Celebrating the life of Barry Preece: a wise and generous servant

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Barry Lewis Preece, 1939 – 2020                                                                           

Barry Preece was born in Cottesloe and baptised at Hardey Memorial Methodist Church in 1939. He was a boy soprano, began playing the organ for worship aged just 11, and was confirmed there in his teens.

He enjoyed Christian Endeavour, eisteddfods, and Sunday School anniversaries. At 19, Barry sailed to Sydney, returning to Perth after a year’s piano study, work and church experience there.

In Perth, he continued to develop his musicianship, while working for department stores, chartered accountants and tax consultants. All of this experience would prove invaluable.

In 1968, Barry received two letters of acceptance on the same day. One offered him a place at the South Australian Conservatorium of Music. The other, from Methodist Overseas Missions, offered him a position at Mogumber Mission in Moore River.

For Barry, it was no contest. He took the position as Business Manager and House Master to teenage boys at Mogumber. There, he met his wife-to-be, Sister Merrial Tomney, with whom he would later have daughters Kirsten and Minette.

By 1978, Barry was Superintendent of the, by then, Mogumber Training Centre. In 1980, he became the Superintendent of Sister Kate’s Child and Family Care Services back in Perth. Barry’s personal commitment to bringing it under Aboriginal management was realised in 1987, when it combined with Mogumber to emerge as Manguri.

He was then invited to work in the Uniting Church WA Synod Office and became a personal assistant to the Co-ordinator of the Synod’s Division of Mission and Nurture. When Uniting Church Homes (now Juniper) was being reviewed, Barry became the Interim Uniting Church Homes Executive Officer. Frazer House, in particular, got the benefit of his meticulous administration.

Barry was to take up another interim role, when the Co-ordinator of the Division of Mission and Nurture retired. He was a great source of stability in times of change. Colleagues regarded him as a wise and thorough manager, an experienced and trustworthy church administrator, and a great team member.

Barry was also valued as an obliging and generous friend. In the 1990’s, he often played the organ for the Ecumenical Healing Service at St Andrew’s Anglican in Subiaco. He also began some theological study.

When he was very sadly widowed in 1997, among the many things he missed, were the stimulating conversations he had had with Merrial after each Theological Hall lecture. Barry retired in 2006, by then a Synod Associate General Secretary.

Throughout, he maintained a very active engagement in music and theatre, as an organist, a soloist, a choir member, and member of the WA Opera company, as well as producing and playing with the Gilbert and Sullivan Society. In retirement, Barry became a monthly cantor at the Benedictine Monastery in New Norcia and occasionally worked in the archives there, as it sought to bring order to the records of its association with Aboriginal people.

Barry became a member and one of the organists at St Aidan’s Uniting in Claremont in 2009, after Yokine Uniting Church closed, and felt a little as if he were returning to home turf. In 2014, after he was diagnosed with dementia and it became apparent that he needed more care, Barry moved to Adelaide to live close to his youngest daughter Minette. He died there on 10 September this year.

Thankful for and enriched by Barry’s dedication of his many wonderful gifts to the service of Christ and the Church, we are glad to be able to entrust Barry to God.

Margaret Tyrer

2 thoughts on “Celebrating the life of Barry Preece: a wise and generous servant

  1. Barry was a tremendous strength in the Synod office. He helped me greatly during my term as Moderator. His beautiful voice often gave joy to the Synod office worship.

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