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Celebrating 30 years of Bishop John's priestly ministry


During this week when Bishop John Roundhill celebrates his 30th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood and his birthday, 14 people from across our Diocese and the wider Anglican Communion share their highlights serving alongside him and identify what makes him such a great priest and leader

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During this week when Bishop John Roundhill celebrates his birthday and his 30th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood, 14 people from across our Diocese and the wider Anglican Communion share their highlights serving alongside him and identify what makes him such a great priest and leader.

Two bishops in ceremonial robes in Hong Kong outside smiling

Bishop (now Archbishop) Andrew Chan and Bishop John Roundhill at St John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong during the Cathedral’s 170th anniversary celebration on 24 November 2019

The Most Rev’d Andrew Chan Archbishop and Primate of Hong Kong

Heartfelt congratulation to Bishop John for his 30th anniversary to the priesthood.

I remember John’s time in Hong Kong fondly. He was the Chaplain and then Sub-Dean of St John’s Cathedral, coming over with his family from Edinburgh in 2002, and I thank the Lord for the opportunity to serve alongside him at St John’s.

Though a young man, he was wise beyond his years and a good leader, and in our “Genesis” baptism classes he always offered insightful lessons that attendees took to their heart.

Three priests dressed in red and white and two liturgical assistants outside a Hong Kong Anglican Church

Sub-Dean John Roundhill at St John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong on Palm Sunday in 2004, with (the late) Dean, The Very Rev’d Stephen Sidebotham, and Cathedral servers

He was also brimming with faith and talent, and maintained a composed yet warm personality, which is perhaps why he played an instrumental role in many facets of cathedral life — John was supportive and well organised in running our stewardship campaign, garnering enthusiastic support from the congregation; he was down-to-earth, approachable and active in our youth group; he was amongst the first in our office to adopt new technology during the early 2000s tech boom; and, he was deeply integrated with all the different congregations that our cathedral serves, crossing cultural barriers with ease, including with the English, the Chinese and the Filipino.

He was also an avid runner, having ran the Hong Kong Marathon, displaying the same perseverance as he does in his ministry.

His faithfulness was infectious, and I am grateful for his support through all the challenges we faced together in Hong Kong.

Man in yellow hat and woman in purple wig smiling outside

Frances Thompson and husband (then Dean of Bendigo) John Roundhill at a “Believe in Bendigo” picnic: “I am wearing a purple wig because I was going through breast cancer and I had lost all my hair due to chemo” (Frances)

Frances Thompson — Spouse of Bishop John and Chair, Clergy Spouse Committee

John and I met in Lancaster in the north of England in 1993, where I was studying music and teaching and John was a curate at Christ Church, working with Peter Ballard. My flatmate worked part-time at Christ Church and thought John and I would get along, and the rest, as they say, is history!

Something I have always admired about John is that he stands up for what he believes in, whether it is about men’s health, depression and burnout, clergy well-being, treatment of refugees, or people ignoring issues caused by climate change.

“Believe in Bendigo” was set up by some locals to promote inclusion in response to intolerance of, and prejudice towards, Muslims in Bendigo. An ultra-right-wing hate group filmed a protest in front of St Paul’s Cathedral, where John was the Dean, protesting our support of Muslims who were fundraising to build a mosque. There were also high-profile hate rallies where protestors came to Bendigo from far afield.

When the cathedral was temporarily closed due to structural issues, John would put signs on the fence promoting solutions to issues he felt needed attention, including love for our Muslim neighbours.

Sign on country church fence

“When the cathedral was temporarily closed due to structural issues, John would put signs on the fence promoting solutions to issues he felt needed attention, including love for our Muslim neighbours” (Frances Thompson on husband John Roundhill)

We had Muslim friends, who worshipped in a room at the university, who were hard working doctors and were simply raising funds for a mosque. Why on earth should they not build a mosque in their hometown?

John has never shied away from difficult issues and that is one thing I have always admired about him. We have known each other for over 30 years and lived in different countries and continents, where he has always sought to make a difference.

Two liturgical assistants, a priest and a bishop after a church service

Bishop John Roundhill with The Rev’d Sam Sigamani and liturgical assistants Marilyne Jacob and Ross Hodson at St Peter’s, Wynnum on 11 February 2024 after a Confirmation service that also marked The Rev’d Sam’s one year anniversary at St Peter’s

The Rev’d Sam Sigamani — Priest-in-Charge, The Parish of Wynnum

Bishop John and I first met over a video call when I was living in Germany after I completed my Master’s studies. The St Peter’s, Wynnum discerning team had decided that I was to be their new priest. While chatting with Bishop John, I was pleasantly surprised when he asked me about the Visa process — he understood that the Australian process involves a lot of work and wanted to ensure in a caring way that I wasn’t worried about anything.

After I arrived in Australia from my home city of Chennai in India’s south, Bishop John came for several pastoral visits to make sure that my family and I were doing fine and that the parish was going smoothly.

The first time Bishop John visited, my wife, Minnie, and I prepared scones and plain tea, which is food we are unused to. He showed us how to eat scones in an English way — to cut them in half and dab jam and cream on them. Because Bishop John has served in the UK, Honk Kong and Australia he understands what it’s like to minister in international contexts, including both the challenges and benefits.

Bishop John has preached three times at our parish since we arrived in February last year. I especially like his preaching because he connects the scripture of the day to world affairs and other contexts. As a priest, preaching is something I take very seriously, and so I appreciate his approach to preaching about the Word of God.

Bishop John is a sincere preacher, is friendly and approachable and is a bishop with a pastoral heart.

Two sets of teenage twins with a priest and bishop on their confirmation day standing in front of a large cake

Newly confirmed parishioners Hannah and Georgia Leisemann and Charles and Alexander Morley with Bishop John Roundhill and parish priest The Rev’d Scott Gunthorpe at The Parish of Waterloo Bay in 2019

The Right Rev’d Sarah Plowman — Bishop for the Northern Region — and Georgia and Hannah Leisemann — parishioners and daughters of Bishop Sarah

Bishop Sarah: I first met Bishop John in 2018 when he became an assistant bishop in our diocese. Since then, I have worked with him closely, particularly on the Vocations Task Force. I have come to appreciate how unswervingly supportive and encouraging he is to work alongside in ministry — he is genuinely delighted to see clergy flourishing in ministry.

A favourite memory of mine is from 2019 when Bishop John confirmed my 13-year-old twins, Georgia and Hannah, at the Parish of Waterloo Bay, where our family were committed members. My girls grew up in the Anglican Church and continue to view the Parish of Waterloo Bay and the community there as their spiritual home. During the same confirmation service, Bishop John confirmed a second set of twins, boys about the same age as my twins, and it was the first time any of us had seen two sets of twins confirmed together. The joy he radiated at that service was shared by all who attended.

Bishop confirming two sets of teenage twins

Waterloo Bay parishioners Georgia and Hannah Leisemann and Charles and Alexander Morley being confirmed by Bishop John Roundhill in 2019

Bishop John’s preaching during this service, on the topic of living a life of service enlivened by God’s love, was evidence of his enthusiasm for the gospel — his joy was felt and mirrored in the congregation.

He has a real heart for young people and an intuition about how to engage with them. My children still say, “We love Bishop John because he was so excited at our confirmation.”

Georgia and Hannah: We remember the day very well. Ours was a pretty unusual confirmation, with two sets of twins. Bishop John was so excited because he’d never done that before!! We were a novelty — not just because we were twins, but because we were all friends and regular members of the congregation!! It was a fun day and we remember Bishop John’s sermon — he was so joyful and encouraging.

Priest wearing sunglasses and brown cardigan in front of a sign

Innovative and open parish priest John Roundhill (at The Parish of Aspley-Albany Creek in April 2007) was the first to celebrate a U2Charist, which combines the music of the band U2 and a Eucharist service

Dr Stephen Harrison — Director of Mission, Research and Advocacy, Anglicare Southern Queensland

I first met Bishop John 15 years ago when he was the priest at The Parish of Aspley-Albany Creek and I was Diocesan Youth Children’s and Families Officer.

The highlight of knowing and being friends with John has been the times when we have walked together and wrestled with the problems of the Church and the world. I was sad when John left to become Dean of Bendigo, but delighted when we later started serving on the Anglican Board of Mission Board together. After Board meetings we would often walk through the Sydney CBD turning over whatever issues were on our mind at the time. The conversations were always far-ranging and robust.

John has a creative and questioning mind, often approaching issues from interesting and novel angles. I know I can be honest with him and test ideas that others may not be willing to entertain.

As a funny aside, one Saturday we were running training for Ichthus Camp leaders at the Parish of Aspley-Albany Creek and one of the young leaders saw John bouncing on a trampoline in John’s rectory backyard. The young person said, “That old guy is awesome! I hope I am like that when I get old.” I then told him that the man jumping was the parish priest.

Priest after a fun run with a church choir who are dressed in yellow robes

John Roundhill (then Dean of Bendigo) joining the choir procession for the start of the 9.30 Sunday service, having just completed the annual Bendigo 10km fun run in October 2016

The Rev’d Angela Lorrigan OLM — Priest in the Diocese of Bendigo, based at St Paul’s Cathedral

As a freshly ordained honorary priest, I was transferred from a small semi-rural parish in Bendigo to St Paul’s Cathedral. I was most anxious about this. Things were pretty relaxed at my parish, and I was rather scared to meet the Dean. I needn’t have worried.

At our first meeting, three things rapidly became apparent. Dean John had an enquiring, open mind, which was never still; he was committed to making many diverse community connections; and, he was a great fan of exercise.

At that meeting our conversation ranged far and wide. I had just completed an MSc on Science and Religion and, as a physics graduate, he was full of wonderful observations on that. As a keen cyclist, I’d been wondering how to ask about taking a Sunday off for a bike event. No worries there either. “I am absolutely happy for people to have time for these sorts of things, it helps us create connections and stay healthy,” was his encouraging response.

Several months later, I recall riding my bike over the hill into town, and coming across Dean John out for a lunchtime walk with three young men. From diverse backgrounds, the four of them were deep in conversation. At the time I was so impressed. I thought that epitomised his ministry — out in the streets, getting exercise and engaging on a deep level with a wide variety of people.

Two bishops a priest and liturgical assistance outside a church before a service

The Parish of Yeronga celebrated 100 years on Sunday 7 May 2023 with a packed Eucharistic service and a gathering in the church hall. Bishop John Roundhill presided, with assistance from Bishop Daniel Abot, The Rev’d Rebecca King and liturgical assistants Kevin Baisden and Priscilla Soro

The Rev’d Rebecca King — Priest-in-Charge, The Parish of Yeronga 

I first met Bishop John in 2019 at our parish when he gathered in the Yeronga church with 17 confirmation candidates ahead of confirming them. He struck me as a caring father figure, straightforward and a great teacher. He is very welcoming to people of different language, cultural and national backgrounds.

I will always be especially grateful for how Bishop John has supported me and my parish community since April last year when war broke out in Sudan. Many of my parishioners’ family members have been killed. Many of my childhood friends and have been killed and many family members displaced. One of my older brothers went missing last year — he was on foot for three months running away from the violence before we heard from him. Bishop John supported me during this period with check-in phone calls, through prayers and lunch.

A few weeks after war broke out, Bishop John presided over our parish’s centennial service. During the service, he asked the congregation to observe a minute’s silence. In his homily he lamented what was happening in Sudan — several Sudanese people asked for his homily afterwards because they were so moved.

When my sister collapsed suddenly, I texted him saying I didn’t know what to do. He rang me immediately and prayed with me. This gave me strength.

After my father died, Bishop John released me to visit my family in Khartoum — I was the first Australian person after the lockdowns to visit Sudan. Since my father died, I have seen Bishop John as my father. He is always attentive and supportive and willing to listen. I know I’m not alone with him as a father figure to me.

Cathedral Deans standing for a formal shot in ceremonial robes

In 2017 (then) Dean of Bendigo John Roundhill (far left) invited (then) Dean of St John’s Cathedral in Hong Kong, Matthias Der (standing behind John Roundhill), to the Australian Deans’ Conference, which was held in Bendigo

The Right Rev’d Matthias Der — Diocesan Bishop, Diocese of Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui

Bishop John’s generosity towards cross-cultural exchanges and the engagement for international relationships have greatly enriched the life of the Church in Hong Kong.

When the Australian Deans’ Conference was held in Bendigo, he took the point of inviting me, then the Dean of Hong Kong Island, to attend. When he was consecrated Bishop, he again invited me to represent the Church in Hong Kong to be one of his presenters.

It was also our joy to welcome him to many of the celebrations in Hong Kong over the years. These exchanges were precious and have strengthened the partnership in the Gospel between the Churches in Australia and Hong Kong.

We give thanks to God for Bishop John and all that he has accomplished in ministry. We pray that God’s abundant blessings be upon him and his family.

Three men chatting under a heritage listed building

Bishop John Roundhill with the FDSC’s Cenk Yuksel and Brett Dury in 2022 at Old Bishopsbourne where the FDSC met for a team day

Joanne Stone — Chief Financial Officer, Anglican Church Southern Queensland and Executive Director, Finance and Diocesan Services Commission

I first met Bishop John when he joined in one of the weekly morning teas hosted by the Finance and Diocesan Services Commission (FDSC) in the main pod area of our St Martin’s House offices. I was immediately struck by his warmth and sense of humour.

Bishop John serves as a commissioner on the FDSC. He brings a deep understanding of the life of a parish to the commission, including the challenges different kinds of parishes face (such as regarding location and congregation demographics) and solutions different kinds of parishes are implementing (such as funding ideas and how they are using their properties to benefit their wider communities). He also brings an understanding of different parishes’ focus areas and theological leanings. These, and other factors, impact decisions, including financial and property decisions, across the three geographical Regions.

Bishop John is reflective, insightful, calm and continually wanting to learn about the FDSC’s work.

He is a strong supporter of the social justice and advocacy initiatives that come from the FDSC, such as our work toward a Gender Equity Strategy, and those projects that the FDSC helps to lead, including the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Recruitment, Retention and Professional Development Strategy; the equitable access project work; and, the Sustainability Roadmap.

Bishop in black standing near the sanctuary area of an old Anglican chapel

Bishop John Roundhill enjoyed a lively conversation with FDSC team members in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at St Francis College in late 2022, answering many questions and showing his sense of humour

I was very grateful for Bishop John’s generosity in taking time with FDSC staff members on our team day at St Francis College in late 2022. He led Morning Prayer and spoke with us about the changing face of the Anglican Church, locally and nationally, over the decades. He had lively conversation with the team, answering many questions and showing his sense of humour.

On behalf of the FDSC team, I warmly congratulate Bishop John on his 30 years of priestly ministry.

Three people smiling in a country town building

Fay Nolan, (Dean of Bendigo) John Roundhill and (the late) The Ven. Jim Nolan in Bendigo in April 2013

Fay Nolan — Former Administrator, The Parish of Aspley-Albany Creek 

I first met Bishop John and Frances in 2006 soon after they arrived in Brisbane from Hong Kong, where John served as the Sub-Dean of St John’s Cathedral.

My late husband, Jim, who was the Archdeacon of Lilley at the time, and I invited John and Frances over for dinner. We enjoyed meals at each other’s houses often. The day after a dinner at our place, John asked me “What happened to the oranges?” When I gave him a puzzled response, he said “In Hong Kong it’s customary for the hosts to serve orange segments when it’s time for the guests to leave.”

We maintained our friendship with John and Frances after they moved to Bendigo in 2012 when John started serving in the role of Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, visiting them in 2013.

Jim and I appreciated John so much that I invited him to preach at Jim’s funeral when he passed away suddenly in 2021.

I was employed as an administration assistant at The Parish of Aspley–Albany Creek between 2008 and 2012. In this role I noticed how gifted he is with young people. He put a lot of effort into establishing young people’s ministry and Mainly Music and into his “kids talks” during Sunday services at the parish.

John has always been tech savvy and I learnt a lot from him about technology, which helped me to become more efficient — today I would say addicted. John is known for being super quick in his replies to text messages and emails.

I think these examples show John’s sense of humour, ability to engage with young people and responsiveness. He is an all-rounder, with many gifts.

Two men at the top of a Hong Kong peak

Bishop John Roundhill and The Rev’d Will Newman at the top of The Peak in Hong Kong in November 2019

The Rev’d Will Newman — Chaplain of St John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong and Priest-in-Charge of St Stephen’s Chapel, Stanley, Hong Kong

I first met Bishop John in 2004 when he and I were colleagues at St John’s Cathedral, Hong Kong. John was Sub-Dean. I was a new Chaplain. We enjoyed a very happy working relationship together until John moved to a parish in Brisbane, and since then we’ve kept in regular touch, meeting up when we can.

Around the time I arrived in Hong Kong, John started an adult baptism and confirmation course at the cathedral —  started, led and wrote many of the scripts for presentation week by week. It was called “Genesis”. The course format was modelled on Alpha, with the content essentially reflecting John’s theology and interests. Science and the wonder of creation were there, together with a generous interpretation of the gospel and a desire to ask open questions and help people explore and find meaning for themselves. That approach, which seeks to open up questions and refuses to accept easy answers that fail to satisfy, has stayed with me. And it works! Year by year, some 50 adults, often more, have been brought to faith.

Twenty years later “Genesis” has been re-branded as “Faith Begins”. It’s not identical, but it still retains the same approach and some of the same content. Something of John’s influence continues for new generations of Christians in Hong Kong.

A nun and two priests in the 1990s smiling

Sister Margaret Shirley of the Order of the Holy Paraclete, The Rev’d John Roundhill and The Rev’d Canon Peter Ballard in Lancaster in 1994

The Ven. Peter Ballard — Bishop John’s training incumbent, Christ Church, Lancaster, England 

I have followed Bishop John’s life journey since his early teens. Before I was ordained, I worked with his father who was Her Majesty’s Inspector of Mining Education for England. When I was looking for a new curate at Christ Church, Lancaster, a city in the north of England and an urban parish of 10,000 people, John’s father rang me and simply said, “Our John needs a job. You and he would be great together.” As on most occasions, he was right and the rest is history.

John is a superb communicator and is able to relate to people where they are. If you asked anybody who remembers him in Lancaster, amongst many things he said and did for them, they would tell you about the day, as part of his sermon, he baked bread — in a microwave — to illustrate that bread and wine were not something special in Jesus’ time, but the very basis of everyday life. That loaf was shared at the Eucharist and, as always, when we bless it and share it, we are being blessed by God to share his love in the world.

John was always keen to take the gospel out into the world. In his time in Lancaster he was at the heart of producing large community events that took over the city from Good Friday to dawn on Easter Day. The gatherings involved thousands of people, of all Christian denominations and none, not just hearing, but living the Easter message. The strapline of those events was, “The Way of the Cross is the Way of Life”.

John is a remarkable priest and now, I am sure, Bishop. His ministry is rooted in the great charge of Matthew, “go make disciples of all nations” — in his case quite literally. I, and all those who shared those early formative years of his ministry in Lancaster, send our fondest greetings on this special anniversary.

Editor’s note: A heartfelt thanks to Frances Thompson for assisting with sourcing content for this wonderful tribute, as well as to all the other contributors. Congratulations to Bishop John on his 30th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood and happy birthday. 

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