Your new-look ADVANCE
Biography: Gwenith Alexander
Faith, Flights and Fellowship
By Gwenith Alexander
A perplexing problem
What do you do when you're an ordained minister, your marriage breaks up due to a breakdown in health and you find yourself on your own for ten long years?
That was me! Fortunately, I had been brought up in a very strong Christian family and even though I felt so alone, especially through the years of depression which I still struggle with from time to time, I KNEW God was with me. I got back on my feet ... back into ministry, made good friends and had a supportive congregation but was still alone ... and then my daughter (the family's prayer warrior) called and told me she didn't think she was being specific enough in her prayers for a partner for me and asked what I wanted!
I got back on my feet, back into ministry and had a supportive congregation,
but I was still alone.
Gwenith with husband Vivian Hill
So, I got specific ... a committed Christian ... someone who wouldn't freak out because I was a minister ... someone who had similar values and interests ... a similar sense of humour ... and make him tall! (being only 1.5m myself ... I suppose that could almost mean anyone!).
Years earlier, a rather madcap friend of mine had asked to use my computer. She came out telling me that she'd joined me up to a friendship site. I'd been on that for ten years, occasionally looking at profiles sent to me and I eventually decided that it was a silly waste of time so logged in to remove myself from the site. This was two weeks after Jacqui had got more intentional/ specific in her prayers.
Just before I deleted my profile, I noticed three profiles I'd been sent ... one showed a picture of a guy with gentle eyes, so I took a look. Where he'd had to state his religion he'd actually put "Protestant". It went through my mind "Only a committed Christian would use that term." (I wonder who made me think that?) ... so, I looked further and liked what I read. It was, by then, 12.30 am but I noticed he was on-line ... rarely was anyone online at that time! The thing was he was in WA and with daylight saving, he was three hours behind.
I invited him to chat and after 15 or so minutes while he read my profile and debated whether or not to respond (he later confessed that he had only logged in that day to also get off the site) ... he eventually responded. We chatted every evening after that talking about our faith, our circumstances, our values, interests etc etc. The more we chatted, the stronger our friendship became. We exchanged long emails ... we had phone conversations ... we texted and a couple of months later he flew over to Melbourne to meet me.
The more we chatted, the stronger our friendship became.
Eleven months after meeting we were married in the church I was pastoring by Marita Monroe who was Australia's first ordained female Baptist minister.
Vivian and I discovered we each had a God-given passion for smaller churches. We discovered similar attitudes to faith: it's the God we believe in that is the essence of our faith: the doctrines of our faith are secondary, God's love is all encompassing, God has a purpose for every individual life, Scripture is paramount to faith, prayer sustains our faith and so on.
I had been on my own for over ten years when we met but Vivian's bereavement was more recent and it all came about in God's wonderful timing.
Flights and fellowship
When we met, I was ministering in the Uniting Church basically because a UCA in North Hobart had taken me under their wing when I'd retreated to Hobart after my breakdown. It was through them that I ended up in a small UCA on King Island and later moved on to one in Heatherton in Victoria.
In our conversations I remember telling Vivian about the King Island UCA and the struggles it was having and once he said to me "What can we do about that?" To cut a long story short, we ended up flying over to the island on a monthly basis having preached at the Heatherton-Dingley church in the morning and arriving in time for a fellowship tea and service in the evening.
We stayed a few days each time, taking part in the church council meeting before flying home to Victoria.
A lovely merry-go-round
While we were doing this, we discovered that the King Island Seventh Day Adventist Church was down to three members. Vivian had been raised in the SDA's and had worked for them for a number of years in the field of Education. Once I finished my time at Heatherton-Dingley we spent longer on King island with the UCA's and ended up worshipping with the Adventists on the Saturdays.
I began ministry with the Cranbourne Baptist Church, another small church that came close to closing. While there, I finished on King Island but Vivian continued going back to help the Seventh Day Adventists.
And now to Tassie!
Today that church has grown from the three members to about 30 with a wide age cross section. He also began ministry with the Nyora Baptists ... a tiny church in South Gippsland and he is still going back there on a monthly basis, providing them with recorded DVD's of other messages.
We moved home to Tasmania (I'd grown up in Burnie) almost three years ago and made ourselves available to Tas Baptists and I am now pastoring the Coastlands (Montello) Church in Burnie
What a journey the Lord has led me on over the years! All I can do is testify to the fact that God cares about every part of our lives ... the way he saw me through my breakdown ... the way he brought me back into ministry through a route I personally would never have chosen ... the way he brought Vivian and I together is nothing short of miraculous.
All I can do is testify to the fact that God cares about every part of our lives
You could say that Vivian is the answer to my daughter's prayers!
A short history - Gwenith's pastoral ministry
In the early '80's, my first husband and I planted the Lara church (NE of Geelong), and I was Assistant pastor from its foundation. I had previously planted two other churches in the Bellarine Peninsula area out of the Fenwick Baptist Church in East Geelong.
I was ordained in 1995, serving in the Moreland Road and later the Cranbourne Baptist Churches. Vivian and I moved to Tassie where I'd grown up in June 2017 and I began pastoring Montello (Coastlands) in the November. Both Vivian and I also preach at Yolla, and he returns to Victoria on a monthly basis to the Nyora Church.
Praying for women in ministry
Please pray for Tasmanian women who are in ministry leadership . . .
That God will bless them with strategic ideas and pathways
That they will uphold and champion other women
For their communities to support them in their callings
For their protection, as others seek to undermine them
For peace in body, soul, and spirit as they do the work they have been called to