All My Hope – Remembering, Reminiscing And Reflecting On 50 Years Of Ministry, Bob Thomas. Published by Eider Books, 2021. (123 pages including index and endorsements.) PDF available at no cost from the author at email@example.com.
There is only one Bob Thomas! He comes through loud and clear in this autobiography of an Australian pastor, denominational leader, writer and editor.
Bob is someone who grew from and beyond his roots in the western suburbs of Newcastle – a gritty steel town in his day. As he tells it, his home background, training at a distant teacher’s college and experiences teaching in small schools were part of the divine hand moulding him for his many and varied ministries.
In this book, Bob speaks generously of those older men who guided and encouraged him in younger years. In time, Bob did for others what some did for him. As Greg Goswell (one of Bob’s boys) comments in the Foreword, Bob is an encourager. He has helped moderate the youthful stupidity of younger Christian workers, encouraged them when they struggled and enabled them to persist in ministry.
Bob was an active participant in some great events of recent Australian church history. These include the formation of the Uniting Church in 1977. Bob’s account of that seminal event is given without personal rancour, but with a clear sense of conviction about the importance of knowing what one believes and holding to it with conviction.
The book also hints at Bob’s role in building a team of like-minded people. Bob has been self-aware of his own limitations and sufficiently humble to engage the energies of others who went on to outshine him. This team building extended Bob’s impact in the many and varied fields mentioned in this book.
Over several decades, Bob has developed and used his skills in Christian publishing. This has included editing books such as Evangelism and the Reformed Faith, devotional materials such as Bible study templates, along with the denominational magazine Australian Presbyterian Life and, more recently, New Life Christian Magazine. As an editor, he encourages other writers and helps them develop and express their voice. As a writer, his pen is dipped in the ink of clarity and conviction. All that comes through in this latest book.
Although being a convinced Presbyterian churchman, Bob possesses an evangelical ecumenicity. This enables him to see that the commonality across the Christian family is more important than the differences. And so, Bob tells of wide partnerships across denominational aisles and across para-church bodies. In an age where historical Christianity is hard-pressed from within and without, Bob’s model is a helpful one of finding common cause with the saints.
Those who know Bob will appreciate re-living shared days through this memoir. Those not knowing him, but with an interest in Australian Christian history, will gain a window into the recent past through his testimony.
All My Hope is well-presented through the agency of Eider Books, including the ‘grace notes’ of pages with some of Bob’s favourite hymns and a short commentary.
Finally, it is hard (and somewhat rare) to read an autobiography that does not fall into hubris. As the title of this volume indicates, Bob’s desire is to point away from himself to the God who deserves all praise. In the words of his favourite hymn:
Still from man to God eternal, sacrifice of praise be done;
high above all praises praising for the gift of Christ His Son:
hear Christ’s call, one and all – we who follow shall not fall.
– Review by David Burke, who is glad to be one of “Bob’s boys”.
David Burke whose non-retirement dinner as a lecturer at Christ College was held on 1 November 2019.