St Luke's new priest has a most unusual spiritual journey
THOSE who think being a priest is a straight and narrow path haven't met Reverend Andrew Gall.
Reverend Andrew is the new priest at St Luke's Anglican Church in Wandal and his road to Rockhampton has more twists and turns than the science fiction and fantasy novels he loves.
He hasn't always been an Anglican priest, in fact he hasn't always been Anglican, but all his life Reverend Andrew has been a Christian.
He's also a runner, who's constantly frustrated by fun runs being held on Sunday mornings, and loves cricket, Dr Who and science fiction.
Reverend Andrew spent his first 19 years in the Anglican Church before his journey took him to the Pentecostal church, then Presbyterian, to the Uniting Church and finally back "home" to the Anglican ministry.
Along the way, he completed a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and philosophy, a Bachelor of Theology with the Presbyterian Church and later a Masters in Theology with the Uniting Church.
He says the journey represents his breadth of reading and understanding of history.
At 19 years old, in the mid 1990s, his musician father was drawn to the music in the early Hillsong Church.
The contemporary music was the main attraction but it was also where he first became involved in church leadership.
"They were very organised in terms of youth groups, Bible studies, there was lots of different opportunities to be involved," he said.
"The difference was they threw young people like me into leadership roles where you wouldn't have been involved in that sort of leadership in the Anglican Church until you were older, more experienced and knew the Bible better.
"Whether for good or for bad, I'd probably be horrified if I could go back in time and hear some of the things I said back then, but that was all part of my journey and part of the key."
By his mid-20s, Andrew had been doing some courses in Bible history and found himself excited about the Reformation period, church history and the breakaway of the Protestant movement from the Catholic Church.
"I was reading the 'original dudes' like Luther and Calvin and some of the people I was like-minded with, who I could discuss all these documents with and who were passionate and got into it, were the Presbyterian types I gravitated towards," he said.
Reverend Andrew spent the next nine years with the Presbyterian Church, became ordained as a minister and led the congregation at Naracoorte in South Australia until his reading eventually pulled on him again.
He found his colleagues didn't understand his passion to read other authors or books which were "left or right of field".
"I was reading more broadly and saw that my colleagues and their understanding of God and the Bible was within these train tracks," he said.
"I suppose the church I was in at that time was more about saving souls for Heaven and I thought the two should be put together and not divorced.
"I also thought women should have more of a place in leadership in the church.
"Women didn't have a place at the leadership table, we (men) ran the church but there were a number of women I relied on who did pastoral visits, leading youth groups, women's groups.
"It was broader than just our local congregation ... there were certain rules and regulations that women weren't allowed to serve and I was frustrated by that.
"I thought it a bit ridiculous I had to meet certain women then report what they were doing to the men.
"Just reading through the Gospels, it's pretty obvious that Jesus had compassion for the poor and for helping people and I saw the Uniting Church was into social justice."
Different churches make different rules and Reverend Andrew says there are historic reasons for that.
Even though he's been challenged by those things, explored them and been willing to take his own steps outside the boundaries of the churches he's been a part of, he still has an acceptance of it
"The reason I've come back to the Anglican Church for example is because it's rooted in history," he said.
"The prayers the Anglicans say every Sunday go back to the 15th century and the early church and I think I like that continuity with history.
"If you walk into the more traditional churches, they have their roots back to the time of Christ.
"That's not to say we don't sing modern songs, we do.
"But I like to have both - modern songs and the continuity of historical prayers rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater and doing everything that was invented since the 1970s."
Some members of the church see his unorthodox journey as a strength, then there's those who have been Anglicans their whole life and see "this dude" who's only just come back.
Reverend Andrew sees his journey as a full circle and coming home.
"For me it's a strength and overall I wouldn't change much if I had the opportunity to go back," he said.
Reverend Andrew came from the Anglican Church in Mildura to replace Fr Shaji Joseph and said the parishioners will likely call him Fr Andrew.
He has brought his wife Kareen and five children, Hannah, 13, David 11, Caleb, 10, Siobhan, 5 and Xander, almost 3, to Rockhampton.
Unsurprisingly, the children of this most ecumenical man, are enrolled in Catholic schools.
"I think it's sad children aren't exposed to Christian teachings," he said.
"People need structure and meaning in their lives and if they don't find it in Christianity they'll find it in other areas.
"The Bible tells big stories about people's lives, it shows how they got on and gives people hope and inspiration.
"I think people need that ... need more than just go to school, get an education, get a degree, get a job.
"We need other things to give meaning to our lives.
"For me, God is the ultimate meaning and the ultimate force of strength and hope for people."
St Luke's Anglican Church
- Regular services are held every Sunday at 8.30am and from February on Saturdays at 6pm
- Messy Church is held on the first Sunday of each month at 10am for children and families.