Dr Mark Tronson 2000 in Hamilton NZ
A Minister of Religion gets asked many questions. He is supposed to be modest in response and not be outrageous or volatile, and so when asked a question, the answer should seemingly be sensible and even galvanising.
However, that was somewhat an implausible situation, when as my youngest daughter some years ago now, came home from school, telling us that her friend said that all ministers are 'fuddy duddies'.
I have thought about that image a great deal, so when writing this article all these years later, I thought it provident to check what 'fuddy duddy' actually meant.
Wikipedia says: "A fuddy-duddy, sometimes without the hyphen, is a person who is fussy while old-fashioned, traditionalist, conformist, or conservative. It is a slang term with negative but sometimes affectionate connotations that dates to around 1907 and can be used to describe someone with a zealous focus on order." (Wikipedia)
There are many English novels, mostly of the 20th century, and likewise TV shows and films, that epitomise the village clergymen in this manner, but I for one do not think this stereotype applies to people such as:
The late Evangelist Billy Graham, or British bible teacher John Stott, or Australian Christian Ministers the late Gordon Moyes, Rowland Croucher, Ross Clifford, Tim Costello or even some of the Pentecostal leaders, Brian Houston or Phil Pringle.
It is interesting therefore where the ordinary people in the street might get such an image as a minster being a 'fuddy-duddy'. It wasn't from the WWI years as the Minister was both loved and loathed. He brought the fateful telegram to your door that your son or husband had been killed; but he was simultaneously loved, because he brought comfort.
It is possible that this impression may have come from the inter-war years; but I doubt it. That idea doesn't ring true because that era heralded the great evangelism years of the pulpit preacher and the growth of theological futurism, particularly with the rise of Nazism and Communism.
The Military Padres throughout WWII were highly respected as they were embedded with the troops on or near the front lines. Even those of no professed faith had affection and high regard for the chaplains of all denominations and religions; who likewise respected and affirmed the dignity and worthiness of the common soldier.
Perhaps it was associated with the Sunday School movement that took off with abandon in the fifties and sixties. Instead of focusing on ministry to adults, the church throughout Australia concentrated on children, and in my view, it was these children who associated Ministers with everything old fashioned and "fuddish".
After reflecting on all this, I would like to think that I do not fit the stereotype my daughter's friends came up with, of being a 'fuddy-duddy'.
As a Christian man, and a pastor and chaplain, and one who for many years has run my own faith-based mission with the theme of 'respite' - I would like to think of myself and other mentors in the clergy as men and women capable of major decisions, people of wisdom and strength of character, of whom the community respects for their bearing and responsibility.
I suggest that we send the message around the bush telegraph that we ministers acquire the nickname of 'Lionheart'.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 25 books, and enjoys writing. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded ‘The Gutenberg’ - the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award. In September 2020 Summer Moore presented her commission portrait of Dr Mark Tronson holding the Gutenberg plaque. He and David Chang editor of Christian Today together bought the young writer ministry into fruition in 2009. In 2011 Mark established Laguna Quays Respite (Whitsundays) for missionary respite and replicated at Aldinga Beach 2016 (Adelaide) and Greens Beach Bass Straight (TAS). His ministry is honoured all these years by Christian philanthropist Mr Basil Sellers AM. He is married to Delma (44 years), with four adult married children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html