In appreciation of Rev. Simon Hansford

In appreciation of Rev. Simon Hansford

On your blog site Simon, is a post about one of your days as Moderator.

It was a Thursday.

On this Thursday, you started the day sitting at St Stephen’s with doctors and politicians, the Executive Director of Uniting, and with drug users. All gathered to celebrate two decades of care and ministry at the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre. At the end of the service, you helped to hang a banner of hearts across the façade of Parliament House before returning to other work.

You headed back to the Synod office to meet with student leaders from the Uniting Church schools to discuss matters important to them – consent, climate change and the environment, and mental health issues.

Later in the day you gathered with a diverse community of people for an Iftar meal, receiving the hospitality of the Affinity Intercultural Foundation. It was a space, you noted, “where difference and shared hopes are held together”.

“It was not just one of those days, [you wrote], but one that helps define who we are as church, and how our discipleship is shaped for the task before us”.

This story of your Thursday is a story of our Uniting Church, you said. A day engaged in conversation with the community. A day with politicians and priests, and with those ensnared by the challenges of life, or emerging from its injustices.

You finished your blog with these words:

“We are called to be in the midst of things. It is here that we bear witness to our hope in Jesus and offer that hope to others with whom we share our lives. As disciples of Jesus, we are in conversation with our community, articulating hope, embodying justice. Every day.”  

Simon, it seems you have been quite busy over the past 6 years. You have spent many hours travelling between Tamworth and the Synod office in Pitt Street, visiting and preaching in congregations across NSW and the ACT, and of course attending many (many) meetings. You will also go down in history as the Moderator who led us during the Covid era. However, it’s your pastoral and prophetic work on behalf of the church, seen through this day-in-the-life snapshot, that may well be the most significant legacy of your time as Moderator.

You have done an exceptional job at offering a prophetic voice and pastoral leadership not only to the people and congregations of the Synod, but also to the wider church and community. You’ve offered, on our behalf, significant support to the excellent work of Uniting on drug reform. You’ve spoken, on behalf of us all, against racial abuse; in support of those who are marginalized including people from the LGBTIQ community; with Wesley Mission in favour of gambling reform; and for women’s rights around pregnancy termination. Speaking on these important matters has been a significant way of assisting and encouraging expression of our hope in Jesus Christ, as well as offering challenge because of that same hope. Through your hope-fueled leadership you have reminded us of our call to share God’s love and Christ’s hope because we are God’s people filled with the Spirit of Love.  

The ministry you have offered in this role Simon, has modelled for us the hope of Jesus Christ. You have offered ministry that lives into the vision you have held before us, of a church seeking to engage our community with the gospel. Your evangelical heart combined with your deep understanding and expression of God’s love and value of all people – making you a bit of a pangelical really – has been widely expressed through your ministry as Moderator.  You have reminded us that “hope lifts our heads, not fear”.

Your time as Moderator has come with personal sacrifice and cost. You have given of yourself to serve Jesus Christ through the church. We would like to acknowledge that this sacrifice was not just offered by yourself, but also Fiona as she supported you and discovered the struggles and joys of living at home by herself as you traveled around the Synod, living out the ministry of Moderator that you were called to.

We think particularly now as you transition away from the role of Moderator. It takes time for a freight train traveling at full speed to come to a stop. And the pace you have lived the last 6 years will take some time to slow down from. We hope there is petrol in the lawn mower, sheep ready to be sheared and many small maintenance tasks lined up to allow you to burn up some of the momentum that you have left from your time as Moderator. We are mindful too of your need to rest over the next few months. We pray you find time and space to stop, breathe and listen to the voice of God for your next step in ministry.

As you move into a time of rest and discernment, we thank you for your ministry with us, for the leadership you have offered, for modelling to us what is to gather at the waterhole rather than to farm by building fences, and for encouraging us to proclaim the hope we have found in Jesus Christ, through our worship, witness and service.

As we farewell you from your role as Moderator we pray for you, and for Fiona, as you discern God’s call for your ongoing ministry. And we pray for ourselves, that we will continue to be a church that seeks to lift our heads in hope in order that we may share the gospel of Christ and the love of God for the sake of the whole creation.

And so, on behalf of The Uniting Church in Australia Synod of NSW.ACT, Uniting and the people and communities we serve, we offer our thanks and gratitude to Simon for the ministry he has offered during his time as Moderator.

Rev. Nicole Fleming and Rev. Richard Harris, Chaplains to the Moderator


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