At the end of Glenroy Uniting Church’s Sunday service on 14 October worship team leader Ray Averill announced that this would be “hanging up his preaching boots” after more than 60 years as a lay preacher.
“At 88 years of age I look back on a wonderful journey,” Ray said.
At the service Ray’s Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) and Certificate of Appreciation from the UCA were on display.
He was awarded the OAM in 2008 ‘for services to the Uniting Church and the community’.
In 2016 Ray was presented with the Certificate of Appreciation for “60 years faithful service to the Uniting Church” but in reality he had been doing it for a few years longer than that.
Ray began sharing his faith in the West Brunswick Methodist Circuit in the early 1950s.
There were three churches and one minister, two services in each place every Sunday so there were opportunities for local preachers to fill the gaps.
Ray and two other young Christians, full of energy and evangelical zeal, formed a group which filled some of those commitments.
While one of the trio became a Baptist minister, Ray went on to qualify for registration as a local preacher.
When Ray joined the staff of Scripture Union Victoria in 1954 he had more opportunities to take services in various denominations, in many places throughout Victoria.
“Some years ago I counted up more than 600 worship services I had conducted,” Ray said.
“In those days local/lay preachers did not receive any remuneration or even ‘petrol money’.”
“Then there were the Sunday school anniversaries. Do people remember them?”
Ray does not have an accurate record of how many of these he conducted, using puppets, flannelgraphs and numerous other aids to get the gospel stories across to children of all ages.
For the past few years Ray has been ministering locally, leading one of the three Glenroy UC worship teams and in his “retirement” he has volunteered to keep contributing as a consultant.