Monday, 10 July 2017

Farewell to Rev Dr Chris Walker

The Uniting Church has thanked and farewelled Rev. Dr Chris Walker, its National Consultant on Christian Unity, Doctrine and Worship.

Members of the Assembly Standing Committee (ASC) joined Chris’ family, friends and Assembly staff at a closure of ministry service in Sydney on Sunday 9 July.

Rev. Dr Ian Price preached on John 1 when Jesus Calls Philip and Nathaneal as disciples.

In his reflection, Ian shared the story of Walter Anderson, a prominent US Editor and Publisher who came to faith in Russia.

In his book The Greatest Risk of All, Anderson describes a deep realisation about the nature of faith he came to as a tourist to the magnificent Russian Orthodox Church of the Trinity at Zagorsk near Moscow in the days of the Soviet Union.

There was a line separating tourists from participants in the worship.

“I heard singing the notes of a hymn in the air – a haunting and penetrating melody, I thought, but one I did not recognise. And where I wondered is the choir? “The hymn is wonderful but I don’t see a choir.” Our guide smiled. “As the people walk through,” he explained, “they take up the hymn and it stays on their lips till they leave. The believers are the choir. This choir has new members every day and the singing never stops.”

When presented with the choice, Anderson chose to be a participant in a shared Christian faith working in community for the common good rather than just a tourist.

Ian went on to reflect warmly on Chris’ journey as a faithful disciple within the Uniting Church over many years.

Assembly General Secretary Colleen Geyer gave a narration of steps of Chris’ expansive work and publications in his role and in his previous role as National Consultant on Theology and Discipleship.

Colleen observed that “Chris has been methodic and creative”, both in his own writings and in encouraging the writing of many papers and resources about the life of faith, including his most recent book Thinking the Faith, Living the Faith: an introduction to Christian theology.

The narration also detailed a deep commitment to mission and evangelism and Chris’ support for many colleagues from students in theological colleges to Presidents.

In his response, Chris said he particularly appreciated his relationship with members of the Assembly working groups and networks.

“It has been a privilege to work with the Assembly over the past nearly nine years. I have valued being part of the Assembly team and being involved in the national life of the Uniting Church,” he said.

“Each of these working groups has a positive spirit and have produced various resources and held conferences.”

Chris is retiring, but not straight away. Next month he heads to Perth to teach for a semester at Murdoch University for the UCA Synod of Western Australia.

As Walter Anderson observed, the singing never stops.