Art, Cars, Coffee, Mission, and Mental Health.
- Written by: Rev Adam Gompertz w. Rev Dr Chris Porter
A Chat with the Scribbling Vicar
Psychiatric nurse and car designer come historic car artist, Station Chaplain to Bicester Heritage, pioneer missionary, and minister to the classic car community through the REVS meetings and REVS-Limiter online group, the scribbling vicar Reverend Adam Gompertz talks faith, mission, and mental health.
Chris: Moving from nursing to car design, ordination, and now as a pioneer minister is a rather large series of shifts. How did that come about?
Adam: I grew up with parents who were vicars, but like a lot of vicar’s kids I didn’t really think of ministry, and ended up getting into the car industry via a long and protracted process via psychiatric nursing. Once I was in the car industry it was prompted through a period of redundancy in the 2008 recession. There wasn’t an angel standing at the end of my bed with a flaming sword, saying “It’s you, it’s you.” Rather it was more that we started looking and the doors kept opening. I was accepted for the selection course— which I liken to the SAS except with more cake and less diving through windows. But between selection and hearing back, I had started at Rolls Royce Motor Cars and really had to make a choice. But at that point I had no pioneer leaning at all. I thought I would be a vicar in a country church in rural England and that was it.
While in the car industry, I had a sense that when you went to theological college you left your old life at the door and walked into a new life and suddenly turned into a priest. The problem is that I could never leave the cars behind. I never quite fitted in that way. I still loved the cars, and the whole scene. During college I started reading works on missionality and church, like The Shaping of Things to Come, and that blew my mind. The picture of what ministry could look like, and what ministry needed to look like in the age in which we were living. From then on, I started thinking rather than walking away, what could I do to go back into that community as a priest. That really started my thinking.
Chris: The automotive industry and classic cars tends to be a far more diverse space than what we see on a Sunday. How did you end up being a clergyperson in that space?
Adam: When I went and did my curacy, in a very wealthy area, the vicar said you are going to have to deal with people driving around in Ferraris and Aston Martins, and I was like “sure, fine, no problem.” Back in 2014 I asked him to do a car show in the church. We had 28 cars, opened the church, served food, and made sure everything was free so that people didn’t think we were after their money. At the end of that someone said to me “you know this is only going to get bigger” and I thought “this is it, we are done;” but sure enough we doubled in size each time we held it. Yet it was tough to grow relationships with an annual event, so we moved to a monthly Cars and Coffee meet in Shrewsbury. That first REVS group has just grown from there, and quite naturally I just fell into this pioneer role as God opened the doors bit by bit.
I had spent quite a bit of time in my teenage years trying to marry having a faith and being a car fanatic. Can you be both? Because I thought that surely cars are very materialistic. Over these years I have come to a position that, yes, you can do both; and perhaps in the church we should stop dividing ourselves up into our work life and spiritual life etc. I feel just as called on a Sunday morning to be in a carpark peering into somebody’s engine bay as I do in a pew. I think it’s a by-product of our evangelical underpinnings, where we see God purely in terms of church, but He is out there doing stuff and calls us to join in; often in the most surprising places.
I have just as many encounters with God around cars as I have anywhere else. Because cars give space for a community to walk with people through the highs and lows of life, and for me that is my calling. Not so much to preach at people but called to walk with them, weep when they weep, and to celebrate when they celebrate; all with the perspective of God’s kingdom.
Chris: How have you found the reception of your faith and reflections on faith in such a secular space?
Adam: When I put things out, like a Fuel for Thought, there will be people in the group who are way off the spiritual radar, others who are curious, and others who are onboard. The challenge then is how do you talk about Jesus in a way that people won’t switch off,
but a way that puts it in their language. One of the things with REVS that I felt called to ask was “what does the kingdom of God look like in a car community?” For me, that is one of the key questions that I go back to. Aspects like radical generosity, compassion, healing, forgiveness, and wholeness. What do they look like in the car community? The Fuel for Thought reflections seek to do that, and to meet people where they are at.
Church language just doesn’t work in this space, people are so unfamiliar with it, or have a simplistic one-dimensional understanding. Instead of typical church language we talk about “rust,” and “restoration,” all grounded in the car stuff that we know and love, and from there we can ask questions.
It’s what Jesus did, taking the language of fishing, planting seeds, building houses—the language of his every day—and applied the gospel to what people are familiar with. With REVS we do a “Carols by Carlight,” and use metaphors of journeying, like the Pilgrim Tour along an ancient Christian pilgrim route in North Wales. I liken it to being bilingual, speaking the language of our host culture, and being familiar with the church and theological language.
Chris: One of the challenges with car culture is that there is often a self-reliance, a stiff upper lip, and people don’t want to talk about their struggles. How have you seen REVS speaking into that space?
Adam: I think that initially it is rooted in my own walk with mental health, in that I have struggled with anxiety and depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder for around 25 years now. It has become part of our life, as a family, and we have learnt to manage and live with it. Part of my ministry came from sharing that story, and from the fact that after a major breakdown I have had the sense of God restoring me bit by bit. I just started telling my story.
Psychiatric nursing gave me an awareness of mental health, but it was my own story and God’s restoration that really promoted it. REVS really is a story of God’s restoration, it’s not a story of my own ministry, because several years ago I really thought that I was on the scrapheap.
Telling my story was the first stage, and then meeting others with a similar story, paired with a general cultural willingness to start talking about mental health. COVID and lockdown certainly had a knock on effect with people’s mental health and gave space for talking. The REVS-Limiter online community itself was borne out of our shared lockdown frustration. Charlotte—my wife—asked me one day why I was grumpier than usual, and I said, “because I can’t get the car out and meet with others,” so she suggested taking it online. I remember thinking that if I get a few people watching along it would be amazing, and by the end of the first event we had almost 3000! We made sure we talked about mental health, offered prayer, and finished each event with a prayer of blessing. REVS-Limiter doesn’t hide faith away, instead people know that as a vicar I am probably going to mention Jesus at some point, and people are open to it.
Chris: The Barna group recently found that 42% of those in ministry have considered quitting in the past year alone. Pioneer ministry is often seen as this super high stakes environment. How has the REVS ministry been a blessing to your own mental health?
Adam: Like any kind of ministry, it has its demands, and it sometimes feels like we are just making it up as we go along. Some things work, and you are amazed; then other stuff won’t. There is a great deal of introspection, which comes with ministry anyway, but heightened because this is new and different, and a sense of wanting to do things right. All things which play into my anxiety. Here the artwork that I do is great, not just as a tool for starting conversations, but also to switch off and refresh myself. But I have to be careful with my art, that it doesn’t just become another ministry tool and kill my enjoyment of it. There is a challenge with having refreshment so close to ministry. It really takes some discipline, especially as the ministry keeps expanding.
Chris: What advice do you have for others who want to engage in pioneer ministry?
Adam: You can do the same with anything. People who run groups which are all geared around baking bread or making stuff to eat, others doing stuff with animals. Dog walking is a massive way to meet people and becoming a community of some kind. In some ways I am not doing anything radical or different, certainly not from Jesus did. I’m just doing it in a different context. With REVS we talk about being community, we aren’t a car club, but a community that is open and welcoming and allows people to celebrate their own piece of car culture. Just trying to model the kingdom of God in this space.
When I was first thinking about REVS, a friend of mine advised me to be straight with where you are coming from. Because there is nothing worse than going to something and finding that you have been pulled into something else. The bait and switch of “come watch a film… oh it’s a film about Jesus.” People know where I am coming from, and who I represent. Sometimes that busts their ideas about what a vicar represents. With REVS-Limiter we say that there will be faith posts there for you to think about and reflect on, if that isn’t your thing just pass on by, but there might be something to engage with. Being up front with it leads to things like being on a podcast and having the hosts open up about their own faith journey, or others praying for people who are struggling or have had their car stolen. We need to take faith into people’s lives and go be where they are at rather than expecting them to be where we are at. Like mental health it is all about just being honest and saying, “this is me.” When you are in that space, then get people around you. For so many clergy there is a sense that they are the only ones who do ministry. Particularly within some of our more middle-class churches we have inherited this model where people come, sit, and go and that is all their involvement. Actually, that is not the church that Paul was talking about or that Jesus started, where people came, got involved, became an active community, involved in every area of life. We have made it very personal and private, with the vicar doing all the ministry. It is little surprise that many get to the point where they just can’t keep going on like that. Certainly, in the UK we have significant clergy burnout, as there is no one to help and support. With REVS I was getting to the point where I realised that the ministry needed more than just me to be involved. I have a very good group of directors around me, who are keen to release me to do the bits that I am good at and know me well enough to support my mental health.
Adam Gompertz is Station Chaplain to Bicester Heritage, and @revslimiter on Social Media
Interview with Ben Wong
- Written by: Mark Simon
Interview with Ben Wong - Chinese Ministry Coordinator in the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne
Mark Simon speaks with Rev. Canon. Ben Lui Wong, Chinese Ministry Coordinator, Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, and Senior Minister, St. Timothy’s Bulleen and St Mark’s Templestowe Anglican Churches.
Mark: How did you become a Christian?
Ben: I was born in China, grew up in Hong Kong, then came to Melbourne for study. It was here I met Ivy, who later became my wife. She was a Christian, and in the early years of marriage, I just dropped her off at church but never went in. One day a woman specifically came to me and invited me in. During that first service I attended, a very strong voice came to my mind saying, ‘you will be like that person on the stage speaking to others.’ The minister encouraged me to get to know Jesus before taking steps to become a preacher! So I joined a course, and came to put my faith in Jesus, and 8 or 9 years later, I did become ‘that person’ proclaiming the gospel to others.
Mark: Have you always had a cross-cultural ministry, or did you grow into it?
Ben: When I first graduated from Bible College, I thought I would primarily use Cantonese and Mandarin, and reach native speakers of those languages in Melbourne. But when I became a Youth Minister in the Chinese congregation I needed to relate to Australian-born Chinese kids, who were using English as much as Chinese. So my vision widened. Now I am the minister of a multi-site church with English, Cantonese, and Mandarin services. If God had shown me that too early, I might have run away from it.
Mark: Do you think Chinese or other immigrants in Australia are more open to the gospel at the moment than Anglo-Australians? Why might that be?
Profile: Lonny Bendessi
- Written by: Mark Juers
Aboriginal Christian and growing leader, Lonny Bendessi, shares his remarkable story with Essentials
WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
I was born in Adelaide. My family on my mother’s side is from a small place called Ceduna, which is 800km far west of Adelaide, we’re known as the West Coast mob. My father is from Western Australia, his mob are the Wongi mob from Kalgoorlie. I’m the second child of four in my family but I have a lot of cousins and we all call each other brother and sister. I found out I had a lot of first cousins who spoke English as a second language, they’re living out bush and wouldn’t live in the city.
I grew up in Adelaide until the age of 5 then Mum told me we’re going to Ceduna because that’s where we’re from. I stayed there until the age of 9 and that’s how I found out who I was, and that my people are the Wirangu people in the south and the Kokatha people just north of there. We stayed in a small community called Koonibba. It was interesting growing up there, as kids we would run amuck, didn’t care about anything, it was freedom. At home sometimes you’re surrounded by alcohol and violence but my mum and my cousins we all had each other. We’d all jump on our bikes to go out bush, ride around the whole community, make BMX jumps and climb trees.
Book Review: Proclaiming Christ in the Heart of the City
- Written by: Gavin Perkins
Proclaiming Christ in the Heart of the City: Ministry at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney.
EDWARD LOANE (ED.)
ST ANDREW’S CATHEDRAL, 2019.
The last two years have seen significant anniversaries for St Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney. The year 2019 was the bicentenary of the laying of its foundation stone, and 2018 marked 150 years since its eventual consecration. It is fitting therefore that this volume has been produced to mark both occasions. It is even more fitting that the focus of the volume is not on the building itself, but on the building of Christ’s Kingdom through the proclamation of the gospel in and through the ministry of the cathedral. As Archbishop Glenn Davies writes in his foreword, “this book focuses upon the living testimony of our cathedral, its living stones, rather than its static stonework.” (p. xii).
The opening chapter by Loane charts the history of Anglican cathedrals, their purpose and particular characteristics. Along the way he answers the common critique that Anglican cathedrals “are unreformed vestiges of the medieval church which have no place in Protestant Christianity.” (p. 4) Tracing sources dating back to the English reformers, Loane shows that Protestant cathedrals were envisioned as serving both an evangelistic and a training purpose. With a shortage of clergy able to preach, Cranmer considered cathedrals to be places that ought to function as centres of preaching excellence. The reformers’ notion of cathedrals serving as central churches from which bishops could direct the mission of the diocese through preaching and training of ministers was the reason why cathedrals were retained, and was also viewed by the reformers as returning them to their original Augustinian purpose (p. 22). The chapter also discusses reasons why this hope was largely not realised in the ensuing centuries, and how by the mid-19th century cathedrals had become ideal venues for re-establishing the ceremonial ritualism that had characterised the medieval church. At the same time Evangelicals continued to conceive of cathedrals as centres of mission, preaching and leadership training. It was during this contested era that the trajectory of the Sydney cathedral was shaped. In 1857, Bishop Barker outlined the purpose of the cathedral to be the “parish church” of the whole diocese where the diocesan “chief pastor”, the bishop, could minister and preach. (p. 41).
Building on this foundation, the central section of the book consists of four chapters, the first three dedicated in turn to the Cathedral’s longest-serving deans: William Cowper (by Peter Bolt), Albert Talbot (by Colin Bale) and Lance Shilton (by Edward Loane). The fourth chapter (by Jane Tooher) considers the contribution of William Cowper’s first wife Margaret. Each of these biographical chapters give real insight into the nature of the ministry at the cathedral during those eras. The deans were chosen not only because were they the longest-serving, but also because the eras in which they served were so formative.
Australia’s first native-born clergyman, William Cowper, emerges in Bolt’s portrayal as someone eminently well prepared in the first half of his life for the preaching and ministry-training priorities that remained his priorities during his long tenure as dean (1858-1902). The chapter by Colin Bale on Dean Albert Talbot (1912-1936) explores his role as a more liberal evangelical dean, in particular his involvement in the social issues of Sydney’s industrial working class. Dean Lance Shilton (1973-1989) is shown by Loane to be a clear champion of the cathedral as a centre for evangelism and public engagement. Having had experience in city-centre churches in Melbourne and Adelaide, Shilton was convinced of the strategic role of such churches and his cathedral ministry was a natural extension of that. Shilton summed up the purpose of cathedral ministry as “Communication, that is communication with God in worship, communication with other Christians in fellowship, and communication with the whole city and beyond in evangelism.” (p. 146)
The beautiful chapter on William Cowper’s first wife Margaret by Jane Tooher centres on the last year of her life, as narrated by William. Margaret died four years before William’s appointment as dean, and as he reflects on the spiritual life and tenderness they shared, and Margaret’s boldness in facing death, it is clear how formative this experience of grief was on his ministry over the coming decades.
The final chapter, written by the current Dean, Kanishka Raffel, gives a wonderful insight into the present workings of the cathedral, and the prospects of ministry in that place over the coming years. Such ministry he envisages to be in continuity with his predecessors’ evangelistic focus and keenness for seizing the opportunity for public witness and proclamation to the city. This book fulfils its promise. We meet afresh the ‘living stones’ who through the decades have sought to proclaim Christ, make disciples and show Christ’s love to the city and beyond.
// Gavin Perkins, NSW
CRU goes west
- Written by: SHERIDAN RASTON
Since the 1930s Crusaders has been seeking to proclaim Jesus to the students of independent schools, to nurture Christians, encourage church membership and train young Christians for leadership. More recently CRU West has revived Crusaders’ presence in WA. CRU West staff worker Sheridan Raston brings us up to date.
The National Church Life Survey claims a phenomenal statistic, that 80% of adult Christians come to faith before they are 18. Therefore, it is the youth of our nation that warrant significant focus. However, the number of children and teenagers in our churches is decreasing and the world in which these kids live is significantly more difficult to navigate while respecting their faith than in years past. Christian students are a minority in Australian schools, where attitudes towards Christianity seem to have gone from indifference to hostility at a rapid pace. The need for young people to be supported in their faith is greater than ever; encouragement, equipping and nurturing all appear more vital than ever. And yet we hold on to the promise of Christ: “I will build my church”.
The earnest ambition of CRU West is to care for and provide opportunities to these students—especially in regard to faith development—in ways that they otherwise might not experience.
We want to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to the students of Western Australian schools.
As such, we seek to nurture Christians, encourage church membership and train young Christians for a lifetime of servant leadership.
THE CRU WEST MINISTRY
CRU West is a relatively new initiative of CRU Australia. The Crusader Union of Australia (now known as CRU) was founded in 1930 by the Reverend Dr. Howard Guinness. Dr Guinness was a visionary who had set up Christian ministries in universities across the world. When he came to Australia, he was surprised to see few strong Christians in universities. He saw the necessity to establish school-based ministries as a platform for developing faith early, to see young Christians founded in their faith through school, into university and beyond. He established voluntary groups in schools and camp ministries as a key way of achieving this. Thus, in 1930, CRU saw its first four school groups begin along with the very first holiday camp. CRU has experienced significant growth over the years, now working in hundreds of schools and running hundreds of school and holiday camps in NSW and the ACT. We believe this ministry has met a real need and God has been at work through the ministry of CRU, and we are praying for the same long term fruit in WA.
CRU West helps to establish and support voluntary lunchtime groups in primary and high schools across WA. These groups offer students the chance to read the Bible and pray together, providing a space for their faith to grow. We also run camps for upper primary and high schoolers in the holidays in the form of year 12 study camps, Christian leadership camps and activity camps. Students from a variety of schools spend a week away, are invested into and are immersed in a positive community where they are served, mentored and trained by a group of Christian volunteers. Through these two avenues— school groups and camps—CRU West creates an environment for students to develop spiritually, as they enjoy being part of a wider Christian family. Our hope is that Christian students will be encouraged in three ways: to own their faith; to flourish in their schools and to serve their churches and other ministries.
In God’s goodness, the impact has been substantial over the past three years.
We have gone from five groups in 2017 to over 20 in 2019.
We now run three camps where numbers have grown exponentially. But it is ultimately not a numbers game. The most important way of gauging success is through the individual lives of the students with whom we work and how we have seen God at work. Students have told us how they have come to faith or have grown in their faith. Rory Shiner, Senior Pastor of Providence Church Perth, says
“CRU West is a very exciting development on the school scene in Perth, addressing a real gap in the gospel ecosystem of our city. The history of this work in Australia has brought untold fruit for the gospel in seeing young men and women eternally impacted, and in producing gifted, well-trained and servant-hearted leaders for the next generation of Christian leadership.”7
While youth groups are vital for the teaching and equipping of Christians kids in our churches, they cannot go with their students into their playgrounds and classrooms which are like a missionary front line. That is where CRU West comes in. CRU West aims to meet youth where they are, in their schools. We want to see Christian communities in schools, where faith is encouraged and supported. One student said,
“CRU West has had a significant impact on my faith. I’ve been a camper on CRU West’s Spring Leadership Camp where we had inspiring Bible talks, discussion groups, prayer times and training in Christian leadership each day. I had the chance to connect with older Christian mentors, asking questions and seeking advice. I also made lots of new friends who I still keep I contact with today. This camp brought me so much closer to God and I felt greatly encouraged knowing that I had other Christians my age and mentors who were walking alongside me, even after camp finished. I also attend the weekly Bible study at my school, which is supported by CRU West. CRU provides resources for the Bible studies, which makes organising and facilities the group much easier, and keeps us focussed. The school environment makes it difficult to admit that I’m a Christian for fear of being teased or excluded, but knowing that I have other peers who share the same beliefs and purpose, as well as having CRU West supporting me, is encouraging and comforting, and helps me to stand firm.”
It is easy to become discouraged as our society seems to move further away from God, and to celebrate things God opposes. Through my work with CRU West, I have had the blessing of witnessing God at work amongst upper primary and high school students. As the challenges to being a Christian child in WA grow, God is pouring out his Spirit, breathing new life, and preparing the next generation of saints to do his work— that is really something to celebrate, to cherish and to ask God to do more of in 2020.
The Billy Graham Crusade (1959) A Personal Memoir
- Written by: Tony Nichols
As we approach the 60th anniversary year of the momentous 1959 Billy Graham Crusade in Australia, Bishop Tony Nichols recalls how Graham touched the people around him, and what flowed out of this and later Crusades.
Bishop Tony Nichols ministers at St Lawrence’s Dalkeith, WA and beyond.
Next year marks the sixtieth anniversary of Billy Graham’s first visit to Australia in 1959 when he led ‘crusades’ across all capital cities over a four-month period. To commemorate the remarkable outpouring of God’s Spirit in which thousands decided to follow Christ, Franklin Graham, Billy’s son, will speak in each capital city in February 2019.
Billy Graham was invited to Australia by the Primate of the Anglican Church, Archbishop Howard Mowll who did not live to witness the extraordinary results. His initiative, however, launched an unprecedented ecumenical movement which saw thousands of Christians from different denominations meeting weekly for prayer for God’s blessing on Australia. Over 8,000 enrolled for counsellor training in Sydney alone. Those training sessions were a great blessing to me personally, not least because we had to learn off by heart over twenty passages of Scripture. Volunteers were also organised for support roles and each of the choirs had a thousand members. The organisation was superb.
Read more: The Billy Graham Crusade (1959) A Personal Memoir