‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5).
The idea of being a fruitful branch in a vineyard sits well with the farm life Sue Morrison has known for all of her 69 years.
Being raised on a dairy farm and almost 50 years of farming in Victoria’s south-west with husband Robert has given the retired nurse an appreciation of the land and of keeping it fruitful.
The analogy of pruning a vineyard to stimulate the branches to bear fruit was one that stayed with her after speakers at two past church functions a few years apart each shared messages based the John 15:5 verse. ‘It’s a verse I’ve grabbed hold of’, she explains.
For Sue, who turns 70 in November, the imagery reflects her work ethos, which has borne fruit at congregational, parish and district level.
Aside from 26 years as secretary of the Warrnambool Lutheran parish, and serving for 12 years as Hawkesdale congregational treasurer, Sue has been on the Victorian District Church Council since 2016 and a board member of two Lutheran aged-care facilities since last year.
The seeds of her community service in the aged-care sector were sown at the age of 14 when she decided to become a nurse.
At 17 she swapped her family farm in Portland, Victoria, for nursing school in nearby Warrnambool.
That led to a career spanning more than 45 years, during which time she and Robert were blessed with three children and she attained two Masters degrees, in health administration and business management.
She served the final 17 years of her nursing career as Director of Nursing at Warrnambool South West Healthcare, before retiring in 2013.
‘I always wanted to be a nurse and always saw myself as a nurse on the ward, but somewhere in there I was redirected into nursing management’, Sue says.
Those skills have equipped Sue well for membership of the District Church Council and the boards of Hamilton’s Eventide Lutheran Home and Sunnyside Lutheran Retirement Village in Horsham.
Her volunteer efforts in aged care began when she was a Victorian district representative in the Lutheran Church of Australia’s Aged-Care and Community Services Governance dialogue in 2017.
‘I was interested in aged care, as that was an area I had been responsible for, so it was an obvious area for me to support’, says Sue.
‘All the changes in aged care were happening and were set out before me like “Here’s a challenge”.’
And rise to the challenge she has, clocking up more than 1000 kilometres some months for round trips to board meetings in Hamilton and Horsham, and council meetings in Box Hill, Melbourne – in pre-COVID times.
‘I just have to remember to put the right hat on when I walk out of the house’, she says.
During the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, she has been zooming along with the technological support of online meetings using multiple virtual meeting platforms such as Zoom, Teams and Skype, depending on the committee. ‘There is still plenty you can do even though you can’t physically meet’, she says.
‘For me it hasn’t made a lot of difference, you just do it in other ways. We are all challenged to think differently, but we are also blessed with technology and all the resources available.’
When she retired seven years ago, Sue had only a few weeks to reflect on how she was going to fill her retirement time when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In the next two years, she focused her energies on getting well and getting through treatment.
‘It was only when I was getting out of all that treatment in 2015 that I took up the role of assistant secretary for Lutheran Women of Victoria’, Sue says. That was followed by a three-year stint as state secretary, a role she relinquished when her District Church Council role, which had begun in 2016, grew.
‘To retire and be confronted with that unexpectedly gave me time to reflect and plan’, she says.
‘When I retired from such a busy position I was starting to think “What I am I going to do to fill my time?”, and only had five minutes to reflect on that.’
Through her treatment she still managed to keep her parish and congregational roles, which included a call process!
She does believe the old adage of asking a busy person if you want something done.
‘I’ve reflected on that and I think it’s true, because if you are busy you are forced to be organised and to plan ahead’, Sue says.
And she wouldn’t have it any other way. ‘It’s all things that I am interested in, so I am privileged to be able to do the things I love’, she says.
‘I definitely have been directed on these paths. I see I’ve been blessed by my life that has led me to this.’
Helen Beringen is a Brisbane-based writer who is inspired by the many GREYT people who serve tirelessly and humbly in our community. By sharing stories of how God shines his light through his people, she hopes others are encouraged to explore how they can use their gifts to share his light in the world.
Know of any other GREYT stories in your local community? Email the editor email@example.com
This feature story comes from The Lutheran August 2020. Visit the website to find out more about The Lutheran or to subscribe.