Rob’s appointment as Minister of his home congregation in Norwood is his first such full-time appointment, and the realisation of late-life career change, as well as a long-held dream.
Raised and educated a Catholic in his native USA, Rob in his youth entertained the notion of training for the priesthood, but showed it the door before the notion had time to make itself fully at home. There began a spiritual journey that traced a circuitous route through Buddhism, eco-spirituality, liberal Anglicanism, and atheism, to serving the spiritual needs of Unitarian congregations. A Unitarian since 1992, he was accepted for ministerial training in the UK in 2009, and has recently completed, as part of that training, a Postgraduate Diploma in Contextual Theology (with Distinction) through the University of Manchester. He also holds BA in English, an MLA in Philosophy (both with high honours), and a Certificate in Acting from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
During his working life, Rob has enjoyed success in the not-unrelated fields of acting, corporate training, secondary and tertiary teaching and administration. He has performed in the USA, the UK, and Australia in stage, TV, film, and radio roles, and continues to ‘moonlight’ as an in-demand voice-over artist. As an upper secondary teacher, he has taught English, Theatre, Philosophy, and Classics, and headed English and Performing Arts departments. He was recognised by both the Phi Delta Kappa honour society and Emerson College (USA) as an outstanding secondary teacher. As a tertiary lecturer, he ran large courses in the areas of media studies, communication skills, rhetoric and performing arts, both locally and in extension deliveries in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. He was recognised by both the University of South Australia and the Australian Universities Teaching Committee for excellence and innovation in tertiary teaching.
Rob has been a Unitarian lay preacher at the Norwood church since 1999, and served a three-year appointment as Lay Preacher of the Shady Grove satellite congregation in the Adelaide Hills. While studying for ministry in the UK, he enjoyed a successful student ministerial placement with the Dean Row congregation in Cheshire, and was sought after to take services at several other congregations in the north of England.
Since assuming the pulpit of the Norwood church, Rob has worked to grow the church, and to strengthen and renew the church's focus on the religious life. The new Multifaith Speakers Program has hosted guest speakers from the Ba'hai, Buddhist, Islamic, and Anglican communities, and will soon host members of the Catholic, Jewish, and Hindu faiths. Further, a new series of Religious Education courses have been offered and are well attended, including 'Building Your Own Theology', 'An Introduction to Philosophy for Unitarians', and '12 Steps to a Compassionate Life', based on Karen Armstrong's book of the same name. Upcoming RE projects include 'How to be a Unitarian', 'Liberal Religion in the Public Sphere', and 'Not for Ourselves Alone'. These are open to members and non-members alike.
As a registered religious celebrant, Rob offers 'bespoke' rites of passage, accommodating the spiritual sensibilities of those involved, including: weddings, child namings, memorial/funeral services, coming of age, and healing divorce ceremonies. We are an inclusive, LGBTI-friendly congregation, and offer partnership blessings and child naming dedications for same-sex couples.
Rob works to grow Unitarianism in the Australia-New Zealand region through visits to other UU fellowships. Rob is also involved with the Multifaith Association of SA, the Progressive Christian Network, Prison Chaplaincy, and the St. Vincent De Paul charities. He is an Associate Member of the UUA's Ministers Association and the current President of the Australia and New Zealand Unitarian Universalist Association (ANZUUA), the co-ordinating and communication organisation for Unitarian Universalist churches and Fellowships across Australia and New Zealand.
Rob lives locally in Norwood with his wife, Professor Susan Luckman, and has two grown daughters, Kate and Rosie.
However, as the Buddhists would say, 'You are more than your story'.
Rob welcomes the opportunity to have informal, no-pressure chats about Unitarianism with anyone who may be seeking the rewards and challenges of a truly liberal faith tradition in a vibrant spiritual community. He can be contacted on 0419 550 543 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fell free to visit and offer comments on Rob's blog: Will Preach for Food
'Unitarians don’t stand; we move.' This means all of the following is a flow, an evolving process.
On Ultimate Reality:
I think the human race is happily evolving past the notion of a personal, supernatural God up in heaven, who can be button-holed, addressed, persuaded to intervene, and is able to suspend the laws of nature. In fact, the word 'God' is so loaded with antiquated and patently false baggage that many Unitarians find it unhelpful. This does NOT mean, however, that there is no higher level of being that we can experience and draw nourishment and meaning from. I prefer the term ‘numinous’ to describe that which lies beyond that which can perceive and readily talk about. I may not be able to apprehend it, wrestle it to the ground, and pin it down in scientific language, but I’m reasonably sure it has something to do with truth, beauty, and love. Having a sense of the numinous is the chief aim of worship, and indispensable for living a fully human life. And it is natural, not supernatural.
On church community:
Officially, we call ourselves a church, and we meet in a ‘meeting house’. This is neither an error nor a contradiction. A ‘church’ is not bricks-and-mortar; a church is an inclusive spiritual community of the self-selected, who share a common spiritual orientation to, and mission in, the wider world. The notion of ‘church’ comes to us through the Christian tradition, and is modelled on the way in which a certain Galilean prophet drew people together in common purpose—excluding no-one who came seeking wholeness through such fellowship. It differed radically at the time from the notion of ‘temple’, with its ethno-centricity and high barriers to membership. Our ‘meeting house’ is just that, a democratised, de-mystified space largely free of the iconography usually found in temples and churches, where our community can be together.
On the Unitarian ethos of freedom, reason, and tolerance:
We are the only denomination whose name bespeaks a theological orientation, yet we have no set theology. The chief defining impulse of our movement is freedom—we would be free of coercive creeds, free of any authority outside our own best, considered judgement. That considered judgement weighs both the dictates of reason and moral conscience; we are a thinking, reflective person’s church, rightly sceptical of dogma. Tolerance is a necessary concomitant to freedom: just as we would be free, we would defend the right of others to be free, even (and especially) if we don’t happen to agree with them. It is a necessary concomitant, because we recognise the need for the nourishment of a loving community. By and large, this effort is successful, since our fellowship includes both theist and atheist, liberal Christian and Buddhist, Jew and new-age eco-spiritualists. We draw on the teachings the other major world faiths, as well as science, the humanities, and the arts. We are a non-creedal church that embraces diversity
We may be just the sort of place you’ve been looking for all these years. Regular services are Sundays at 10.30. You will find a warm welcome here.