Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
It is with deep sadness that I write to the Synod and Presbytery of South Australia to share the news that Rev Jean Stirling passed away on Wednesday 17 January at her home. She was 76 years of age.
Jean has been an icon in South Australia, championing the role of Deacon in the Uniting Church.
At the age of 21 years, Jean experienced a strong sense of call and began Diaconal studies in Queensland. Health issues put her studies on hold, and she worked 11 years as Secretary to the Central Methodist Mission in Brisbane. In this time, she helped with the establishment of the Blue Nursing Service (now Blue Care), aged care homes, and a community centre at the Mission. Her secretarial gifts were put to further use when she moved to the Methodist National Memorial Church in Canberra. It was during those five years that the call to ministry came again.
She returned to Queensland and was the first to train for the Diaconate, alongside those preparing to be Ministers of the Word, at Trinity Theological College.
Jean's first appointment as Deaconess was to Aitkenville Uniting Church in Townsville in February 1981, as part of the ministry team. As a Deaconess, she specialised in music and worship leading, began a healing group, and offered pastoral care to hospitals, aged care and to homeless girls.
In 1986, Jean was called to the Glenelg Parish in South Australia where she began a similar work, developing a College for Seniors. In this time she became the organiser of the meetings of the Diaconate in South Australia.
On 21 February 1993, Jean was accredited as a Deacon at St Andrew’s Uniting Church Glenelg, following the Assembly decision to accept the Ministry of Deacon as an ordained role within the Uniting Church in Australia. She chose to take the title Deacon, and could then conduct Holy Communion.
This opened the way to her appointment as the Coordinating Chaplain to the Helping Hand Centre at North Adelaide. Her chaplaincy was across aged communities at Parafield Gardens, Ingle Farm, Port Pirie, Barryne Retirement Village at Belair, and the independent living units in Prospect. She was also the minister to the congregation at the North Adelaide aged care complex.
Jean retired at the end of 2001, but kept a keen interest in the Diaconate and the life of the Uniting Church. Her astute mind, pastoral gifts of listening and patience, and her good humour ensured she made lasting friendships with many people across the life of the Church. She called the diaconate “a treasure given to the church”. Jean has been part of that treasure to the South Australian Presbytery and Synod.
Please join me in praying for her Queensland family, her sister Mrs Daphne Lomas and her brother Mr Bill Lindsay, and for those who were her extended family here in South Australia: the Brown family, the Helping Hand community, the South Australian Diaconal community, and members of Christ Church Wayville, where she worshipped.
A funeral service will be held for Jean at Christ Church Wayville (26 King William Road, Wayville). Details about this service will be provided in the Advertiser when available.
In Christian love,
Rev Sue Ellis
Uniting Church SA