The Book of Evan - The work and life of Evan McAra Sherrard. Keith Tudor (editor)
Waimauku: ResourceBooks 2017
Review by Laurie Chisholm
This book isn’t quite your normal biography. It is a mixture of biographical information, personal reminiscences, sermons and other documents that Evan Sherrard produced during a life that encompassed agriculture, ministry, education and psychotherapy. It also includes information about the prostate cancer and heart attacks that led to his death in 2015 at the age of 81.
In the late 60’s when I was studying for the Presbyterian ministry at Knox College, I regarded the Cameron Centre as a model of church work. Usually, there is a divide between church services (attended by the good people) and the church’s social work (provided to the problem people). Cameron Centre straddled the divide. Evan Sherrard was associate Minister at First Church and also the director of Cameron Centre. Those who went to church also attended programmes at the Cameron Centre, mixing with the ‘problem people.’ What I didn’t know, but learnt from the book, is that Evan founded the Cameron Centre (which opened 1967) and so was responsible for setting up this system, providing therapeutic insights to both sides of the divide.
From the book I also learnt what happened to Evan after he finished at the Cameron Centre. He went overseas again for further training, at a very interesting time. A great ferment was just beginning. There was Carl Rogers and non-directive therapy, Transactional Analysis, Gestalt and Psychodrama. The churches were waking up to this ferment and about to embark on Clinical Pastoral Training. This taught the practice of relating to others, not just the theory of it. He returned in 1976 to work in the Auckland Presbyterian Social Services Association. He became a fully credited supervisor in Clinical Pastoral Education.
During his time with the PSSA, he developed a programme of psychotherapy training in what was to become the Auckland University of Technology. The first intake of students was 1989. He became highly qualified in transactional analysis (was a supervising transactional analyst) and also in psychodrama (was a psychodramatist trainer, educator and practitioner).
The book provides ample evidence of Evan’s qualities as a person, and of the great influence he had on others. He also continued with a theological interest and was influenced by Lloyd Geering, even preaching an interesting sermon in 2014 with the title ‘Geering and Feuerbach’. We can be grateful to those who put a lot of effort into producing this record of an important and pioneering New Zealander.
I am left wondering what happened to all that ferment in the 60s and 70s. Many became captivated by the new methods and moved out of the church sphere. There wasn’t much interest in reflecting theologically on this new thinking. Maybe connecting theology and pastoral care/ psychotherapy, recovering a sense that Jesus’ healing work was a therapeutic endeavour, is a task that is still ahead of us?