Favourite movie/song and why?
The Truman Show (1998). This movie resonates for me on so many levels. Truman Burbank is unknowingly living in a completely fabricated world built inside an enormous TV studio and he is naively happy and enjoying his life until a studio light accidently falls from a clear blue sky. A doubt begins to grow, and the foundations of his world proceed to crumble as Truman discovers he has been building his life upon an illusion.
This movie has always challenged me in relation to the deconstruction of many of my long-held Pentecostal beliefs. It made me question how much of what I had been told about life and faith was ‘real’ and how much had I simply accepted as ‘truth’ because it was taught to me by well-meaning leaders who said they knew God and knew what God wanted for my life? And how much had I, as a Pastor and Leader, perpetuated the ‘Truman Show’ illusion of an upbeat, positive Christianity where grief, sadness, suffering and pain were conspicuously absent, or at best glossed over in favour of a fairy-tale happy ending? I still can’t watch this movie without crying as Truman takes an unbelievably courageous step out of the hyperreality of the life he had been living and sailed his little boat into the unknown. Jesus taught us that it’s only by losing our lives that we ultimately find them, and sometimes, God calls us to set our sails to the wind of the Spirit and sail into the vast and wonderful unknown where God is waiting for us.
If you could have any superpower what would it be?
If I could choose any superpower, it would be to fly. I can’t imagine the incredible freedom that would bring. I am always flying in my dreams, and I never want to wake up!
What brings you joy?
My greatest joys in life are: walking my little black Spoodle dog in the forest near our home; hugging my husband after a long day; eating, drinking, and laughing with my girlfriends until the restaurant turns off its lights; taking a deep breath after opening a fresh bag of coffee; sitting in the audience when my gorgeous daughter talks about being a successful female builder in a male-dominated industry; snuggling my 2-year-old granddaughter; helping people to recognise where God is moving in their everyday lives.
What do you love about teaching at Whitley?
I have the great privilege of teaching very practical, application-based units of study at Whitley. This means that I get to hear people’s stories and share on a personal level as we navigate our faith journeys together. I love that I’m part of a larger team of brilliant lecturers who, together, provide a holistic approach to faith, life and ministry.
Funny teaching memory at Whitley?
Sitting for 15 minutes waiting for students to arrive before realising I was in the wrong classroom.
Another day I rushed out of class right before we were about to start because I had forgotten a book and then realised I had locked myself out when I returned.
What’s something the Whitley Community may not know about you?
I was leading worship on stage in front of 500 people when my long curly hair got caught in the tuning knobs of the guitar being played by another worship leader next to me. It was in the middle of a quiet, reflective part of the worship set, but my hair was so badly tangled that we couldn’t keep going and it didn’t take long for the whole auditorium to break out into laughter. We had to take a 5-minute break to sort it out!
What’s the best piece of wisdom ever given to you?
That’s easy: A book called “The Wisdom of The Enneagram” by Riso and Hudson! This tool is absolutely invaluable in understanding yourself and the people you do life with.
What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t spend your life worrying about what might happen and how you can control it…. AND learn about The Enneagram!
What advice would you give someone thinking about studying theology?
Many years ago, when I first made a decision to study theology, I was told “Don’t do it – you’ll end up losing your faith – everyone I know who goes to Bible College ends up losing their faith”! I thought that was ridiculous, but to be honest, there’s a little bit of truth in that…. When we make a commitment to really study Theology, we are implicitly saying “I don’t know everything there is to know about God – I don’t have all the answers and I still have a lot to learn” and part of that learning process is UN-learning what needs to go. Sometimes, the things that we call “faith” are not really grounded in God, but rather in the opinions and beliefs that have been passed on to us by well-meaning leaders in our particular faith tradition. That’s where the study of Theology is so important; it opens doors to challenge what we believe; acknowledges our secret doubts; and gives us the space to wrestle with some hard questions. By closely examining Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience across all the various disciplines, in a safe environment, and practicing good theological reflection, we are able to discern and weigh what we believe — and hopefully come to know God in new and more expansive ways.
Who or what inspired your faith journey?
My early faith journey was in the Pentecostal tradition, so I was originally inspired by the bold, outspoken female preachers who taught under the infilling of the Holy Spirit: women like Maria Woodworth-Etter, Aimee Semple McPherson and Kathryn Kulman who held meetings where tens of thousands of people attended and where miracles occurred and lives were changed. However, as my faith shifted in later years, I became deeply impacted by the work of Rachel Held Evans who wrote openly of her faith deconstruction at a time when it was not popular to do so. Over the years of my Doctoral studies, I was deeply inspired by the Catholic Mystics, especially St. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, then by Fr. Richard Rohr who was one of my supervisors. Richard helped me to navigate ‘faith outside of certainty’ and opened my heart to the truth that God’s most sacred work often occurs in dark and ambiguous places. Fr Richard ‘spiritually accompanied’ me in a way I had not experienced before and gave me a safe space to question and doubt.
Ideal dinner guests (3) dead or alive? Why?
Rachel Held Evans because she died before I had a chance to say ‘thank you’ for her bold, honest and authentic faith journey. Reading Rachel’s books made me feel as though I wasn’t alone and I’d love a chance to chat with her.
Fr. Richard Rohr because he’s funny, incredibly wise, spiritually mature, and loves red wine. Also because we haven’t caught up for a couple of years and I miss his insight.
Peter Hellier because I love his humour and I think he’d be fun to add to the mix.
Cher – Believe!!!
If you wrote a book about your life, what would the title be?
Great (but totally unrealistic) Expectations