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Reflecting on a shared journey

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‘We are all God’s children’ was the parting message of ecumenical trailblazer Geraldine Hawkes as she bid farewell to friends and colleagues at the South Australian Council of Churches (SACC) last month.

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The ecumenical facilitator and executive officer of the Council for the past 13 years, Mrs Hawkes said she liked to think of the next phase of her life as what a friend had labelled ‘refirement’, rather than ‘retirement’.

She told the large gathering of family, politicians, leaders of Christian churches, agency representatives, clergy and Religious that when she came to Australia 30 years ago from Scotland with her husband and children, a friend told her to “remember we are all Jock Tamson’s bairns”, a reference to a common Scottish phrase meaning ‘our common humanity’.

“This concept that we are all God’s children defines how we live our lives together…there’s no one better than anyone else,” she said. “And there’s no one worse than anyone else.”

“How we live in a way that is loving, caring, respectful, open to learn from the other and delights in the other – I think that is what I have aspired to be.

“It’s not always easy, but it’s something about recognising that this is our shared journey, we’re all on this patch of land for a time together but we do the best we can, always with that gaze of love on whomever and wherever.”

Mrs Hawkes said when she looked at all the projects the churches had worked on together in the areas such as health, welfare, correctional services, domestic violence and freedom of religion, there was “such a range of aspects but in all of them, recognising that every one of us is God’s child and we’re held together in that”.

Noting the presence of several politicians, Geraldine said conversations on legislative issues were “grounded in values”.

“It’s not about making a moral judgement which immediately sets us apart from the other; it’s about recognising our humanity, our need and desire for love and how can we make that more possible,” she said.

Born in Glasgow, Mrs Hawkes travelled to London where she worked and met her husband Paul, from Adelaide. They travelled and for some time lived in Scotland before coming to Australia with son Adrian and daughter Martine in 1988.

Mrs Hawkes was a member of Archbishop Leonard Faulkner’s Leadership Team from 1994-1999, exercising leadership in the key areas of ecumenism, finance, property and adult education.

As executive director of St Paul’s City Ministry, she forged strong relationships with parliamentarians, the business community and people who work in the city through the Executive Centre for Ethics in Business and Government.

In addition to her deep commitment to ecumenism, she continued to exercise leadership at parish, Diocesan, State and national levels, including as inaugural chair of the Commission for Australian Catholic Women, and through membership of the Advisory Board for the Australian Catholic Bishops Committee for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations.

Chair of SACC, Marie Loller, said Mrs Hawkes had taught her the “attitude of listening to the stories”.

“She so graciously led this Council of Churches, and has been a leader in our own Catholic Church for many years.

“When I first met you, I felt the gaze of Christ upon us; this is the most precious gift we can all have, that deepening of our relationship with Christ no matter where we come from.”

Dr Loller thanked Mrs Hawkes for her “graciousness, her openness, her receptitivty but most of all for the compassion and gentle mercy and peace that she brings with her”.

Rev Anne Hewitt

Rev Anne Hewitt, an ordained minister in Uniting Church Australia, is the new Executive Director of SACC.

Rev Hewitt (pictured right) has ministered in congregations, in the Uniting Church State office and in chaplaincy in ecumenical, intergenerational and multicultural communities. She has had a strong ecumenical background within her wider family and in ministry formation at Adelaide College of Divinity.

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