Pilgrims: a selection of personal stories from members of St Philip's

My faith journey

by Revd Dr Colin Dundon

My faith journey began in the late 1950s at the parish of Christ Church, Gladesville, Sydney. I come from a working class family that had only peripheral contact with Anglicanism. My maternal grandmother was the only one with a faith commitment that I can remember at that time.

Christ Church was an evangelical church and had an evangelical spirituality that revolved around the prayer book and the Bible. Prayer, mission, the study of theology and care of each other as a community were shared activities and values. The rector and his assistants taught us to lead all such activities, to interpret the bible and to read theology, and then encouraged us to discuss theology and bible in light of science, our studies at university or elsewhere. The idea that Christianity has truth content and thus can contribute to all search for truth and partner such searches was nascent but real.

Commitment to Christ was seen as living discipleship to the risen Jesus and the Holy Spirit was mainly seen as in the prayer book and the one who helped people be holy.

In late 1961 I met the woman who was to become my wife, Joy. Her family introduced me to Christian family life and embraced me wholeheartedly. We married in 1965 and Joy became a dominant influence in my life from then.

I had left school in 1955, became an apprentice then matriculated and worked with CSIRO as a biochemist in food preservation. In 1962 I attended Moore Theological College in Sydney for four years. I did not find this easy as the questioning that I had grown up with was actively discouraged. However, I did have the opportunity learn the biblical languages, and study some classical theologians that began to reshape the theological tradition I was being taught.

After curacies in Sydney we went with Church Missionary Society to Kenya. Our years as missionaries taught us the nature of the gospel as cross-cultural and the social and political nature of the gospel. I studied liberation theology and cross cultural ethics throughout this period. Theological education became the quest to interrogate theory with practice and vice versa (very Marxist and troubling for some). Ministry and spiritual life became a similar quest. The contextual nature of theology and Christian life became prominent in my thinking.

On return to Sydney I tried to work out some of these ideas into practice and found help in the long Christian tradition of spirituality interpreted through some modern counselling frameworks.

In 1990 we came to Canberra to be the Director of St Mark's National Theological Centre. It was a period of uncertainty and transition for the Centre after a long period of conflict. Again, I wanted to reflect on education as wisdom, found in the capacity to see how practice and theory might interrogate each other. How could worship, theology, practice and spirituality form a living matrix for wisdom to work the question, What is the context in which the late modern western church lives out its faith and how does that shape us and our responses?

Those questions come with me into the ministry positions I have held and hold. Truthfulness, mercy, justice, peace, reconciliation form some of the the parameters for God's story of the renewal of the world in Christ and through the Spirit. It is a story worth telling in the market place of ideas in our world and inviting others to join in.

In July 2014 my wife Joy died. My spiritual journey with and through grief is a work in progress. It has taught me the value of a loving Christian community in healing and growth.

In personal life I have three grown children, all successful in their chosen professions, and eight grandchildren.

July 2015