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God moves in mysterious ways

Wednesday, 2nd December, 2015

Former professional actor and now Anglican Bishop, Rob Gillion, promotes his new show “The Visit”. Former professional actor and now Anglican Bishop, Rob Gillion, promotes his new show “The Visit”.

By Craig Brealey

In England, the Christmas pantomine is a tradition but there are a couple of big differences between the old panto and a new show that hits town on Friday night.

First off, it is not a pantomime but a proper play, performed by a proper actor from the London stage.

The second thing is, the actor who plays the part of a priest who gets an unexpected (to say the least) visit from Jesus on Christmas eve is a real Bishop.

What’s more, he is the new Bishop of Riverina who, while he is here performing  the show, will ordain the city’s first female Anglican priest. 

The play, entitled “The Visit”, is being presented at the Musicians’ Club by Bishop Rob Gillion who yesterday paid a visit to BDT, as himself.

He said the show, which has been performed in New York and London among other world capitals, had been described as something like “The Vicar of Dibley.”

When Bishop Gillion presented it in Griffith on this tour, someone had actually commented: “I’ve never seen a Bishop act like that before!”

“I was an actor for 12 or 14 years (in London) and then I was called to the Church,” he said.

“I try to combine my theatrical gifts with my Ministry and developed this one-man show to be entertaining and informative and to show my faith.

“This is a play you can bring anyone along to. It is not a pantomine. I would say it is for everyone over the age of about 10.

“It deals with issues and themes common to everybody - bereavement, healing, forgiveness, poverty but it also humorous and poignant.”  

It goes for two hours with an interval and, like at any proper play, the bar will be open .

Bishop Gillion came to live in Australia 14 months ago. His Diocese goes from Wagga Wagga to Broken Hill; that’s about the size of England, Scotland and Wales combined, he said.

He said the big move came about in a peculiar way.

“A priest from the Riverina was in London on holidays, went to St Paul’s where I happened to be preaching. Eighteen months later he sent me an email asking if he could nominate me for Bishop of Riverina.

“I have a son in Melbourne who is the marketing manager for Melbourne Victory (A-league soccer club) and my granddad had came out to Australia with my mum to be the rector of Broome and Derby.

“I thought ‘this is spooky’. Maybe I have their pioneering DNA?”

Twenty-five months after that first email, he received the news that he had been elected unanimously.

On Sunday he will ordain Helen Ferguson as Broken Hill’s first Anglican woman priest and then he is off to Wilcannia to hold a service at the hospital.

He said we should expect to see a lot more of him: “I am here for the long term,  until I retire.”

The ABC TV is following the Bishop on his theatrical tour and filming him for a documentary to be called “Far Flung Flock” that is due to be shown in February, so anyone in the audience on Friday night at the Musos’ might find themselves on the telly.

Bishop Gillion is being accompanied on the tour by his wife. “We met at drama school. She’s an actor as well and the director and production manager of the show.

“The Musicians’ Club has very generously given me the auditorium free and any money raised will go towards a youth project for young people on the margins.”

So, apart from being an actor and a Bishop, what else has he done?. Well, he also served in Hong Kong between 1990 and 2000 and was there when Britain gave the city-state back to China.   

In London he hosted “Songs of Praise” on the BBC and worked on radio with the likes of Sir Terry Wogan for 10 years and Chris Evans, who recently replaced Jeremy Clarkson as the co-host of “Top Gear”.

And he was also the chaplain of the world’s most famous department store, Harrods. 

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