Bishop Philip Huggins – President of the National Council of Churches Australia – writes of his memory of the Rev. Gary Bouma, a fellow Anglican Minister. When Gary Bouma was the distinguished academic at Monash University, Bishop Huggins was Chaplain at the University.
It is a treasured gift and has been in our home since those years in the mid 1980’s when Gary and I were both at Monash University. He was already a distinguished academic and I was the recently appointed University Chaplain .
My recollections are of his faithfulness at the weekday lunchtime Eucharists in the beautiful Chapel with the Leonard French window.
His reverence in preparation and reception of the sacrament was perhaps a side of Gary that is not so well known by those who knew him mostly through his clear thinking and speaking at meetings and conferences.
His faith ran deep. When speaking and praying with his dear wife Patricia on Thursday eve, it was clear that Gary’s many years of faithful spiritual practice gave him peace as he faced his death.
Because of Gary’s contemplation of the glory of God, he was often very frustrated by the ways the Church falls short. He could be a harsh critic of the Church he nevertheless belonged to and served. His penetrating intellect and sociological imagination gave insight to those with ears to hear.
Members of MAG (Victoria’s Ministerial Advisory Group) will especially remember his work, from way back, to support and encourage diverse religious people here in Australia to find their place and to flourish with dignity and equality.
Others can convey his outstanding academic record but we in the Ministerial Advisory Group saw its fruits in work for true religious freedom and in support of a genuine and flourishing multifaith Australian society.
He knew from his background the damage done by sectarian rivalries and religious elitism. Beneath the strong and decisive way Gary conveyed his scholarly insights, we could see his good heart to help people and to protect people from prejudice.
His has really been an outstanding contribution to the shaping of much now more able to be taken for granted in multifaith Australia. Gary’s primary research and academic partnerships have provided the intellectual basis for both better policy formation and for our colourful social cohesion.
And he has done it all with such style and charm!
Speaking more personally,and to conclude , I also know how he has continued his special contribution whilst dealing with significant griefs and losses over the years. Hence, when I prayed with Patricia for Gary, I prayed he would now be in the place Jesus has prepared for him – a place of union and of reunion.
…”And until we meet again May God hold you in the hollow of His hand”.
With prayers of gratitude as we all remember dear Gary and add our recollections to this brief tribute,
Bishop Philip Huggins,
National Council of Churches Australia