After four decades of service, Ian Robinson retires
After more than forty years in ministry, Rev. Dr Ian Robinson retired on 31 March 2021. Insights spoke to him shortly before his departure in February about what the future holds.
“I started full time ministry October 1980 with some studies to finish and was ordained formally Feb 1982,” he recalled.
“I recall only that my firstborn was one week old on the day. The role was more significant to me than the event.”
His first ministry was a successful church plant in one of Perth’s housing commission sites, a time that he looks back on fondly. According to Rev. Dr Robinson, the key to success there was not having a set agenda or formula for how to impart the Gospel.
From there, a key ministry was working for the NSW Synod as a Consultant for Evangelism from 1988 to 1995.
A return to congregational ministry took place in Chatswood/Willoughby from 1995 to 2003.
Returning to Perth, Rev. Dr Robinson took up doctoral studies from 2003 to 2007, with a thesis on Desert Spirituality that drew on his own experiences. He was later the Uniting Church Chaplain at the University of Western Australia rom 2008 to 2015. He recalled this as being a challenging ministry, where he was responsible for ministering to students and staff. However, he recalled fondly the relationships he developed.
In 2015, he made another trip across the Nullarbor, moving back to NSW and ACT Synod to serve as the Alan Walker Lecturer in Evangelism Mission and Leadership.
During his career, Rev. Dr Robinson was responsible for a number of books, including Makes You Wonder – Exercises that Grow Capacity in Faith Sharing and Hot Gospel: A Call and a Plan for Eco-Missiology. One of the key courses that he was responsible for developing was known as Gossiping the Gospel. This course was designed to help participants to talk about their faith in different and fresh ways that would make sense to the hearer.
His ministry was by no means confined to Australia’s shores. As well as seeing Gossiping the Gospel taken up abroad, Rev. Dr Robinson’s ministry extended to New Zealand, PNG, Tonga, Fiji, Zambia, South Africa, United Kingdom, Sudan, Israel, Jordan, South Korea, and the Phillipines.
Rev. Dr Robinson was mixed in his impression of the Uniting Church and its legacy. Having worked for the church for four decades, he believes that the church has achieved much but has neglected its mission, as set out in the Great Commission.
“People used to say often ‘we aren’t interested in putting bums on seats’ (as though the denial of the great commission was a virtue),” he said.
“The Uniting Church’s openness to change is a very great asset. If we asked ourselves to grow a shared confidence in the Gospel, congregations could double in a few years and the denomination it could triple in a decade. This has been my experience.”
Rev. Dr Robinson said that he will continue to speak at conferences, write the odd article, and lead pilgrimage trips to the desert. The town he has moved to does not have a Uniting Church, and he said that he has no plans to plant one.
“I may start a mission team,” he said.