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The 'Rev gears up to move on

An interview with John McIntyre by Vladimir Korotkov in the December 2005 edition of the South Sydney Herald.

One of Redfern's much loved residents and workers, John "the Rev" McIntyre, rector at St Saviours Anglican Church, is leaving to take up a new role in Gippsland, Victoria, as an Anglican Bishop.

Over coffee last week, John shared that leaving Redfern was producing a large measure of sad­ness for himself and his family. Certainly, added to this, he said, there was a feeling of excitement about the new challenges and opportunities. There is a semi-sur­real feeling about what is going on for us, John continued.

How else could they feel when you realise that John, Jan and their grown-up kids Jessica, Paul and Lisa have lived in Redfern for 15 years. The kids had grown up here, and the family had devel­oped support networks and made many significant friends.

The McIntyre family's deep attachment to both their church and the community of Redfern-Waterloo was strongly evident at the farewell luncheon at St Saviours Church hall on: the 27th of November - one of many farewells prepared for them! Jan and John, arm in arm, barely holding back their tears, were vis­ibly moved as they responded to the speeches of appreciation and love from the church and sectors of the community.

And church members and peo­ple from various parts of the com­munity at that function expressed both their rich, appreciation for the McIntyre family and their sadness, mixed with grieving, at having to say farewell. Tanya Plibersek, Federal Labor MP, thanked John for his community work, noting his compassion for the people. Faye Williams from the Inner City Regional Council for Social Development shared how, though she is a non‑churched person, John supported her in a time of great loss. She had slipped into the church and said a prayer of thanks to God. This event illustrates how John has made the church a significant part of the community, melting it accessible and meaningful to everyone. And even Jack Carnegie the self-confessed atheistic spoke about the significance for his life of John and his family and the St Saviour's community.

John McIntyre is the peoples man. Chris Carbin calls him a "roughie", someone who rep­resents his community against the powerful. Over the years he has raised his voice at many different forums always seeking to represent the interests of the community and especially the most needy. What was most memorable for John on these occasions, he informed me, was watching people come together and working together for a cause even if they lost the fight.

Patrons at The Redfern Hotel in George Street have their own his­tory with John. And knowing that pubs are great places to really find out what a person it like, I eagerly accepted Des Peyton's invitation to have a drink and talk to patrons who knew John. Des is the Licensee of the hotel.

For patrons at The Redfern Hotel, he is the "Rev" who is the people's man. Bert, a regular patron, told me, The Rev won't push religion on you, but if you want help, he will give you as much time as you need. He related a story about John dropping in to his place for a few minutes, only to stay for a few hours when Bert told him he needed support. As Bert and other patrons spoke about John's contribution to their community, of baptisms, marriages, funer­als, personal support, just being present and socialising, I realised what they were describing was the traditional English Vicar. And of course, there were the golf stories and the bus trips on Saturday golf outings, full of humour, earthiness, and the boast that they had helped John improve his golf handicap. Des Peyton could not convey in words what John had meant for them all. Tips were passed on to the work of Crossroads, the Anglican Aboriginal ministry operating out of George Street. With a smile, Des remarked that John likes to keep up his Irish connections, with a Guinness or two.

Some of the primary values that motivate John are to connect with people and to be open to meet them where they are and on the basis of their need. One story, which he shared, illustrates these values, at a very literal level. John had come to Sydney from Melbourne. In one of his former churches, in the Mel­bourne suburb of Thomastown, John and his family befriended a local, notorious street gang, some of whom ended up dead or imprisoned. "Our house was their refuge, and we never locked our house", John said quietly. "But the upside was we never lost a thing", he added with a warm smile. Theirs was the only house that was never burgled!

My interview with John was as memorable as my five years working alongside him. I leave you with a final story from his work symbolising his life and work in Redfern. "It's about a guy who has been through the heavily into drugs". John had known this person in Melbourne 'and tried to provide him with support. "He ends up in Redfern and gets himself straight for the sake of. his kid... he doesn't believe in God, but wants his son to go to church... He ends up being a significant part of the - church community... Then, he ends up back on drugs, due to various pressures, and dying of an overdose." For John, this is no success story and it symbolises what life is like for some people. And to Redfern and its com­munity, John has attempted to just be faithful and express grace, compassion, seek justice, walk humbly and then believe that God will work in people's lives.

We wish John, Jan and his fam­ily all the best for their new life, and thank them for their faithful time amongst us. As Chris Carbin has said, Redfern has prepared John really well for his new role as Bishop of Gippsland.