By Peter Carolane
27 May 2022
Anthea McCall will be remembered for her humility and joy, and for her love for Jesus and His Church as expressed in her ministry roles as mentor, pastor and teacher.
From an early age, Anthea’s capacity for leadership and scholarship was evident. She was the child of medical doctors Thomas and Roda McCall, who emigrated from Scotland to NSW in 1960 with their daughter Belinda. They established a GP practice in Narooma, and Anthea was born the following year. The family soon moved to Cootamundra in the Riverina. Here the children, now including younger brother Geoff, attended the EA Southee Public School. Anthea excelled as a popular student becoming vice-captain and dux of school. Growing up in the Riverina meant for an idyllic rural existence. Children roamed about, playing outdoors with the neighbours, making cubby houses outside the wheat silos.
In 1974, the McCalls exchanged rural life for the Sydney beaches at Lilli Pilli. Anthea attended Endeavour High School where she demonstrated a gift for languages, played basketball and embraced Sydney beach culture. In 1980 she enrolled at Sydney University and majored in German, French and Italian, obtaining a Diploma of Education. She first taught at her former school Endeavour High, and then at the Sutherland Shire Christian School.
Anthea faced one of her first major life crises at the age of 21 when her father died. While this was a time of terrible grief it led to her coming to faith in Jesus. The funeral was at St Philip’s Caringbah and the rector, Reverend Tony Lamb, followed Anthea and her mother up. He shared the gospel with them, and they both converted. Anthea became a regular member at St Philip’s. She loved Bible study and ministry so much that in 1989 she enrolled at Moore Theological College. There she formed lasting friendships with other future Melbourne clergy such as Reverend Denise Nicholls, Bishop Genieve Blackwell, Archdeacon Vanessa Bennet, Reverend Di Nicolios, Reverend Lyn Pearson, and other close friends who remained in Sydney. In Anthea’s final year at Moore, she was appointed Senior Student at Anglican Deaconess House.
Anthea’s first ministry job in 1992 was with the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students at the Australian National University in Canberra. She ran Bible studies, camps, and mentored students under the coaching and supervision of David McDonald. This experience served as a valuable preparation for her move to St Hilary’s Kew in 1997. Melbourne become her permanent home, but she faithfully visited Sydney to see her brother and sister and their children for Christmas holidays.
When Reverend Peter Corney invited her to join the staff at St Hilary’s, evangelical churches tended towards recruiting charismatic alpha male pastors in their 30s with two or three kids and an attractive wife. As a single woman, Anthea contradicted that trend. She first had responsibility for the 5pm congregation, which reached young workers, and grew it to over 200 members. As Anthea’s ministry flourished she realised her calling to ordination which occurred in 2001. In her 13 years at St Hilary’s she also oversaw the large network of small groups, and eventually became the senior associate minister under the vicar Reverend Paul Perini. Through these years, she became an outstanding model of pastoral and preaching ministry for evangelical Anglican women in Australia.
It was also at St Hilary’s where Anthea met her lifelong best friend and housemate Andrea Davy. Peter Corney asked Andrea to have Anthea stay for a few weeks until she found accommodation. In Andrea’s words, “Anthea never left.” They remained living together for the next 25 years, moving from Balwyn to Fitzroy North until Anthea’s death.
Anthea and Andrea joined the church plant team at Merri Creek Anglican in 2013. It was around their dining table that the leadership team held their weekly breakfast prayer and strategy meetings. Anthea loved Merri Creek, serving wherever the need was. She loved the congregation and, even in the midst of her health struggles, could be relied upon for showing up with an attentive and encouraging spirit.
Perhaps her greatest ministry legacy was through her work at Ridley College. When she joined the faculty in 2007, Anthea experienced what leadership consultants call “convergence” – the happy alignment of your skills, experience and passions leading to an enjoyable season of work where you thrive. She brought together her love for teaching, discipling young adults, and languages, with lectureships in Greek and New Testament studies. She also had significant leadership roles in the college as Dean of Students and Assistant Dean of the Anglican Institute working alongside Reverend Richard Trist. Anthea was known for her fun and humour in class and was loved by both the faculty and students.
She became a significant mentor to many of the female students, who were navigating the joys and struggles of mission and ministry in male dominated settings. Anthea’s involvement in the establishment of the popular Women’s Preaching Network, and Evangelical Women in Academia encouraged a generation. Due to her declining health, she resigned from Ridley at the end of 2020.
God clearly looked after Anthea. In her final years with stage four ovarian cancer, he surrounded her with care and incredible support. Andrea, a palliative care nurse, became her full-time carer. Surgeon and church friend Dr Rebekah Young also regularly stayed in the spare room on weekends while on rural placements. Dr Young was able to assist Andrea in making sure Anthea had the best health care possible. In her street she had two other church families, including her minister, myself. The Taplin street gang will miss Anthea, especially the Carolane and Rottmann children who loved her like an aunt.
Anthea had assurance of her salvation, never letting her sickness dampen her joy and hope for eternity. Her funeral at St Hilary’s Balwyn North (St Silas) on May 6, was packed with over 350 people and had a remarkable sense of joy and celebration for an extraordinary life lived. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us”.
The Reverend Dr Peter Carolane is senior minister at Merri Creek Anglican.