A long life well lived

Beryl BrayBeryl Bray
8 December 1922 – 12 June 2016

At the age of 10, Beryl Bray was appointed as secretary for the Junior Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church in East Maryborough in 1932. At the end of 2012, Beryl resigned from the St Stephen’s Church Council in Wodonga saying “… I have enjoyed my association with all members of the committees I have served with, but at 90 years of age it’s time to withdraw.”

Beryl was born in Maryborough, Victoria, on 8 December 1922 and died in Wodonga on 12 June 2016 aged 93. In her 80 years of involvement on church committees, Beryl contributed extensively at the congregational level as well as being active on presbytery committees. Beryl had been on the Sunday school auxiliary and a member of nearly every committee and board of the Presbyterian, and later Uniting, Church including selection committees for ministers, property and finance, business and strategy, reviews and consultations. At aged five she joined the Presbyterian Sunday School in East Maryborough, and at 16 became a choir member and joined the Presbyterian Girls’ Fellowship.

After her marriage to Nelson and his return from war service, the couple moved to Wodonga in 1954 and she joined the local church. Up until the middle of 1966 the church was run by men, but then three women became members of the board of management. Beryl was one of them. Beryl was elected for three years and quickly became secretary of the board.

It was not until 1968 that the Victorian Assembly of the Presbyterian Church allowed women as elders and, in 1969, Beryl was nominated but didn’t feel confident enough to take on this role. After much encouragement from members of the session she agreed and, in 1971, became the first female elder (Presbyterian) in Wodonga, a position she carried into the Uniting Church. In 1973 Beryl became the first woman member of the North East Presbytery and was session clerk and presbytery clerk at different times. She was the only woman in Victoria to serve as session clerk prior to Union. After Union, Beryl continued to serve the Uniting Church.

In Wodonga, Beryl has served as secretary of the parish elders and parish council, was an honorary lay preacher, secretary of parish property and finance committees, and fete treasurer for nearly 30 years. She was active in presbytery on selection committees, reviews and consultations. Beryl also represented the Wodonga Uniting Church on the Albury/Wodonga Development Corporation’s Church and Community Committee.

In the wider community Beryl was involved in school mothers’ clubs, parents’ associations, tuckshop, toy library and the Rechabite Lodge.

Beryl loved people and always made time to talk, listen and give advice when it was called upon. She was living in her own home and active until her death.

Beryl’s husband, Nelson, children Tony and Sandra, and her grand-daughter have supported her always throughout her active life of volunteering in the community and the church. They will miss her.

Beryl’s contribution to the church has been far-reaching and ground-breaking for women. Today many positions are held by women but this was not always the case and Beryl Bray was a fine example of discipleship and leadership to the generations that follow. Thanks be to God for a long life well lived.

Adrienne Dyall
Church Council Chairperson
St Stephen’s Uniting Church Wodonga

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