Q&A with The Rev’d Canon Gary Smith, priest, husband, father, accountant and commissioner

Spotlight Q&A

Meet The Rev’d Canon Gary Smith, priest, accountant and cradle Anglican who contributes to our Diocesan community as a commissioner and School Council member

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The Rev’d Canon Gary Smith is the locum priest at St Bart’s, Mt Gravatt, also serving as a Finance and Diocesan Services Commissioner and Coomera Anglican College Council member. Canon Gary encourages lay and ordained Anglicans in our Diocesan community to discern whether they are called to serve on Diocesan Boards, Committees and School Councils.

How long have you been involved in the Anglican Church and in what roles?

I am a son of the Diocese, having worshipped and served as a lay and then ordained person all my life. I was brought up on a sheep and cattle property between Quilpie and Thargomindah and went to the All Saints Anglican Hostel at Charleville run by the Bush Brotherhood. My home parish became Sunnybank where my wife Margaret and our four children worshipped and served. I was a Churchwarden, Margaret was Chaplain for four years at Sunnybank State High School and my children led youth and young adult groups. In my priestly role I served at Cleveland, Albany Creek and Gold Coast North. Since retirement from these roles, I have served as a locum priest in many parishes.

I was appointed Executive Director of the Parish and other Mission Agencies Commission (PMC), serving for three years; a member of Diocesan Council; and a member of General Synod where I served on the Constitutional Review Commission and the Long Service Leave Board. Currently I am serving on the Financial and Diocesan Services Commission and the Council of Coomera Anglican College.

My passion for growing the Church has seen me on various bodies, the first being the Going for Growth Commission, the outcomes being the setting up of Provisional Parishes (shorthand for planting new communities of faith) and Church in the Market Place (Parish Of Robina). I was also involved in setting up the Commission Model of Governance for our Diocese that replaced many ad hoc committees.

I also helped host a conference in Queensland for Mission and Ministry Development Officers from Dioceses across Australia, the purpose of which was to address the pressing issue of delivering leadership and ministry to declining rural communities.

Canon Gary (far left, second row) with Queensland for Mission and Ministry Development Officers conference delegates at the Brookfield Centre for Spirituality

You are currently serving on the Finance and Diocesan Services Commission (FDSC) Board — what does this role involve?

The Commission is responsible for finance and management services to our Diocese. In finance we are loaned at interest funds from parishes and agencies of the Diocese and lend at interest to parishes and agencies of the Diocese. These include Anglicare Southern Queensland, Diocesan schools and parishes. Excess funds generated are used to fund the operations of the Diocese and to fund missional objectives.

FDSC’s services include strategic planning, human resources and industrial relations, property, information and communications technology, insurance, work health and safety, procurement, records and archives, governance risk management, treasury and investment, legal compliance and accounting. I assist with the development of policies in connection with the above services.

What projects and activities are you currently working on in this role?

As well as being a FDSC commissioner, I serve on the Credit Review Sub-Committee whose role is to scrutinise loan applications coming to the Commission and making recommendations to the Commission as to acceptance or otherwise.

What have been the highlights of this role so far?

Seeing the finance and management services grow, ensuring that our Diocese is professionally and prudentially served, meeting operational and missional needs, and the establishment of a substantial future fund to grow and expand missional needs as they emerge. I am proud to serve on this Commission, along with the Chair and my other Commissioners who share my passion to see the Church grow and flourish.

You are currently serving on the Council of Coomera Anglican College (CAC) — what does this role involve?

Subject to the Canons and Diocesan Policies, the Council is responsible for the governance and management of the business and affairs of the College, strategic planning and procuring all things necessary for the College as an Anglican Christian education agency and generally for the advancement of its purposes.

What projects and activities are you currently working on in this role?

As well as being a Council member, I chair the Faith Sub Committee and in this role, I meet with the Chaplain to support and encourage her in her role at the College. Through this contact, I am better able to inform the other Councillors of the development of faith in the College community.

What have been the highlights of this role so far?

I have been on the Council since the College’s formation. I remember sitting with the founder Ivan Gibbs having cups of tea with the property owners encouraging them to sell their properties so we could extend for what was then the vision of an Anglican Precinct of College, Parish and Anglicare. I have been privileged to see the College grow from humble beginnings to a four-stream 1400 student community with excellent facilities and a dedicated and motivated staff.

You contribute skills in finance to these roles — can you tell us a little about your finance background?

My first degree was in Commerce from the University of Queensland and I also completed post graduate studies in Organisational Behaviour and Change Management from CPA Australia. I started work at Mutual Acceptance, a finance company, as a Cadet Executive, and subsequently worked at Mathers Enterprises as Group Accountant, Teys Holdings as Company Secretary, Maynard Murtagh Smith and Coopers & Lybrand (now PricewaterhouseCoopers) Accounting Practices as a Partner. I was Queensland President of CPA Australia for a time. I am currently the Principal in a firm auditing self-managed super funds.

New President for CPA Australia , Courier Mail 1991

What advice do you have for people who are thinking about volunteering on an Anglican Church Southern Queensland Commission or Board?

I am absolutely convinced it is God who will grow our Church, but God will use our minds and hands to do it. Please pray how the skills, leadership and wisdom God has endowed you with may be used for his service.

What are your plans and goals for the next 12 months?

God willing, I intend to continue to serve the FDSC and CAC. I am currently locum priest at St Bart’s, Mt Gravatt as we seek a new Priest-in-Charge. My current six-month licence has been extended for a further six months. The parish is a training one and currently has a curate who is a Deacon and who will be priested in December and has been posted to the parish for next year. He will be the nineteenth person I have had the privilege of training in some way for future ordained leadership roles.

Can you tell us a little about your personal faith journey?

I was a traditional Anglican attending Sunday worship until persuaded by the then priest at Sunnybank, John Naumann, to attend a Bethel Bible Study Course. As the significant themes of scripture were explained, I became aware of God’s call on my life and made a public affirmation of faith and a commitment to follow Jesus. This changed my life for the better in so many ways. I continue to listen to God through reading scripture and talking to him through prayer, preferably in a small group and, of course, through regular worship.

How does your faith inspire you and shape your outlook, life choices and character?

My mission is to live with integrity and to make a difference in the lives of others. To fulfil this mission I have charity (I seek out and love the other – each one – regardless of their situation); I sacrifice (I devote my time, talents and resources to my mission); I inspire (I teach by example that we are all children of a loving Heavenly Father and that every Goliath can be overcome); and, I am impactful (What I do makes a difference in the lives of others).

Adapted from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey (1989, p136)

What is your favourite scripture and why?

2 Timothy 4.7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Paul, knowing he is about to be martyred, is reflecting on his life. Not a shred of regret, not a word of anger for his accusers, but only words of encouragement for his readers. I am under no threat of my life for my faith in Jesus Christ. However, through Paul’s encouragement I am called to action in the knowledge that following Jesus will not be easy ­­— it probably will be tough. But, in the power of the Holy Spirit I can achieve the seemingly impossible. Will I bow to the powers of this world or stand firm in my faith? I pray when my time comes to depart this life and I reflect on my life that I am able to echo Paul’s reflection.

What person of faith inspires you the most and why?

John Noble was my priest at Sunnybank and like his predecessor, John Naumann, I found him to be an inspirational leader. Under their leadership, Sunnybank became one of the largest and most mission orientated parishes in our Diocese. John became a lecturer in Formation at St Francis College when I was a student and oversaw my post-ordination training. He was my Regional Bishop when I was in my first posting at Albany Creek. He inspired me to thirst for ways to grow the Church. I was privileged to work with him and others in preparing a seminal paper ‘The Review of Theological Education and Ministry Formation in Brisbane Diocese’.

What are the primary strengths of the Church and what is the best way to make the most of these for the benefit of our communities?

Our people. I never cease to be amazed at the faithfulness and dedication of lay and ordained people as I move from one parish to another serving in a locum capacity. Our liturgy, the seasons of which offer colour and contrast, as we move through the year from Advent to Christ the King, is another gift. Our structure, being Episcopally led and Synodically governed, is another key strength, with the Diocese being the responsible unit for the mission and ministry delivered through parishes.

What is the kindest gesture you have ever received or witnessed?

I trained at St Francis College with the first cohort of women to go through to ordination as priests — what a wonderful and privileged experience. They have gone on to key leadership roles in our Diocese and beyond. I have four children, eleven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. My role in advocating the acceptance and recognition of equal opportunity for women in our society has been of great satisfaction for me. What a privilege it was to be entrusted with the passage of a Canon through Synod enabling the ordained in our Diocese to be entitled to maternity leave.

Canon Gary at the baptism of his great-granddaughter, Chelsea

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received and who gave you this advice?

Through life, I have been privileged to have had mentors along the way. They have encouraged and advised me at critical points of my life. I remember being told by one of my mentors that “if Christ is at the centre of your life, all things are possible.”

What do you do in your free time to recharge and relax?

I spend as much time as I can with my wife Margaret, my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and close friends. If there is any time left over, I travel in our caravan and play golf and bowls.

Canon Gary at the wedding of grandson Brodie and wife Chloe

If you could have a billboard with any text on it, what would it say and why?

 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3.16)

I have just finished preparing my sermon for the upcoming All Saints day. The parish I am looking after has a tradition of people submitting the names of their loved ones who have died and during Sunday’s liturgy their names will be read out and people will come forward to light a candle and pray for their loved one in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.

What book have you given away most as a gift and why?

In my professional development reading I came across a book: Corpus RIOS – The how and what of business strategy by Christopher J Tipler. Through his extensive consulting experience with McKinsey and other world leading consulting firms in organisational behaviour and change management, he has developed a paradigm shift in thinking on the process of strategic planning. I was so convinced of the possible effectiveness of his thinking I have shared the book with many people in leadership roles. The FDSC and CAC have drawn on the book in their strategic planning processes to great effect.

Where do you do your best thinking?

When away in our caravan. We love the bush and National Parks particularly. Some of these are in remote locations and involve extensive travelling with long hours on the road. When I am not taking in the breathtaking changing landscape, my mind turns to issues I may be facing or opportunities to do what I am doing better or reflecting on a book I am currently reading. The purr of the motor and the squelch of the tyres of the 4WD as the kilomentres click by afford a perfect environment for productive thinking, my bride by my side, no mobiles and no emails  a foretaste of heaven!

Canon Gary and Margaret at McLaren Vale

General Manager Tim Reid is establishing a database of local Anglicans who would like to be considered for appointment to ACSQ Boards, Commissions and School Councils. Expertise in governance, financial management, property/facilities management, workforce planning, IT/digital economy, marketing/communications and legal will be highly regarded. If you are interested in contributing, please complete this online form or call Lisa Sargeant on (07) 3835 2253.

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