Reuben Hare: Ultimate service-man

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Reuben Ethelbert Hare was the first of Robert and Henrietta’s two sons. His father was the first locally born ordained minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australasia. His mother was a teacher at Healdsburg College in California and, after Robert finished his ministerial training there, they moved to New Zealand and she never saw her American homeland or her family there again.

Reuben was born in Gisborne on June 16, 1889. Moving with his family as an infant to Australia, he grew up there and in young manhood trained as a dental mechanic, blacksmith, wheelwright and engineer. This practical training was of lifelong benefit.

Reuben attended the old Avondale School for Christian Workers (now Avondale College of Higher Education) for several years and there completed the Biblical Academic Course (ministerial training) but did not graduate. While a student at Avondale, Reuben met Ivy Emily Reeves and they married on October 18, 1911, after which he entered the organised work of the Church. Reuben and Ivy had four sons, Ronald, Neville, Douglas and Barrie, between 1912 and 1929.

Pastor Hare’s first years of service were in public evangelism and he also helped to construct several churches before he was ordained in Brisbane (Qld) in September 1917.

Following a stint as Home Missions and MV secretary for the Queensland Conference (1917-18), Pastor Hare was appointed city evangelist in Adelaide and then to the same role in Sydney in 1920 before pastoring in Albury, NSW, in 1922-23.

In 1923 Pastor Hare was appointed to the English work in India, serving in Colombo, Bangalore and Bombay until 1928 when he returned to Australia to lead the Home Missions Department in the Union Conference Office. From 1930 he spent six years as president of the South NSW Conference, which included the city of Sydney, and then almost two years as North New Zealand Conference president before being recalled to the Home Missions Department of the Union Conference.

With war clouds gathering, he organised the National Emergency Service, which could be called upon by government agencies in times of crisis.

To this end, training classes were organised using St John Ambulance manuals and materials. Instruction was given for air-raid wardens, rescue, demolition and decontamination, volunteers, ambulance drivers and attendants. Women were trained to care for the ill and injured, and Sanitarium Health Food Company trucks were modified and equipped for immediate use as ambulances should the need arise. Later, with Europe devastated by war, Dorcas societies packaged contributions of food and clothing and sent them off to the United Kingdom, West Germany and even the Russian-occupied zone in Berlin. These efforts, initially coordinated by Pastor Hare, continued after the war to meet the social welfare needs of the local Australian population.

For two years from 1938, Pastor Hare was editor of the Australasian Record, and from 1940 the Religious Liberty secretary as well. From 1940 he was also the field secretary for the Australasian Union, the equivalent of the present-day South Pacific Division.

(Read Pastor Hare’s first issue of Record.)

In 1945, in addition to his other roles, he became the Islands vice-president, tasked with the huge responsibility of getting the work of the Church re-established in the Western Pacific after the chaos caused by Japanese imperialism and occupation during World War II.

In 1950, Pastor Hare became the general secretary of the Australasian Union but it would seem this was in addition to his existing duties. While there is some conflict in the record of the specifics of some of these duties, it is clear Pastor Hare carried an incredible workload right up to his retirement in 1958, accumulating 47 years of denominational service.

Alongside all his other achievements he also found time to be active in the St John Ambulance Association, where he ultimately achieved the distinction of becoming Knight of the Venerable Order of St John of Jerusalem. This significant honour was bestowed upon Pastor Hare by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

Pastor Hare fell asleep in Jesus on Sabbath afternoon, November 6, 1976, aged 87 years. His beloved wife was laid to rest in the same grave as her husband just a few months later, after her death on April 29, 1977.

Dr Lester Devine is director emeritus of the Ellen G White/Adventist Research Centre at Avondale College of Higher Education.

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