The Reverend Murray Woolnough has recently joined the diocese to become the Senior Chaplain to the NSW Police Force Academy in Goulburn. Murray has moved from Newcastle Diocese, where he was Rector of St John’s, Cooks Hill, in central Newcastle. He is excited to be returning to chaplaincy after serving as a police chaplain and air cadets chaplain during his ministry training.
Murray grew up in Hobart but he and his wife Bee, a social worker, moved to the United Kingdom and he trained for ministry there, completing his formal studies at Wycliffe Hall in Oxford. Next followed a curacy at St Nicolas’, Newbury, a busy town-centre church in the south of England. ‘BCP Communion at 8am, Eucharist with robed choir at 9.15, family service at 11, Evensong at 6pm and youth service at 6.30 – it was a fantastic way to experience a breadth of worship styles, and to meet people who experienced a relationship with Jesus in such different ways,’ Murray writes. St Nicolas’ was also part of a team ministry with three other Church of England churches and had strong links with other churches across the town, providing opportunities to experience ecumenical co-operation in evangelism and pastoral support.
After his curacy, Murray and his family returned to Australia. ‘My wife and I had expected to stay in the UK for the long-term, but had to return unexpectedly for family reasons. It was extraordinary to see the ways that God brought circumstances together to have confidence that it was right for us to be making this move. We felt very blessed to come to the Parish of Woy Woy, on the NSW Central Coast. They were a warm and supportive community who were also keen for outreach and whole-heartedly supported developing Messy Church to build a bridge to their existing Playgroups. It was almost impossible to leave them when the call came to move to Cooks Hill.’
Alongside his ministry at Cooks Hill, Murray served on Newcastle Diocesan Council, was a member of the Diocesan Incumbency Board and Professional Standards Review Board, and on the team that produced the diocesan magazine, ‘Encounter’. ‘I had given up some of these roles to make time to undertake honorary police chaplaincy when the role at the Police Academy was advertised. I had always believed I would spend some of my ministry in chaplaincy, and I feel very honoured to be at the Academy, working with a supportive management team here, and with the four other senior police chaplains who are such great colleagues.’ NSW Police Force chaplaincy is co-ordinated by a team of five senior chaplains; three have oversight of different areas of the state, one operates chaplaincy for the police specialist teams, and Murray is responsible for chaplaincy to staff and students at the Police Academy.