Norm’s 70 years of service

Norm Wearne (centre) with his wife Ruth and lay preacher Alastair Davison at the service acknowledging Norm’s 70 years as a lay preacher. Photo: Hayley Rose

By Norm Wearne

The following are some memories of the 70 years that have passed since my accreditation as a lay preacher at the age of 20.

I need to be careful, because I resonate with Mark Twain’s confession that “the older I get, the more I remember things that aint so”.

I blame Rev Kevin Green and the people of the East Preston Methodist Church for my start as a lay preacher.

Kevin arranged a youth service, with every part to be conducted by a young person, and I was dobbed in for the sermon as a green 18-year old.

My theme was why it was important for young people to become committed Christians and, afterwards, I was surprised that people liked it, and told me I should become a lay preacher.

So I undertook part-time training at Otira Home Mission Training College in Kew.

My first six years as a lay preacher were in the Preston Methodist Circuit, where I was greatly encouraged by the Superintendent Minister, Rev Reg Howie, and a succession of probationer ministers, particularly Eric Derbyshire, Kevin Green, and Frank Thomas.

The most lasting memory was at the Preston Methodist Church when I preached on Christian pacifism and conscientious objection to armed service.

My wife Ruth and I settled in Diamond Creek in 1960, so the local people have put up with me for 64 years.

In the early days, before preachers commonly used the Lectionary, I often took the same sermon to the six churches in the area.

For five years from 1990, my last employment before retirement was as the Victorian Synod’s development/bequest officer.

My role was to emphasise the value of the Uniting Church Development Fund, and to encourage both specific and general bequests to the Church.

I was privileged to visit 144 individual churches throughout Victoria, mostly with a similar sermon.

For many years I have been on a quest pursuing Biblical humour.

Not only did I find humour in the books of Ruth and Jonah, but the parables of Jesus are a treasure trove when looked at with a receptive mind.

I prepared a sermon, and even wrote an “incomplete” 10-page essay, somewhat provocatively titled, ‘The Jocularity of Jesus – the Witty Trouble-Maker from Nazareth’.

I have conducted a dozen funeral/memorial services, for my godfather, also friends from church, Probus club and community.

A much-appreciated response from a church friend after her beloved husband’s memorial service was, “Norm, I never thought I would say that I enjoyed a funeral, but I did enjoy today”.

One day our previous minister, Warnock Lowry, said quite out of the blue, “Norm, would you give the eulogy at my funeral?”

I was speechless, then I said, “yes Warnock, on two conditions. One, that you give me a written summary of your life story, and, two, that you put it off for 10 or fifteen years”.

Within a week he gave me a 12-page summary of his life, and I fulfilled my promise to him 18 years later.

I am grateful to the Synod and Yarra Yarra Presbytery Lay Preachers’ Associations over the years for the refresher conferences and meetings they have provided, and I have also found the Dalton McCaughey Library invaluable.

I have fond memories of preaching at the Maldon Uniting Church in the 1980s.

My grandfather, Richard Thomas Wearne, was a local preacher there until 1919, when the family moved to Preston.

My father was born in Maldon in 1906 and he also preached as a “helper” in Preston.

My most recent sermon was titled ‘Good News’.

I linked the Good News with the consequent “abundant life”, noting music as a perhaps unexpected example.

Did music have any meaning for Jesus, his disciples and followers?

There is a small clue. Those at the Last Supper sang a psalm, probably Psalm 118, as their final act before going out into the night to sleep under the stars on the Mount of Olives.

For centuries the church has provided and supported inspiring music, and it is a valued part of the abundant life which follows the Good News.

Share Button

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *