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Faichney, Norman (1910–1998)

by Robert W. Renton

This article was published online in 2022

Norman Faichney, [detail], c.1970

Norman Faichney, [detail], c.1970

Uniting Church Archives

Norman Faichney (1910—1998), Presbyterian and Uniting Church minister, was born on 9 July 1910 at Midland Junction, Western Australia, third of four children of John Faichney, a Scottish-born blacksmith, and his South Australian-born wife Elizabeth Dowan, née Slater. Norman grew up in Williamstown, Melbourne, where his father worked for the Victorian Railways. His family were active members of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, including its sporting teams and its literary and scientific debating society. After attending Williamstown State and High schools, he began his working life in 1926 in the sales department of the Vacuum Oil Co. Pty Ltd. He left school before completing his Leaving certificate but continued to study at night.

In March 1933 Faichney was accepted as a candidate for the Presbyterian ministry and enrolled in night classes at the University of Melbourne (BA, 1947). Later that year, at the height of the Depression, he resigned his employment and commenced full-time study, which included theological training at Ormond College and church placements at Melton (1935–36) and Hampton (1937–38). On 14 March 1939 at St John’s Church, Essendon, he married Grace Winifred Lang, a schoolteacher whom he had met in the Presbyterian Fellowship of Australia youth movement. He was ordained on 22 June 1939, his first appointment being to the Morwell parish, where he was minister for two years. Volunteering for service in World War II, on 8 July 1941 he was appointed as a chaplain, 4th class, in the Australian Imperial Force. From September 1941 he served in the Middle East and North Africa with the 2/12th Field Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery.

Following his return to Australia and transfer to the retired list on 4 August 1943, Faichney was called to minister to the relatively new suburban Presbyterian congregation at Strathmore. He was subsequently the minister at Shepparton (1947–52) and Warrnambool (1952–60), both large and well-established congregations with a strong sense of tradition. At Shepparton he worked with the local Indigenous community, organised youth sporting competitions with his friend the Catholic brother Vincent Daly, and supported migrants to Australia through the Good Neighbour Council. At Warrnambool he was active in the local Rotary Club, worked with single mothers and their families, and befriended the businessman (Sir) Fletcher Jones. In 1958 he was elected as moderator of the Victorian Presbyterian Assembly, after which he spent a year visiting congregations throughout the State and chairing committee meetings in Melbourne. He was then called in 1960 to the Glen Iris congregation, where he ministered until his retirement at the end of 1979.

Faichney was highly regarded for the form of ministry that he exercised, including his central role in the conduct of worship, the leadership of congregational activities, and in pastoral care, which he regarded as the highlight of his ministry. He was also committed to work outside the parish, notably as a member of ecumenical bodies. In May 1959 he joined an inter-church delegation to visit churches in the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and China. He subsequently welcomed visitors from churches in those countries to stay in his manse, despite criticism from conservative members of his and other congregations at the height of the Cold War.

In 1967 Faichney was elected for a three-year term as moderator-general of the Presbyterian Church of Australia. During this time he was also president (1968–70) of the Australian Council of Churches and a delegate in 1968 to the assembly of the World Council of Churches at Uppsala, Sweden. He forged a close friendship with the Catholic archbishop of Melbourne, James Knox, with whom he presided over a Catholic-Presbyterian dialogue. He also took a leading role in the efforts to achieve union between the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Congregational churches, and became a minister of the Uniting Church of Australia in 1977. When some Presbyterian congregations chose not to join the union, Faichney became a trusted negotiator in delicate talks on the distribution of property and finance.

Known as ‘a peaceable man, with a warm personality’ (McCaughey 1998, 24), Faichney was widely respected and tried to build relationships of friendship and collegiality. He could state his own views and disagree with colleagues and friends, but he avoided quarrelling over issues. In retirement he was an associate minister (1980–90) at Toorak Uniting Church and an interim minister (1985–86) at St Luke’s Uniting Church, Mount Waverley. Predeceased by his wife (d. 1978) and survived by his two sons and a daughter, he died from Parkinson’s disease on 2 July 1998 at Glen Waverley and was cremated.

Research edited by Samuel Furphy

Select Bibliography

  • Faichney, Gavin. Personal communication
  • Faichney, Norman. Interviewed by Gavin Faichney, 1997. Transcript. Privately held. Copy held on ADB file
  • McCaughey, Davis. ‘Norman Faichney: Church Leader.’ Age (Melbourne), 18 August 1998, 24
  • National Archives of Australia. B883, VX59719

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Robert W. Renton, 'Faichney, Norman (1910–1998)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/faichney-norman-31823/text39280, published online 2022, accessed online 7 July 2022.

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