Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Hi from Melbourne, Australia

You should understand that those who write books, or a bulky handful of letters, write because of what they lack, not because of what they have. I have written of what I long for, not what I possess; of how I should like to be, not of what I am... (Michael Mayne, This Sunrise of Wonder, p. 308).

I’m writing this second edition of my memoirs from a very peaceful place – the Santa Casa Retreat House in the beautiful seaside town of Queenscliff, Victoria (Australia). Our facilitator has asked the small group of retreatants: ‘Why did you come here? What are you asking the Lord to do with/for you?’ She then read the Scriptures ('Live/abide in me, and I’ll live/abide in you', Jesus in John 15). 

Update: It's now a year later (October 2010) - on a 10-day retreat at my friends Bruce and Yvonne Morey's place on the Gold Coast, Queensland. 

And later again: September 2014, to give special attention to the Blackburn Baptist Church chapter, in the context of a wonderful celebration of BBC/Crossway's 60th Anniversary. 

Again, I'm a little further removed from my birth-day and closer to my death-day! But I still want to 'Live fully, love wastefully, and be all God intends me to be...' My major concern is for Jan's health, after a succession of 'medical adventures' which have left her feeling weak and tired every day.


I've re-arranged this blog into date/theme order: you'll be able to start at the beginning (a very good place to start :-) and move through the blog to the present...

There are some interesting things happening in my 'present': 

  • I've become more progressive theologically on a couple of matters (eg. homosexuality). 
  • I'm spending less time preaching/seminaring/counselling (though I reckon I'm doing all those ministries better than ever) and 
  • more time in quiet reflection and prayer and writing. 
  • In 2011 - now 2014 - I believe the Lord is reinforcing a calling to communicate with more people online as well as through my books (current total readership - many more than a million a month from this keyboard: the fulfilment of a teenager's evangelistic/pedagogical dream). 
  • I've just posted this onto my Facebook site: Dear friends: Let's take a risk and trust one another: Complete the sentence... 'For me, this Christmas-week is awful / full of rich memories / joyful / full of grief / a nothing-week / a waste of money and emotional energy / a high-point in my year's worship experiences...' etc. etc. Because.... (complete the sentence). And let's pray for/support one another at this time... 

How does a longish book or blog get written? Mostly little by little, concept after concept, in bits and pieces over many days, months, or even years…

You are now about to witness the ongoing process of my writing an autobiography. Some of it will be messy - headings, jottings, ideas that may not make much sense (yet!). A paragraph or two will appear each few days, or weeks - or, recently, years! If I'm on holidays or I've taken a week off from seeing people to write, you might have to suffer large chunks!

I'm doing this, frankly, for my benefit. I want to reflect on my past, my present, and, yes, my future. If you have a reason to take this journey with me (I was nearly going to say, 'If you have nothing better to do!') you're welcome. I hope some of my learnings might be helpful to you. Was it Confucius who said 'The wise person learns from others' mistakes before they make their own'?

One of the key ingredients of my personal and professional life has been my tendency to be an iconoclast/maverick, a non-conformist risk-taker, something of a free spirit. Fortunately, I've mostly had jobs/ministries where I've not been encumbered by institutional pressures to 'say the right thing' if by doing so I've had to compromise the truth. But speaking my mind has sometimes got me into trouble with institutionophiles! Being a risk-taker gets the attention of two kinds of people: thought-police who are – deep down – threatened by a new idea, especially one which might attack their long-held prejudices; but the second group are my main target-audience: those who are hungry for a new reality to take the place of whatever ideas or life-habits are unsatisfying.

The brilliant Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig wrote:
If I could be a lovely chap
Life would fall into my lap
And all my words would sound so nice
You'd want to hear me say them twice.

But what I want to say to you
Is only what I think is true
And so, alas, I'll always be
A rather unattractive me.
Occasionally I get feedback about how I'm perceived 'out there'. Friend: 'Rowland, you're very much loved, but sometimes hated.' 'Who hates me?' 'Those who are threatened by your provocative encouragement to think outside the box, mostly!'

Another strange aspect of my personality is an aversion to more-of-the-same for too long. If my job gets boring, I’m outa there! So you’ll notice that I’ve moved among several very interesting vocations – or, I’d prefer to say, God moved me on. I’m constitutionally a pioneer rather than a settler. (Feedback from my denomination's officials used to be: 'Rowland doesn't stay in any ministry for very long!'). 

Continuing this confession-time: I've also been innoculated with a pedagogical serum: I love sharing what I've learned with others. Whether they agree or not is of no concern to me (with some rare exceptions if they happen to be significant others). With priest-sociologist-novelist Andrew Greeley people say I’ve never had an unpublished thought. Well, I reckon I’m in good company! 

Think about this:

The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned, is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes. (Annie Dillard)

And this:

'Sir, My husband, T S Eliot, loved to recount how one evening he stopped a taxi. As he got in the driver said: "You're T S Eliot." When asked how he knew, he replied, "Ah, I've got an eye for celebrity. Only the other evening I picked up Bertrand Russell and I said to him 'Well, Lord Russell, what's it all about?' and, do you know, he couldn't tell me.'" (Letter to The Times, 7 February, 1970).

I wrote this in Facebook and also to a couple of Usenet newsgroups: ‘Thank you Lord that you love me before I change, as I change, after I change, and whether I change or not!’ That last bit always gets the attention of the Pharisee-in-all-of-us. One Usenet respondent asked ‘You mean God loves demons who will always be evil and never change?’

So today I wrote this: ‘Does God love demons?’

First, complete the sentence ‘God is…’ Second: if Jesus commands us to love our enemies, are we saying God cannot do what he asks us to do? Third, Pharisees rank order God’s creatures along a continuum of ‘easy to love’ to ‘unloveable’: and the more conservative the Pharisee the more creatures inhabit the unloveable end of the spectrum. Now, I respond, does that mean God’s love encompasses a human or demonic creature who will never be redeemed? To which I reply ‘If love is unconditional, it is therefore not contingent upon the creature’s being redeemed or not.’ Think about it. (So far more than 50 people have argued about that: here I’ve reproduced some of the most interesting responses).

Anyway, I digress (that happens often in my written and verbal communications, but I hope those rabbit-trails prove interesting). Another challenging part of this review will be to select the most life-changing experiences I've had. Emotionally, I reckon falling in love with my wife 55 years ago (it's still happening!) and the births of our four children were the most powerful. (I was present when the last two entered the outside world, but wasn't allowed back in the 1960s when the two eldest were born).

I look forward to walking with you through these 77 years, via many interesting ideas and experiences ...


Rowland Croucher

P.S.  A little note or two about my name: 

* My mother called me Rowland because she and my father had read a little Religious Tract Society booklet on the English preacher Rowland Hill  (1744-1833). Interesting character: he ran a Sunday School for 3000 children, and was passionate about members of the British and Foreign Bible Society not having to subscribe to a particular doctrinal stance (I like that - though my parents would have been more conservative on that issue). 

* I've only heard of four other humans with the same Christian and surname (spelt Rowland Croucher). 

I'm the only one alive (how am I supposed to think about that?). 

From the Mormon site familysearch.org.: 

Rowland Croucher - buried 22 May, 1826, York, England
Rowland Russell Croucher - christening 1869, Hampshire, England 
Rowland Henry Basil Croucher - christening 21 November 1888, Hampshire, England

Another was a gentleman who lived on the north island of New Zealand, who died a decade ago. 

There are several gents with the name Roland Croucher living in the U.S....

(Add all that to your store of useless information)!


Come, let's travel together. The next chapter's about my childhood. 

October 2010

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