Back to first principles

david pargeterAfter 17 years working for synod, the last 10 as executive director of the Commission for Mission, Rev David Pargeter is, in some ways, starting again.

“I’m going back to what called me into ministry, on the ground and with the poor and the left behind,” Mr Pargeter said.

“I know that’s a cliché but that’s the truth. If the church isn’t working in that space then we don’t have the right to be operating.”

Mr Pargeter, who spent his first six years at synod as director of the Justice and International Mission unit said he was most proud of the interfaith, intercultural and responsible travel work he had done.

He stressed the importance of the church being outward focussed and “not preoccupied with itself”, which was something we could learn from the ministry of Jesus.

“It seemed to me the right time to move,” Mr Pargeter said.

“It’s been a good ministry. I’ve tried to function with integrity. I’ve tried to stay true to the gospel that has a bias towards the left behind and the ignored, that’s always been a key theme.”

Mr Pargeter’s new ministry is with St Kilda Parish Mission.

Mr Pargeter was farewelled from his synod work with a well-attended service of release at 130 Lt Collins St.

Speakers at the service included Commission for Mission chair Rev Greg Crowe, Sri Lanka Invites fellowship minister Rev Dr Rajitha Perera Commission, CTM executive director Rev Dr Jenny Byrnes, director of the Justice & International Mission unit Dr Mark Zirnsak and Commission for Mission deputy chair Rev John Rickard.

Dr Perera spoke of how Mr Pargeter had instigated Harmony Day, a unique example where people deriving from all of Sri Lanka’s recently warring communities join together in choir singing and other celebrations.

Mr Rickard said that he came as a mate who has known Mr Pargeter for 20 years and had preceded him as executive director of Commission for Mission.

“David Pargeter has always, and I mean always, been a man of great vision,” he said.

Mr Rickard talked about the concept of self-emptying love as epitomised by Jesus as a model for the church.

“David, it is my view that you have received a lion’s dose of this self-emptying love. You have offered yourself in a selfless way,” he said.

Mr Pargeter, began ministry with the Baptist church after migrating from Britain to Australia at the age of 19. However, he said “on one cold wet morning in the Latrobe Valley” he read the Uniting Church’s Inaugural Assembly’s Statement to the Nation in 1977.

It was “love at first sight”.

“I remember putting that paper down and saying to myself ‘That’s the church I want to be part of’,” he said.

“All I can say is that I have tried, as best I can, to embody those aspirations of the Uniting Church when it was inaugurated.”

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