The Rev. Simon Hansford has been elected to become the Moderator in September 2017. He brings a wealth of experience to the role as a Minister and leader in the Uniting Church, currently serving as Minister at Tamworth Southside Congregation.
“My call to ordained ministry has always been about serving the whole Church and has not been constrained to the placement in which the call was focussed,” Rev. Hansford said, during his personal statement to members of Synod.
His experience in ministry has taken him from Sydney’s North Shore to Tamworth (where he is minister at Southside Congregation), and various places in between. “Sharing in ministry teams in Dubbo and Queanbeyan helped me to appreciate the challenges of working with diversity — older and younger ministry agents, experienced rural practitioners, city-fresh ordinands, gifted youth workers and internationally experienced mission agents who were wise after arduous journeys.”
“There is a time to keep silent,” he explained. “There is a time to speak. I have learned, and continue to learn, about listening to the voices of joy, of pain, of experience, as I work to interpret our lives in the hope of the gospel.”
Proclaiming our hope in Christ
Rev. Hansford grew up in Sydney and attended the United Theological College at North Parramatta. His first placement was Dubbo. “I arrived in March 1991 and stayed for 12 years,” he said. “Dubbo was a wonderful place and a great ecumenical experience. Tremendous links were forged with Peter Dahaner [from the Anglican Church] and [Catholic priest] Carl Mackander.”
After leaving Dubbo, Rev. Hansford spent three years at Queanbeyan. He worked for the Uniting Church Presbytery in north-western NSW for seven years before becoming the minister at Southside Uniting Church in Tamworth in 2012. Rev. Hanford and his wife Fiona have two daughters. Rachel, 23, is in her fourth year of medicine, and Miriam, who will be 21 this year, is in her final year of university study and plans to become a social worker.
Rev. Hansford believes it is important for the Church to be heard on issues including same-sex marriage, asylum seekers and the debate about coal seam gas (CSG).
“We proclaim our hope in Christ, because of the world around us, not despite it,” said Rev. Hansford. “I think the Uniting Church in Australia has worked out how to speak in a very diverse and rapidly changing world.
“Often the church is heard to be judgemental, or accusatory, or obscure, and none of those help. We all need to be able to articulate hope and justice in a way that makes sense in the world.
“The issue of asylum seekers, in all its breadth and depth, is important and we need to speak about it with a coherent voice.”
Rev. Hansford said the issue of CSG was “very hard” and had “radicalised” people who would never see themselves as being radical.
“It is very difficult when people see their land and important aquifers being threatened,” he said. “Personally, I have friends who are lying in front of bulldozers and another friend who is driving the equipment that is clearing the land.”
Finding our new way forward
Rev. Hansford recently told the Northern Daily Leader he had “about 1000 goals” he’d like to achieve when he is Moderator. He also said he had a hard act to follow, as Rev. Myung Hwa Park is “an amazing woman” who has been a powerhouse of action and witness for the Church.
In accepting the role at Synod, Rev. Hansford revealed how his children’s perspective would help to shape his approach to being Moderator. “I was thinking about our daughters – Rachel and Miriam – and how they are children of a new Uniting Church. Looking for how that might be in the world — our feet in one place, our hearts in another and our heads in a new space — and what that means for me being a Moderator in that kind of Church.”
“Thank you for this honour, this challenge and this privilege,” Rev. Hansford told the Synod gathering. “I look forward to being part of our Church in the years ahead, finding our new way forward in the grace of Jesus Christ.”
Rev. Park prayed for Rev. Hansford and his appointment. “Gracious God, thank you for guiding and leading us in this discernment. You have given us wonderful people [with] more than willingness — they have passion, commitment and experience.“
(Pictured from left to right) Fr Stephen Bevans, General Secretary, Rev. Dr Andrew Williams, the Moderator, Re. Myung Hwa Park, Diane Torrens (UAICC NSW/ACT Regional Chairperson and Moderator Elect, Rev. Simon Hansford.