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Called upon to share his faith

IN SERVICE: Reverend Jim Pearson in his office reflecting on Anzac Day. Rev Pearson led the prayers at the Emerald services.
IN SERVICE: Reverend Jim Pearson in his office reflecting on Anzac Day. Rev Pearson led the prayers at the Emerald services. Rebekah Yelland

REVEREND Jim Pearson's perspective of Anzac Day may have changed and grown with his life experiences but the retired army chaplain still holds the day dear as he reminisces on what it means for Australians.

Rev Pearson joined the Australian Regular Army in 1996 as a chaplain and served until 2001.

His tours included a posting to East Timor and trips to Belgium, Singapore and Malaysia.

He further served as a chaplain in the Australian Reserve Army from 2002 until 2012 before retiring from the military.

This year, as the Emerald Uniting Church reverend, he led the Emerald Anzac Day dawn service in a prayer.

In preparing for the day, Rev Pearson took time to reflect on Anzac Day commemorations and said his perspective of the day had changed since his time in the army.

"I've become more conscious of what other servicemen and women have done in the past and are doing at present for the well being of this and other nations,” he said.

"On Anzac Day I'm thinking much more nationally than individually.

"There is sometimes individual reminiscences of those I've lost but my focus tends to be more national.”

Rev Pearson started his professional career as an engineering draftsman but felt called to ministry and subsequently completed bible college twice to become a clergyman in Babinda, north of Innisfail.

He then spent time in Mount Isa then moved south to Narrabri in New South Wales.

It was during that time that Rev Pearson met his wife, Jane, marrying her in 1981.

The couple, celebrating 36 years of marriage this year, have three children, Elizabeth, Michael and Philip.

It was in 1996 that Rev Pearson decided to enlist full-time in the military service and though he had a wife and family to consider in his decision, it didn't hold him back from what he felt called to do.

"It wasn't a tough choice to sign up though I was married and had been in parish ministry for a while,” he said.

"If I was going to do something else in my working career, I had to do it then when I was young enough and flexible enough in body and mind.

"I felt called to go into military chaplaincy, I had done some military work and scouts as a young boy so living rough and getting dirty with others who don't mind living like that I didn't mind.”

Rev Pearson retired from the Australian Reserve Army in 2012 and after leaving the army, he did eight years of hospital chaplaincy in Cairns and a few other roles before ending up in Emerald for the local Uniting Church.

While he said some servicemen and women struggled to re-enter communities following retirement from the armed services, his transition wasn't difficult as he had several years of prior parish ministry experience from which to draw.

"Coming back to parish ministry wasn't that much of a wrench at all because I'd been there before,” he said.

Whether it was serving in a parish or fulfilling the role of chaplain in the army, Rev Pearson felt each position was as important and needed as the other.

He said he felt called to the ministry in the military because those serving needed a chaplain, too.

"Soldiers need a man or woman of God in their mix and as one of them just as much as people do in a hospital, people in a small town, people in a large town or city and people in the outback,” he said.

"I didn't want them deprived of the things that would be available to others, the services of the church.”

When he thinks about his time in the military and tries to sum up his experience, Rev Pearson describes it as immensely rewarding and fulfilling.

"It taught me a great deal about leadership,” he said.

"Also about working with others and about being of assistance to both the people of Australia and the people who needed peace and stability brought to them.

"I was always concious of the fact I was working as a chaplain and not for myself but for the soldiers and their welfare, the people of places like East Timor and their welfare as a servant of Christ.

"For me it wasn't about ambition or promotion but it was about being a minister of God in the military and operational context.”

Drawing on the experience he has gained from his time serving, Rev Pearson said everyone could learn from their past.

"Every past position I've known as a clergyman should equip me better for my next position,” he said.

"Sometimes you learn things to do and things not to do but hopefully you learn from everything.”

Rev Pearson said he made life-long friends from his time in the army, including Colonel Peter Sibree who spoke at the Emerald Anzac Day ceremonies.

Topics:  anzac day emerald uniting church


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