dread is being prepared to do what you’re not that comfortable with.

“So this job [moderator] is really the same as jumping off the train and starting this walk to an unknown destination.

“I’ve jumped off the synod train and I’m just going to have to see where it takes me.”

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