Sarah Kuswadi asked Jane Tooher about her current roles at Moore College and her previous experiences in ministry.


SK: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what it is you do as Lecturer in Ministry and Church Historyand as Director of the Priscilla & Aquila Centre at Moore Theological College?

JT: I’ve had the privilege and joy of serving on the faculty at Moore for almost fourteen years. Previously I was in local church ministry in London and Sydney.

I lecture on various ministry topics in both our degree and diploma programs. An example would be ‘The importance of listening in ministry’ for our fourth-year men and women. I teach in three of our first-year units, and have been involved designing and writing the syllabi for them as well. I occasionally lecture in New Testament, which would typically be on something to do with the social setting in the first century, such as hospitality or women.

As a faculty member, I co-lead a chaplaincy group in my home each week with one of my male colleagues. Our group recently went on a college mission, learning from the saints at Southern Cross Presbyterian Church in Lismore. It was an excellent time getting to know men and women there, learning from them, sharing Jesus with others, and seeing our students use some of the gifts God has given them. It was also good to meet with an SMBC mission team who were at Evans Head. Our teams heard from local Presbyterian ministers about the many mission needs and opportunities in northern NSW.

Along with the other female faculty member who works full-time, Moore employs twelve female chaplains part-time. We have a weekly meeting as women with pastoral responsibility, primarily for our female students. Being with these women with such a breadth and depth of ministry experience and love for our students is excellent. Besides co-leading a chaplaincy group, each of us typically also co-leads either an Intentional Ministry Reflection group or a Proclamation Group. These groups are made up of male and female students.

My male colleagues are godly men, and we have good, honest relationships where we can talk about disagreements, challenge, encourage, and support one another. Sometimes the conversations are difficult but there is trust, respect, and a willingness to listen. On Monday mornings, we meet as faculty to pray for our students and other concerns. It is encouraging and instructive to hear the prayers of others, and I have found that this time has shaped my prayers somewhat.

I was originally employed at Moore to begin a women’s ministry department. This ended up becoming the Priscilla & Aquila Centre (P&A). One of Moore’s official values is Gender Complementarity,[1] and the P&A seeks to encourage women in various ministries and to think more seriously and creatively about how men and women can minister better together. Our focus is internal—looking at how we can improve things at college; and external—through our annual conference, evening seminars, advertising ministry positions for women on our website, and having numerous free resources. We also encourage women in theological education. In 2022 we began a women’s writing award— maybe you would like to enter if you are a woman reading this?


What are your short and long term hopes for your ministry?

I am keen that we keep equipping women and men as best as possible for the variety of ministry positions that God will give them. I hope to continue to help resource the church. One plan is to have numerous training papers available for free on the P&A website. Some of these would be written by me, but I am keen that the vast bulk of them be written by others—mainly women, as I am keen to keep encouraging women to write.

I have researched some women in Australian church history. I want to continue doing work in this area and encourage others to do the same.

I have just begun planning with a colleague for a new unit for our MA program that we will teach together in 2024. I am also running a trial unit later this year, and I hope it will develop into an accredited unit in 2024. This came about because some of the students from one of my subjects, ‘Influences and Issues for Australian Christian Women’, wanted to look at more topics than we had time for in just one semester.


What is your background and what is something that’s unusual about that?

I was raised as a Roman Catholic. God saved me in high school when a friend asked me to join the lunchtime Christian group. It was there that I studied the Bible for the first time. I began going to the local Anglican youth group and church shortly after. As a result of both, I understood that Jesus died for my sins, I had an assurance of salvation that I never previously possessed, and I slowly began to grow in my understanding of God’s character and his plans and purposes for the world. This has led me to experience great contentment for many years now.

What’s unusual? Not sure. I’m a typical fifth child.


What appealed to you about the role at Moore College?

When I was approached about the position, I was serving in a London church that I loved. I had only been there a couple of years and planned to be there long term. I initially said no to the role at Moore. Six months later, I was asked to reconsider and I said yes. I was excited about beginning a women’s ministry department, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that men also needed to have ownership of this. Although the focus would be on the ministries of women, we needed to think further about how men and women minister together.


My hope is to show a variety of different ways that women serve in ministry around Australia. What would you want to share with other women about what has equipped you for this role? 

Firstly, as a church member, I got involved in various ministries within my local church and beyond: teaching Sunday school, beach mission, and leading on camps. This taste made me want to spend more of my time doing ministry, so I did a ministry apprenticeship part-time for three years. I then decided to train for vocational ministry.

The formal theological education I received has shaped the ministries I have done both before and after joining the faculty. When I started, I was at an excellent church that helped me think theologically and exposed me to a wide variety of ministry opportunities. But the privilege of studying full-time, in community, deeply increased my theological understanding and ministry awareness.

Having a variety of experiences in vocational ministry has also helped me. Before joining the faculty, I was employed on three different staff teams in Sydney and one in London. The ministries I was involved in included leading Bible studies, doing one to one ministry, engaging in pastoral visitation, Scripture teaching, leading with Inter-School Christian Fellowship, serving in creche, serving in campus ministry, training ministry apprentices, leading youth group, beginning a Sunday School, doing evangelism, engaging in apologetics, public teaching, training congregation members and leaders, writing, and serving on diocesan committees.


Can you tell us about some things that you have learnt recently in your role?

Three things come to mind:

  • I wrote a devotion on one of the Anglican ‘collects’ (prayers), and learned once again through that experience the gift of prayer: that without God we can do nothing.
  • Preparing a seminar for GAFCON that I am giving with my principal, Mark Thompson, I have been reminded that Scripture is necessary to show us who we are and what we need as humans.
  • Lecturing recently on Jane Barker (1807–76), I was struck once again by her reformed evangelical convictions and her godly ambitions, revealed in her letters to her sister in England. Her desire was that more evangelical clergy be raised up for NSW, so that more people, including children, might hear the gospel and are saved.


Is there a Bible verse that you often come back to for encouragement?

I need to keep on being reminded that our time on earth is very short and eternity is very long. I need to keep on being reminded of how to live now. 1 Peter 4:7-11 helps me do that and it is my favourite Bible passage:

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

The whole of 2 Timothy also helps me with this and is my favourite book of the Bible.

[1] “Affirmation of the fundamental equality and mutual dependence of men and women as image bearers of God, while recognising proper differences in roles and responsibilities in life and Christian ministry”.