Visit of John Bell to Australia May 2019


John Bell… preacher, hymn writer, composer, lecturer and broadcaster,  spends much of the year travelling, mostly in the Americas and Europe. He is an ordained minister of the Church of Scotland and a member of the Iona Community. During his studies in Theology, he became the first (and last) student Rector of the University of Glasgow. After a period in the Netherlands and two posts in church youth work, he became employed, firstly in youth work and then in the areas of music and worship, founding during that time, with Graham Maule, the Wild Goose Worship Group and the Wild Goose Resource Group.

He is a past convenor of the Church of Scotland’s Panel on Worship and the committee that produced the ground-breaking Church Hymnary  4. In 1999, he was honoured by the Presbyterian Church of Canada and the Royal School of Church Music which bestowed a Fellowship on him. In 2002, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Glasgow. In 2013, he was awarded the Community of Christ International Peace Award.

John has produced many collections of liturgy, scripts, sermons and reflections, original hymns and songs (some in collaboration with Graham) and three collections of songs of the World Church. These are published by the Iona Community’s Wild Goose Publishing arm in Scotland and by G.I.A. Publications (Chicago) in N. America. He lectures in theological colleges in Britain and U.S., but is primarily concerned with the renewal of congregational worship at grass roots level. Download the latest information about John’s Australian programme here.

John’ s visit to Australia and New Zealand in May 2019 will begin in Western Australia on 6 May and end in Springwood, NSW  on 2 June with a conference on Fair Trade at which he will be a guest lecturer.  In between he will visit most states in Australia as well as New Zealand and his programme will cover a wide range of activities, including conversations about diversity with Equal Voices, links between indigenous and Celtic spirituality, workshops on worship, a Quiet Day for ministers and ministry students, and public lectures.

John hails from Kilmarnock and like Johnnie Walker, the ubiquitous creator of the world-wide whisky, John shares an affection for colourfully, distinctive dressing (without the top hat, red coat, white britches and black knee-length boots).

The various sponsoring organisations are looking forward to welcoming this engaging speaker, distinguished thinker, poet, musician and theologian to our shores and hope that many will be encouraged, strengthened and stimulated through their attendances  at the various activities on offer. 

Wellspring Leader - Advent Letter 2018

Organ detail, St John’s College Chapel, University of Queensland - July 2018   Photo. Alexander Scutt

Organ detail, St John’s College Chapel, University of Queensland - July 2018
Photo. Alexander Scutt

Greetings to you all as we reach this season of Advent – a time of thoughtful and prayerful waiting for the Saviour of the Nations to come.  It is observed in so many different ways – calendars with doors which are opened each day until Christmas with some small picture or object behind it, in churches with a circular wreath with local greenery and four candles of different colours each representing the biblical people who represent the season for us or the big themes of the season, Peace, Joy, Hope, Waiting – or for others Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.

 But as we as Australian Christians entering the season of Advent this year do so at a time when there is much to unsettle and challenge us.   The bushfires and catastrophic heatwave conditions in Queensland and the prospect of new coal mining endeavours focus our minds particularly on the need for urgent action on climate change, the need to invest in renewal energy.  Some of you have been active in the various campaigns and protests in your part of the country – I myself played a small part in helping the ARRCC mount a candidates forum in our (no longer marginal) electorate of Bentleigh in suburban Melbourne.  Peter Catt, from Brisbane wrote in the Fairfax press today, “Now, a multi-faith campaign to stop new coal mining, run by the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change (ARRCC) is gathering momentum. It includes Indigenous, Buddhist, Islamic, Jewish and Christian leaders from all around Australia. They are speaking with one voice about taking urgent, emergency action on climate change. This is much more than a political or even a scientific issue. It is a profoundly moral one.  ... The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says global coal use must drop by at least 59 per cent in the next 12 years if we are to avoid catastrophe.”

We have seen extraordinary scenes of schoolchildren across the country making their political voices heard about the inaction of our government in respect to climate change.  They are speaking truth to power; and the politicians do not like it. 

From Poland at the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP24, we hear the voices of David Attenborough and others that the time for action on climate change is now.  There is no more urgent a matter that confronts our world today as that of action on climate change.  Over the next week or so in Katowice, countries will be aiming to reach rare consensus on a "rulebook" of guidelines to turn the Paris agreement into a workable document.

In  Victoria we have seen a sizeable tide of public opinion being voiced through the ballot box that Australians are no longer going to tolerate the politics of hate and fearmongering. 

The season of Advent reminds us of the need to repent, to think again, and bear fruit that befits repentance.  It is also a time of hope.  There is much to look forward to next year – plans are well underway by various groups throughout Australia and New Zealand for the visit John Bell of the Iona Community in May.

 John will be visiting Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and NSW where he will address a Fair Trade conference at the beginning of June in the Blue Mountains.  All of these will be well publicised in our own networks and in the religious press in the new year.  We then have our own Wellspring Gathering in Brisbane at the beginning of August for which the Queensland Gathering working group is planning a varied and interesting programme.

Meanwhile I wish you all a blessed and peaceful Advent and Nativity season wherever you are; I thank you all for your contribution to Wellspring over the past year, and look forward to catching up with many of you next year. 


Alexander Scutt