General Secretary marks 25 years in ministry
When Rev. Jane Fry, NSW and ACT Synod’s general secretary was ordained as a Uniting Church minister 28 November 1995, it marked an important moment in a journey that began in another denomination. This week marks 25 years since that early point.
Rev. Jane Fry has served the Uniting Church as a minister, prison chaplain, the Synod’s Associate Secretary, and more recently, the General Secretary.
Initially, however, she was in another denomination where being ordained was beyond her reach.
Rev. Fry told Insights that her journey to the Uniting Church began with, “[A] huge decision that eventually changed the direction of my life.”
“I was baptised as an adult and seeking baptism was very much a response to what I received as a call,” she said.
“I didn’t at that stage understand the nature of that call and I probably (naively) hoped that baptism would, in some way, automatically make that clearer.”
“It didn’t, but it did begin a process of questioning to explore what it meant. Initially, responses to my questions were quite clear and usually couched in terms of being called to read the Bible, pray, engage in Christian fellowship, and worship regularly: a discipline which still grounds my life. When my questions persisted, the answers changed to suggestions that perhaps I was called to lead the Sunday School morning teas? (Anyone who knows me well knows what a daft suggestion that is!)”
“While entirely well-meaning, I eventually found these answers inadequate, and I started to wonder whether there was a place for me in the church (not helped when I was asked to leave a Bible study group because I asked too many questions!)”
“My uncertainty and confusion grew – I remember this as an acutely dark, painful and lonely experience. A chance encounter at church one day with the bishop who had confirmed me led to weekly conversations over two years exploring what baptism meant, what discipleship encompassed and eventually, to both our great surprise, to the bishop telling me that he believed I was called to ministry but that it couldn’t be in the Anglican church. He encouraged me to take on theological study at UTC and the rest is history. Despite that, however, having attended a Church of England boarding school as a child, the language and rhythm of the prayer book is still written on my heart.”
Looking back at the past two-and-a-half decades, Rev. Fry told Insights, “It’s not easy to talk about ‘highlights.’”
“I treasure many private memories of encounters with people at significant moments of their lives that I’ve been privileged to share with them. I’m grateful for mind and heart-expanding learning experiences, like chaplaincy at Long Bay gaol (a bit hard to describe it as a ‘highlight.’)”Rev. Jane Fry
“I’ve grown more and more to appreciate the deep and abiding mystery of the church and its ability to lift itself out of the mundane in unpredictable, surprising and completely uncontrollable ways. I really, really enjoyed my time studying at UTC – it opened worlds for me and I count it as the best academic learning experience I ever had (I’ve had a few!)”
“I remain profoundly grateful for both the teachers and the learning community that I experienced during that time.”
Rev. Fry’s advice to those just beginning their ministry was simple.
“Bad things will happen if you neglect the fundamentals,” she said.
“Read the Bible, pray, engage in Christian fellowship and worship regularly. Especially prayer.”