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Q&A with Coomera Anglican College Faith and Spirituality Coordinator, podcaster, Brisbane Lions superfan and Christmas fanatic, Dom Fay

Spotlight Q&A

Meet Dom Fay and find out about his faith journey, his current work with Coomera Anglican College, where he does his best thinking and what book he’s given away the most

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Where do you currently live and where do you worship?

I live in Coorparoo, and drive down for work in Coomera (I evidently have a thing for suburbs that begin with “Coo”). I’m part of the St John’s Anglican Cathedral community through the On The Way podcast, and I run our weekly Secondary campus gatherings at Coomera Anglican College (CAC).

How long have you been involved in the Anglican Church Southern Queensland and in what role/s?

I launched the On The Way podcast out of St John’s Cathedral in 2017, and shortly afterwards joined the Coomera Anglican College community in the faith and spirituality space.

Dom Fay with the 2023 Coomera Anglican College Desert Retreat crew at Uluru.

Dom Fay with the 2023 Coomera Anglican College Desert Retreat crew at Uluru

What do your roles involve?

My days at CAC involve deep conversations, vulnerable stories, endless snacks, big questions, awe-inspiring adventures, many laughs, a couple of tears, and vast quantities of hot chocolates.

My hope is that my office and the couch in it can be a space for people to be fully human and return to the knowledge that this life — in all its bizarreness and heartbreak — is a profound gift, and that they are never alone.

What projects or activities are you currently working on?

This year, I coordinated the College’s first opt-in faith retreat, where we journeyed to Alice Springs and Uluru with 16 Year 11 and 12 students to sit around campfires, look at the stars, encounter awe and wonder, and explore the biggest mysteries of life together.

The Desert Retreat was such a special experience, and has led to the creation of a follow-up trip in the shape of our planned 2024 Alpine Retreat. We have 19 of our graduating class of 2024 signed up (one-fifth of that whole cohort!) to join us on a trip to the South Island of New Zealand in the middle of winter for another adventure into mystery, community, spirituality and beauty.

Awe, wonder and belonging are the best gateways I’ve ever found to the divine, so it is such a great gift to be able to create retreats with them as our focus.

Dom Fay and the students celebrating their claw machine victory in the middle of the desert.

Dom Fay and Coomera Anglican College students celebrating their claw machine victory in the middle of the desert in 2023

What has been one of the single key highlights of your time in your role so far?

Midway between Alice Springs and Uluru on the Desert Retreat, we stopped off at Erldunda Roadhouse (just about the only building amidst endless kilometres of red sand along that four-hour drive) for a quick snack break.

When we walked in, I noticed a skill tester/claw machine filled with some of the most unusual-looking plush toys I’d ever seen. We decided as a group that we had to win one of them together, and $54 later (of mostly my money), we were triumphant. Forming a celebratory huddle in the middle of the desert around this odd, unicorn-like creature was one of the most joyful and communal moments I’ve ever known, and felt quite profoundly like a wholehearted celebration of what it is to be alive.

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

Alongside planning and coordinating the Alpine Retreat to New Zealand, I’ve also been involved in re-thinking our approach to Year 12 graduation. Our new “Graduation Eve” experience has been created by a small team of staff, and will hopefully provide a really meaningful “rite of passage” experience for our seniors the night before they step out into the world.

I’m also a big believer that humans were created to live immersed in a village, and so am passionate about creating new avenues for our alumni to continue to be a part of our community after they’ve graduated — not just as potential future parents or reunion attendees, but as ongoing regular members of our shared village life. I’m not quite sure what that will look like yet — but I’m working on it!

The Fay family – Dom’s parents Judy & Richard and his brothers Ashley and Hudson on a snow trip to Thredbo in the early 2000s

The Fay family — Dom’s parents Judy and Richard, and his brothers Ashley and Hudson, on a snow trip to Thredbo in the early 2000s

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

I grew up in the Baptist Church, where Dad was a pastor. Then, like many, I wandered away for a number of years before, as is always the case, enough suffering and enough joy returned me to the big “What actually is any of this?” question. I was very fortunate to be in the phenomenal company of The Very Rev’d Dr Peter Catt and The Rev’d Sue Grimmett around that time, and the rest is history.

Dom Fay, Rev. Suzanne Grimmett, The Very Rev. Dr Peter Catt, and poet Pádraig Ó Tuama at a live recording of the On The Way podcast in St John’s Cathedral in 2023

(L-R) Dom Fay, poet Pádraig Ó Tuama, The Rev’d Suzanne Grimmett and The Very Rev’d Dr Peter Catt at a live recording of the On The Way podcast in St John’s Cathedral in 2023

What is your favourite Bible scripture and why?

Genesis 28.16 — in particular the moment Jacob awakes from his dream and says, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it!” To me, that is the essence of any faith journey — that joyful, transcendent moment of waking up to the sacredness of all things.

What person of faith inspires you the most and why?

There are so many, but I’m not sure anybody has had a bigger impact on me than Rob Bell. His ability to open up this whole thing in such a human and honest way has been transformative for me. I’ve loved his podcast (The Robcast) for years, and feel I owe him so much for how foundational his work has been in my journey.

Why is it important for Christians to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples towards Reconciliation?

The very essence of our story is about healing all wounds, overcoming all injustices, and ensuring everybody has a seat at the table. That sense of radical equality, radical inclusion, and radical humility does seem to me to be the cornerstone of the whole thing. In our nation, there is no wound more central than the horrors of colonisation — so it has to be our highest priority.

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?

Fundamentally, I think faith communities are about making space to belong, to connect, to simply be, and to explore the mystery of life. I often say at CAC that, as far as we can remember, none of us signed up for this life. Instead, we were all thrown into it midway through the story, and expected to pick up what was actually going on here on the run. That’s a pretty big ask, and far too much for anyone to do alone. Church in its best expressions gives us, I think, a community with whom to explore these bigger mysteries together in a life-affirming, peace-providing, love-filled way.

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

Lately, I’ve been blown away by the bravery of people simply moving through day after day in the tough times of their lives. I’m not sure there’s anything braver than waking up to another bleak day in the middle of an unbearable season of grief, illness, loss, or any other form of suffering, and still somehow making the decision to enter the day and give all you have to it. I’m trying to start seeing bravery as less to do with epic moments and more to do with the mundane courage required to keep moving forward through a seemingly endless winter with just the vague hope of some kind of spring. That’s the sort of bravery I really want to celebrate.

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

My friend George introduced me to a brilliant paragraph at the beginning of Julian Barnes’ novel The Only Story some years ago, which I often come back to: “Would you rather love the more and suffer the more, or love the less and suffer the less? That is, I think, finally, the only real question.”

It has led me to think that there aren’t really “happy” lives and “sad” lives, nor are there “good” lives and “bad” lives — the only true distinction as far as I can see it is whether we remain open to life, love, and passion with all the risks those things carry, or close ourselves off in self-preservation.

Dom Fay with his "Roar Deal" podcast cohost Mike Whiting as well as AFL heroes Jonathan Brown and Ash McGrath, taken at a live recording of the podcast in Grand Final week in Melbourne in 2023

Dom Fay with his Roar Deal podcast cohost Mike Whiting as well as AFL heroes Jonathan Brown and Ash McGrath, taken at a live recording of the podcast in Grand Final week in Melbourne in 2023

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

I’m perhaps a little too passionate about the Brisbane Lions. I host a podcast exploring all things to do with the Lions (The Roar Deal), and love the 90 minutes each week where I can move from exploring the depth and mystery of all things in my school role to the much simpler world of Aussie Rules.

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

“You’ll become the sum product of the five people you spend the most time with. Choose wisely.”

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

Barbara Brown Taylor’s Learning To Walk In The Dark. I’ve never come across a more helpful companion to making sense of the hardest parts of life than that book.

In the middle of a hike around Ormiston Gorge on the Desert Retreat

Dom Fay in the middle of a hike around Ormiston Gorge on the Desert Retreat in 2023

Where do you do your best thinking?

The 40-minute drive to and from school is often where my best ideas emerge. Unfortunately, though, I’ve usually forgotten them all by the time I arrive.

What’s your best childhood memory?

I was always a Christmas fanatic growing up, which has largely come with me into my adulthood. There is something about Christmas lights, Christmas music, and the spirit of the season that makes this feel like an undeniably enchanted universe. That’s a way of seeing I hope to carry with me for as long as I live.

What is your karaoke go-to song?

“Life is a Highway” by Tom Cochrane

What is the most surprising thing that happened to you recently?

My brother and his wife threw a one-person gender reveal party for me. They wanted help with name ideas, so brought me in on the sex of the baby. Keeping the secret with them is proving almost impossibly hard.

What makes you nostalgic and why?

Noosa. So many family holidays there as a kid.

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

What’s coming next?

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