Here’s a piece I wrote for EFAC Vic/Tas.
Last month, two history books were launched, along with a discussion about raising future leaders of the Victorian church.
The first book to be launched was Edward’s the Mentor by Rhys Bezzant, published by Oxford University Press. Rhys Bezzant is a Church History lecturer at Ridley College but describes his real job as training people for missional leadership. His book was launched by Richard Trist, also a lecturer at Ridley with an interest in mentoring, coaching and pastoral supervision. Rhys’s research led him to the conclusion that Jonathan Edward is the first modern mentor. He explains that Edwards “reinvents mentoring for the modern world, in a world of democratic equality and mobility and the pursuit of human agency. Edward’s adapts the traditional practice to a new kind of world.” For Edward’s, this included letter writing, correspondence and opening up his home to mentees to live with his family. In his talk, Richard remarked, “I like the way Rhys describes the Parisian salons and the coffee houses in London are the places such conversations took place, so when I see Rhys in the Primary Cafe around the corner having one-to-one conversations with students over a flat white or latte, he’s continuing in that fine tradition.”
The final section of Rhys’s book is on Edward’s mentoring legacy. Edward’s mentored a dozen or so ministers and they went onto mentor others. It was through the power of mentoring and multiplication that the pulpits of New England were filled with ministers who passionately argued for the abolition of slavery. Rhys concluded by saying, “If my mentoring or if your mentoring can in anyway contribute in anyway to the life of our land, I think this book might be a worthy contribution.”
The second history book to be launched was Foundations of Anglican Evangelicalism in Victoria 1847-1937 by Wei-Han Kuan, which is part of the Australian College of Theology Monograph Series. Wei-Han is the state director of CMS Victoria, and this book flowed from his doctoral thesis. Peter Adam, former principal of Ridley College and one of Wei-Han’s doctoral supervisors introduced the book. He remarked to Wei-Han, “And what a perceptive and useful contribution you’ve made to church history in Australia and indeed to the history of Australia.” Wei-Han’s reasoning for this topic was partly pragmatic, at the time no-one had investigated specifically the history Anglican evangelicalism in Victoria. Wei-Han desired to “collect and remember stories of the saints who have gone before us, saints who have built this incredible broad and deep foundation through the state of Victoria”.
Following these two launches was a panel discussion with Rhys Bezzant, Wei-Han Kuan, Richard Trist, Peter Adam, and Rebecca Miller who is the Assistant Minister of Merri Creek Anglican. It was facilitated by Rémy Chadwick from EFAC, who took questions from the audience via text message. We learned from Rhys that if we build a culture of honesty and accountability in our churches and communities we might find mentoring relationships naturally develop. We learned from Wei-Han that historically, evangelical churches that prospered kept evangelism on the front burner. “The church does have an internal dynamic and rhythm to its life, it does gather on a weekly basis, it is sheep-feeding station, but it always has a ‘go out there’ Monday to Saturday aspect also, and you have to find the rhythm that works.”
We were encouraged to prioritise spiritual formation, with Rebecca pointing out its importance though many think it belongs outside of the evangelical tradition. Of her own experience she said, “I don’t think I was really taught how to pray, prayer was not formational but functional.” Richard noted that in the next couple of years, Anglican ministers will have to see someone once a month; a coach, spiritual advisor or a supervisor. There is an overlap between mentoring and spiritual formation, which Rebecca mentioned. But the clue, as Peter Adam declared, is not to make people into your image but into Christ.