In Depth  |  

The man who built Camelot in Queensland

Lewis Born 1928 – 2019

Over 500 leaders from the Uniting Church in Queensland gathered this month to celebrate the life and ministry of the legendary Lewis Born.

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By the age of 90 Lew had accomplished much more than his many years should have allowed.

Born in Cooroy, Queensland in 1928, Lew went into ministry studies straight from his studies at Nambour High School and was quickly recognised for his visionary and talented leadership.

There was always a larrikin element to accompany the enormous energy that fuelled the many ventures Lew Born undertook.

Ordained as a minister in 1953, there was always a larrikin element to accompany the enormous energy that fuelled the many ventures Lew Born undertook.

The story is told that Lew skipped the rehearsal for his ordination and pretended to be a doctor so he could sneak into the hospital, after visiting hours, to see his wife Betty and his first new born daughter.

He arrived at the church late and joined the line of fellow ordinands as they were entering the door. Attempting to follow the movements of his fellow classmates, young Lewis felt if you looked confident no-one would notice.

Unfortunately, this was not the case and he suddenly found himself alone, facing the congregation in FRONT of the communion rail whilst his fellow classmates were very much behind it.

Receiving a stern look from the organising official, he corrected his mistake with an undignified gazelle-like leap over the rail to stand next to his classmates.

People did notice and after much muffled giggling from the congregation and more stern looks from the organising official, the ceremony commenced.

It was in the 1970s and early 80s as Director of Christian Education for the Uniting Church in Queensland that Lew found a canvas large enough to paint on.

As one of his former colleagues, Graham Johnson, said, “It now seems like some long-forgotten Camelot to talk of a time when the Queensland Church had 12 camp sites across the state, monthly youth rallies with up to 2500 young people attending, Regional Education Officers in every Presbytery, Day camps, Crossroads groups for people with disabilities and structured leadership training across the state.”

Under Lew Born’s leadership that Camelot did exist, created out of his ability to dream dreams, choose the right people, weld teams, and enable those dreams to become reality.

One of Lew’s favourite mantras was to never be afraid to surround yourself with people who possess more ability than you do.

One of Lew’s favourite mantras was to never be afraid to surround yourself with people who possess more ability than you do.

A passion for the Gospel was not just a big-picture thing for Lew and during his time of secondment as a minister for the Church of Christ in Doncaster, Victoria, he and Betty hosted an international student Wai (William) Wong from Hong Kong.

Wai told Lew, “During the time I stayed with you, you never made me sit down or preached to me. You would only discuss God, and the Bible, when I came to ask you about it. Yet, you have shown me how to live our lives every day in God and that was the very first time I could really feel the existence of God.”

Lew shared the Good News of Jesus on many platforms. As a talented broadcaster, for two years he conducted the top rating evening talk-back program on Brisbane radio five nights a week.

His youngest daughter, Ann -Margaret, recalls falling asleep listening to her father’s voice helping people. His son, Stephen, was amazed at the kids at school talking about his father and who he had helped the night before on radio.

Lew’s daughter, Susan, recalls sitting in the studio listening to her father talking people back from the brink of suicide and hearing him despair that people in that situation had no-one to turn to but a stranger’s voice on the radio.

Ever the innovator looking for new ways to do ministry, Lew learnt to fly at 50 years of age and used his pilot’s licence to fly around Queensland ministering in remote communities.

Long after his retirement Lew reinvented his travelling padre role, convincing his wife they should buy a small motor home which they drove around Australia, encouraging the people of the Church wherever they went.

Part of Lew’s passion was to attack every task with a superabundance of enthusiasm and energy. He took Betty and four children to the United States to complete a Masters of Theology. While serving there as a minister at Southgate United Methodist Church he also completed a doctorate at Claremont Theological College in Southern California in record time because he wanted to get back to Queensland and share his knowledge.

At the age of 89 Lew was diagnosed with leukemia and was given six months to live but, as always, he never was one to follow someone else’s rules and lived another two faith and life-filled years.

At the age of 89 Lew was diagnosed with leukemia and was given six months to live but, as always, he never was one to follow someone else’s rules and lived another two faith and life-filled years.

He accepted his treatment with wisdom, stoicism and good humour. When one of the nurses commented on his upcoming 90th birthday and what an achievement that was he replied, “Oh it takes no effort really, you just have to not die.”

Among a legion of tributes to Rev Dr Lewis A Born AM, LTh, MTh, ThD were the words from his friend, colleague and Uniting Church Past-President John Mavor who said, “Lew accomplished so much, blessed so many and was a mighty force in the church in Queensland and beyond.”

In his own words, Lew said, “No one travels a perfect journey. The secret I have learnt is forgiveness. It bridges the gap between perfection and imperfection. I am not perfect, I have accepted my imperfections and am comfortable with them.”

“I am not afraid of the big sleep. I find that as you get to this age, wisdom prepares you for your own demise. I say now I am 90, I have lived the vast majority of the gift of life that has been given to me.”

It’s the stuff legends are made of.

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