Why John Bell?
Why is John Bell to be the next Noelene Martin Fair Trade Lecturer and Keynote Speaker at the Fair Trade Faith Conference in 2019?
On his first visit to Australia in 1993 John Bell stayed with us in our Manse in Taree where I was one of the Uniting Church Ministers. We had made contact with John through involvement with the Iona Community and the Wellspring Community in Australia which is based on the Iona Community.
Several images of that visit remain with me. The first is of John sitting at the dining room table with Noelene and a map of Australia open before them. John had been on a train from Sydney for what seemed like all day. He was amazed that he had come such a short distance on the map. I recall John welcoming a shower of rain and going for a walk in the rain, reminding him of his native Scotland. He spoke at a regular weekly Men’s Bible study which met in the surgery of a local doctor at 7.00 am. John has not forgotten being alert at that hour, shocking his Scottish time clock. He came to a meeting of a minister’s association where one of the members had spoken on Psalm 72. In a gentle way John led the group to see the wider meaning behind that Psalm, as it relates to the care of the needy. And of course he opened a wider group of people to the wonders of singing with the voice God gave them.
On his subsequent Australian visits we have attended John Bell’s workshops and seminars. In Penrith, where I was minister by then, we were telling people that we knew John Bell well, which was greeted with some scepticism. Soon after, at an event in Glenbrook, John recognised us through the crowds outside St Finbar’s Catholic Church and gave Noelene a big hug, while wide eyed Penrith people looked on.
John is well qualified to speak about fair trade and the Gospel. In 2010 he was a keynote speaker at the Church of England London Diocese Fair Trade Conference. That Diocese is now a Fair Trade Diocese.
I was therefore delighted when John Bell accepted the invitation to be the Noelene Martin Fair Trade Lecturer. The date chosen is to fit in with an already planned trip to New Zealand. The Fair Trade Faith Conference and Noelene Martin Fair Trade Lecture will be in the Springwood Uniting Church. This is the Church where Noelene worshipped before her sudden death in 2014, where her Memorial Service was held and where she established the very successful annual Fair Trade Fair.