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Q&A with Chaplaincy Services Manager, former Scientologist and North Pine parishioner, Andrea Colledge

Spotlight Q&A

Meet Andrea Colledge and find out about her work, her unusual faith journey, what makes her nostalgic, what Australian Christian inspires her the most and what day she would like to re-live and why

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Andrea Colledge is the new ACSQ Chaplaincy Services Manager within the Parishes and Other Mission Agencies Commission. She supports hospital, prison and police chaplains in their vital work. She was born and raised in Canada, but now calls Australia home and The Castle her favourite movie.

Where do you currently live and where do you worship?

I live in Dayboro in the Northern Region of our Diocese and I worship at The Parish of North Pine.

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

I have been a part of the Anglican Church for roughly 20 years ago in my hometown of Toronto. I studied at Wycliffe College Seminary at the University of Toronto before moving to the Anglican Church Southern Queensland and am settling in as a parishioner at St Aidan’s Anglican Church, Dayboro (Parish of North Pine).

What is your current role, including any voluntary roles, and what does your role involve?

I am now part of the Parishes and Other Mission Agencies Commission (PMC) as the Manager of Chaplaincy Services for our Diocese. I work with the hospital, prison and police chaplains to facilitate their work in the various ministries they have been called to, and to ensure everything runs smoothly and effectively at an administrative and governance level.

Prison chaplain Margaret Hampson and Chaplaincy Services Manager Andrea Colledge at Margaret’s retirement luncheon on the Gold Coast in July 2020

What projects and activities are you currently working on?

Currently I divide my time between ensuring all proper administrative functions run smoothly and effectively and developing strong relationships with the chaplains I support. I provide technical assistance and pastoral care to our chaplains and I make sure I am always looking to the future to map out ways in which this ministry can grow, shine and contribute to the Church’s work in the community.

What have been the highlights of your roles so far?

Definitely the best memories I have had since I started in the role earlier this year have been of getting to know the awesome people that work in the area of chaplaincy – their stories, their callings and their experiences on the job. I am blessed to work with an amazing team of people, too, here at the PMC. I remember once a colleague of mine repeated a cheeky line from my favourite Australian movie, The Castle, then immediately and profusely apologised fearing I might not understand the context and become offended. I just looked her in the eye and recited the punchline of the joke to her, which was perhaps even cheekier. We had a great laugh as my Aussie credentials were firmly established.

What have been the key challenges of your roles so far and how have you worked through these?

I think one of the key challenges has been getting the word out there about the great work that chaplains do, they way in which they affect peoples’ lives and the way they carry the Church out there to the most vulnerable in our society. I’d like to say I’ve worked through those, but the work continues!

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

During the next year I would really like to get the word out about chaplaincy and how it is an excellent way to ‘work out your faith’. I’m hoping we can get lots of people interested in exploring what volunteering in the chaplaincy space might mean to them.

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

I was born Jewish and decided to become a rabbi at the age of seven. Failing that, I fell into a large variety of ‘religions’ including Wicca, Buddhism and even Scientology before learning the Truth about Jesus Christ. I gave my life to Him at the Feast of the Epiphany. I studied towards the priesthood in Toronto before marrying a handsome Aussie and moving to Brisbane. Since then, my journey has been all about chaplaincy – I was a primary school chaplain with Scripture Union, then I took over the growth and development of the chaplaincy at the University of Queensland, and now I am here working in our Diocese.

“This is me, pictured with two of my rascals, when I was serving as a chaplain at Samford State School chaplain in 2009”

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

My faith reminds me that the Good Lord has a tremendous sense of humour, and He teaches me to take my faith very seriously, but to never take myself too seriously. As an example, I have been known to pray “Dearest Lord, I thank you for your Creation and all that it encompasses; but were green ants strictly necessary?”

What is your favourite scripture and why?

Matthew 5.16: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glorify to your Father in heaven.” I have always tried to live my Christian life in this fashion, firm in the conviction that every good thing I do is a testament to my Creator.

What person of faith inspires you the most and why?

While not a Catholic, I greatly admire St Mary MacKillop and her commitment to education. I especially try to live by her words, “Never see a need without doing something about it.” They are dangerous words to embrace, but worth the challenge.

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?

I think the greatest strength of the Church is that the Church is us, led by God. I believe that if we truly listened to Him and walked faithfully along His path, there is nothing we couldn’t do to benefit every creature on the planet.

What are the primary challenges currently encountered by the Church and what is the best way to overcome these for the benefit of our communities?

To me, the greatest challenge facing the Church is the increasing way the world is separating itself from God. For example, I believe that climate change is a challenge we can only meet if we listen closely to God’s creation.

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

Oh, my goodness; I’ve been privileged to be a witness to so many. But it’s the little things I think stick with you – like my mother continuing to visit a much-disliked old relative in her last days (an aunt who hated my mother, by the way) simply because this aunt had no-one else that cared about her.

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

“You don’t have to warm others by lighting yourself on fire”. It was a great piece of advice that covered centring yourself in God’s strength, knowing your limits and humility.

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

I am a hopeless fanatic of Australian comedy. I love Kath & Kim, The Castle, and anything by Working Dog Productions.

“Look at Moi, ploise” (In the garden in Dayboro)

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

“Jesus is Coming. Call Jim”. This was an actual billboard in Toronto which my family found endlessly funny. I still want to meet Jim.

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

I think that book would be A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. As the book is made up of what were once three separate stories, it’s difficult to summarise, but it is a seminal work which touches on my three favourite themes – religion, science fiction, and scathing social commentary.

Where do you do your best thinking?

“In the pool room and out the back.”

What’s your best childhood memory?

Late Autumn in Toronto, where I grew up: the nip in the air, early nights, the smell of leaf mulch mixed with fermenting crab apples and the scent of woodsmoke hanging over everything…

“My hair had an awkward childhood” (Toronto, 1978)

If you are having a bad day, what do you do to cheer yourself up?

Watch The Castle (see above).

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?

True story. I woke up one morning in a panic as my alarm hadn’t gone off. I fired off a very quick text to my boss apologising for being late but reassuring her that I was on my way. I showered and dressed and stopped for petrol on my way in to work, driving amongst a group of bikies clearly having a lazy morning. Frustrated, I drove stressed out down the road, past the local Sunday Markets and… realised it was Sunday. My boss thought it was hilarious.

What makes you nostalgic and why?

The smell of plaster and dental wax. My grandfather was a retired dentist and did some denture work on the side. Those are the smells I associate only with him.

What day would you like to re-live and why?

The day I auditioned for the international touring production of Annie. I was seven and I made the cut. My little sister didn’t and my mother told me it wasn’t fair if only I got to do it, so I withdrew. I’d like to revisit that decision please, Lord.

What’s your unanswerable question – the question you are always asking yourself?

‘What on earth did I come into this room for?’

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