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‘Just call me Ray’

By Marina Williams

At the age of 100, and after eight decades in ministry, Rev Raymond Outhred is enjoying life.

“Oh, it is a good life, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for me,” he chuckles.

Ray celebrated his milestone March 21 birthday with family and friends in Bendigo and delivered a service at Forest Street Uniting Church a few days later to mark his centenary.

“The church and congregation asked, and I thought ‘if I am still here on the day, why not’,” he says, adding that he hasn’t retired from service, just slowed down.

“My legs are a little slower and make it more difficult for me to get around, but I still have the get up and go inside of me, and I still do a monthly service at Long Gully.”

His enthusiasm for church service and meeting old and new friends is infectious.

“I just love having a chat, learning a little bit more about someone,” Ray says.

“I think to have a good life you need to be surrounded by people, laugh a lot, have fun, have faith, be willing to help others and enjoy family.”

Pastoral work, community and family have always been integral to the centenarian’s life.

It all stems from faith, Ray says.

“Faith is very important to me,” he says.

“When I was a teenager, I felt the love of God in my heart, and I changed, but I was timid and shy up until then.

“It gave me speech and a bit of courage to speak.

“I trust in God, I talk to him and I pray.

“I find that’s very sustaining and very helpful.

“I don’t know what I’d do without faith, it’s been with me through all my life, and that’s why I want other people to know it too.

“It’s part of my motivation.”

Motivation and ministry have taken him “three times around Australia” and overseas.

“I just love being in the country,” he says, reflecting on some of his postings to regional areas.

When the Uniting Church formed in 1977, Ray accepted a 12-month exchange to the UK, which offered a “brush” with royalty at a garden party.

“I didn’t meet the Queen personally, but am sure she gave me a little smile,” he grins, eyes twinkling.

Picture of Ray two in the page 'Just call me Ray'

“Every day you commit the day to God and trust him to carry you through,” says Ray.

There’s been chaplaincy in prisons, psychiatric wards, and service as an honorary probation officer supervising child offenders.

While not in the armed services, Ray was a welfare officer in three army camps, including with Everyman’s Hut, a welfare service that provided support and comfort to soldiers after World War II.

It was when stationed in Papua New Guinea that the former industrial chemist discovered his true passion and calling.

“I had a good job, and good prospects as an industrial chemist, but I always had the feeling that God wanted me to do something else,” Ray says.

“I was working a lot among children in para-church groups, and I thought it might have been along that line.

“The ministry was suggested, but I wasn’t interested.

“Later when I was up in New Guinea, I lost my two best mates within two weeks.

“I then thought I should be doing something more useful, so I approached a Salvation Army officer and asked if I could help.

“That’s when people started calling me ‘Rev’ because I was helping and counselling.

“Then, the padre wanted me to help him, so I did a bit of preaching to the boys.

“I put two and two together – I’m counselling, I’m preaching, maybe this is where God wants me to be.”

While still in PNG he wrote to the Methodist Church in Melbourne asking to become a candidate.

On returning to Melbourne a round of interviews followed, along with three bouts of malaria.

“I had to appear for an interview at the North Melbourne Synod of the Methodist Church, but I was in hospital,” Ray recalls.

“They told me that if I didn’t appear I would have to wait another year.

“A nurse came in and told me to get dressed, as an ambulance was waiting.

“I went to my interview in an ambulance, they waited and brought me back to hospital, straight back into bed.

“I was 21 and it worked out well.”

Picture of Ray three in the page 'Just call me Ray'

Ray makes a speech during his 100th birthday celebration.

As a young pastor Ray met and married Ivy, who sadly died in 2011.

They have four children: Janette lives in Perth, sons Ian and Robert in Gippsland and retired minister Glenys in Benalla, and the extended family also includes nine grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

“They are all young, in their 60s and 70s,” Ray says with a laugh.

“Ivy and I were the perfect match because she was shy and retiring and hated being the centre of attention, and I was the opposite.

“We were married for 62 years, and sometimes I chat with her every day, just like I talk to myself, too.”

Bendigo became home to the couple in 2006.

“Bendigo has been good to us and it has given us a wonderful community,” Ray says.

“In fact, every place we have been in locum or appointed has given us much joy.

“I am sure we did about 25 locums – the Church kept asking us, so we’ve been to quite a few places.

“In Bendigo, I will have done just over 380 services, and there’s a few more to come.”

His non-preaching days are spent “pottering around”, reading, doing puzzles and gardening.

“The tomatoes didn’t do as good last year, not much fruit,” he says.

“Hopefully, this year will be better.

“I like looking after myself, doing a bit of cooking.

“I am not very good at anything other than veggies and meat, although I do well with preserves.

“Maybe being an industrial chemist helps in getting the ingredients right.”

Ray feels honoured to have reached 100.

He is grateful to have seen how the world has evolved since he was born in 1924, and what he has achieved in supporting people through the years.

Still, he describes himself as an average bloke.

“Just call me Ray, I don’t walk around with a Bible,” he says.

In continuing his life in service, faith will always be present.

“I’m a bit nervous about the future,” he says.

“Sometimes I think that the world will get worse before it gets better again.

“However, a joyful faith gives you hope every day.

“Every day you commit the day to God and trust him to carry you through.

“There are always difficult times and situations, but you have to bear it.

“You have got to believe in yourself, and with God, I do.”

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