Minister leaves lasting legacy

Minister of Hampton Park Uniting Church Rev Frederic Holland, speaking at his retirement. Picture: GARY SISSONS 390737_01

By Violet Li

Hampton Park Uniting Church’s minister, Reverend Frederic Holland has retired after 53 years of commitment to social justice programs and dedication to the community sector.

It was a hard decision out of health considerations, but the 76-year-old has come to terms with his very own departure, moving on to rest, recover, and spend more time at home.

Before being a minister at Hampton Park Uniting Church for five years, the restless soul had a huge catalogue of different jobs, seeking a state of constant occupation.

The venture took root on the other side of the ocean in the UK with an Honours Degree in Theology, Philosophy, Ethics, and Sociology at the University of London. He later undertook ministerial training and ordination in the UK Methodist Church and was accepted into the Uniting Church in Australia in 1989.

“I was offered a job by the Synod, the headquarters of the Uniting Church in Victoria,” Rev Holland said, recalling his immigration.

“My background has been predominantly media. I’ve been working with radio and television throughout the whole of the UK, producing programs on social justice, and the Synod of Victoria was looking for somebody who was a Minister but also had an understanding and experience in working with radio and television, which is what I had.”

Social justice programs have been his lifelong pursuit. Enabling people and breaking down barriers between people of all backgrounds and faiths have been his phrases as far as Hampton Uniting Church is concerned.

“I describe it as a church without walls, and that means that anybody, whether they got a church or not, it doesn’t matter. Whether they’re Christian or not, it doesn’t matter,” he said.

“In the course of a week, we have a huge number of people of different faiths and none. We have a big Islamic community who join us regularly throughout the week. That is all about providing people who are in need with a whole range of different services.

“In our case, that is food, lunches, and different pantry items. It is also about providing education classes for, mostly women, who don’t speak English.”

Historically, Rev Holland has been engaged with reaching out to people who are stuck in the cycle of homelessness all the time, both in the UK and Australia. He firmly believes that societal institutions need to offer not just accommodation, which is vital, but also how to get out of that cycle.

From 2010 until recently, Rev Holland was the chief executive officer of the Melbourne City Mission, a community support organisation established in 1854 with a focus on creating new possibilities for children, young people, and adults experiencing disadvantage.

He put great efforts into the education program of the organisation Melbourne Academy, which provided schooling for over 1000 homeless young people in the city. Several classrooms served as education facilities for those promising young lives, an escape from the vicious poverty circle.

The prolific career has also included leadership roles across the community sector including the Marriage Guidance Council UK, the Animal Welfare League, and Parkinson’s Australia.

One of the highlights has to be the minister leading the campaign in Melbourne for marriage equality.

When asked what he liked the most about being a minister, Rev Holland gave out an unexpected answer: freedom.

“In many cases, ministers don’t have freedom because they’re restricted by the orthodoxy at their organisations. I like the freedom that you have to be able to respond to different needs in different ways,” he explained.

“And I think I’ve always been able to do that, as a minister. I also like the opportunity that it gives you to enter the lives of people, who otherwise wouldn’t be open to you.

“As a minister, people are accepting and well welcoming. And there’s a general level of accepting of a minister in the community, and I’ve always enjoyed that freedom.”

Leaving his ‘office’ and ‘quitting’ the daily routines was no easy job for a person who had devoted his whole life. A retirement service on Sunday 25 February farewelled him.

“The service was very moving. There were lots of tears. There were lots of fantastic words from everybody who was there. And I’m sad too, of course. But they’re open to the fact and they’re moving on to the next stage,” Rev Holland said.

“My ministry is finished, but the ministry of the church hasn’t. I spoke about my career over 53 years, and I finished up the service. I started off by saying this is how it all began. I went through all the different roles that I’ve had, and then I finished up by saying this is where it all ends.

“And there was a stunned silence. Then I said, no, it’s not where it ends. It still goes on. There are new beginnings.”

Rev Holland will continue to campaign in different ways for different causes after his retirement. He will also spend more time with his families, his two beautiful dogs, and his farm.