23 August 1919 – 12 June 2017
Ron Blackwood was born in Dimboola, Victoria on 23 August 1919. By his crib his parents, Rev William and May Blackwood, dedicated him to the ministry of the church. Ron was told this just prior to taking up his first ministry appointment in the Presbyterian Church, Stanley, Tasmania where he was ordained and inducted in April 1944.
On his retirement in 1985 he said:
I was conscious of the fact that I was called to undertake certain tasks which I did not regard as those for which I had any particular talent. One of our teachers used to say our prayer to God must be, not for tasks more suited to our strength but for strength more suited to our tasks. I found this prayer was answered by Christ, the Head of the church.
Brought up in Mildura with his brother, Alan, and sisters, Jean and Heather, Ron finished his schooling at the Geelong College. While a resident at Ormond College, Ron completed an arts degree and preparation for ordained ministry. Partway through his tertiary education he became a home missionary for a year in Lakes Entrance. There he met Jean Baker of Bairnsdale, a 23-mile (37km) push-bike ride away. They married at the conclusion of his studies and moved to Tasmania.
In 1947 Ron was called to St David’s, Newtown, Geelong. He was also part-time chaplain to the Morongo Girls College. The baby boomers were expanding the Sunday Schools. In the early 1950s tuberculosis struck the family – first Roger, their eldest, and then Jean. Both survived but Ron needed support to manage the crisis. His parents joined the household and two-year-old Alison was cared for by May Hazeldine, mother of Revs Bob and Jim Hazeldine.
Ron was called to Wahroonga, a northern suburb of Sydney in 1957. His responsibilities included a part-time chaplaincy at Knox Grammar School. The baby boomers were now joining the youth groups. His three children completed their schooling at this time.
A call to Gardiner in 1969 saw Ron and Jean return to Victoria. The baby boomers were getting married. Saturdays were busy with weddings, often several on the same day. The most was five.
These were the years leading into Church union. Ron was the inaugural chairperson of the Nepean Presbytery. Sunday Schools were shrinking so to address the nurturing of young families Ron had his congregation join a small band of innovative churches. They radically changed their family worship services into high participatory events that were called ‘worship in the round’. This creative expression of Christian nurture has been rebranded in recent times as ‘Messy Church’.
In 1982 the synod appointed Ron to Mildura where he had grown up and from where he retired. Again, as presbytery chairperson, he provided wise council across the Mallee.
Ron loved music and was closely involved in organ building. In Geelong the organ was rebuilt. In Wahroonga and Gardiner the organs were replaced. He was chaplain at Knox when Ronald Sharp’s first organ was built in the chapel.
He gave leadership to the wider church and chaired the Joint Board of Christian Education, which provided most of the Christian education material for the church. He wrote for devotional publications and prepared more than 30 reflection programs for radio and television.
Jean and Ron enjoyed a long and happy retirement in Kiama on the NSW south coast. Jean died in June 2008. Ron died 12 June 2017. He is survived by Roger (a Sydney accountant), Peter (retired minister in Melbourne), and Alison (retired palliative care nurse in Albion Park), nine grandchildren, and 16 great grandchildren.
Written by Peter Blackwood