Recently, we sat down with our new Chaplain, Rev Nalin Perera to learn more about him, his role at PLC, and what he hopes to achieve at PLC.
Who inspires you the most?
My mother Helen-Iris, who died in 2003, was always my role model and inspiration. Although no longer living, she is with me every day, continuing to inspire me with her courage, tenacity, and unwavering belief. She was endowed with a fierce determination to swim against the tide, nowhere more evident than in her opposition to the patriarchal, patronising, archaic male-dominated society of the time in which she lived. We have progressed a long way from the early 1960s, but still have a long way to go.
My mother was a woman ahead of her time: single; western-educated; had a child out of wedlock in a very judgemental, rigid traditional society; and was constantly competing in a male-dominated professional world. In my eyes, she paved the way for so many of her compatriots: Asian women with limited education, trapped by their gender, regarded as being only for good child-bearing and domestic chores.
Single-handedly, my mother brought up three boys, something previously unheard of, while at the same time holding down a full-time job. She sacrificed everything she had to educate her sons at an elite Anglican school. Ostracised by her own community and also the church, she never became bitter or rebelled, but constantly fought for change, sustained by her strong Christian faith. She knew in her heart that God loved her regardless of what anyone else said or thought about her.
So, what inspires me? It is the love of God my mother instilled in me – a love that is so powerful, unconditional, unwavering, unending, and always self-sacrificial. In my mother’s life, I was shown what God’s love was all about. Even today when others fail me, or I fail others, I am reminded of her courage. Her sheer tenacity led her to become the first female Priest’s Warden at Colombo’s Anglican Cathedral and the first woman to be appointed a member of the Colombo Diocesan Council.
Although no longer physically present to cheer me, my mother’s presence and influence permeates every aspect of my life. To me, she was the perfect role model, and her inspirational life is the style of living I want to share with the whole PLC community.
What would you like to achieve at PLC this year?
With my young wife, I migrated to Australia in the early 1980s, with an established airline industry career, eventually rising to the top of my field with Australia’s leading airline. However, despite financial and career incentives, I was discontented. In my early 30s, with three young daughters, I gave it all up to candidate for the Christian ministry, a move my wider family and colleagues thought foolhardy in the extreme.
Thirty years later, having served in ministries all over Australia, including congregations, Aboriginal communities, prisons, emergency services, and schools, I have constantly encountered God’s love in people, be it in word, deed, or action. I have seen with my own eyes the transformational power of God’s love in individuals and communities. This is what I want to share with the PLC community, not only this year, but beyond.
Despite being at the dawn of what is often described as the fourth industrial revolution, sadly in many parts of the world the majority of women, young girls, and LGBTQI communities continue to face discrimination and violence, often targets of explicit bias, prejudice, and false stereotypes.
Thus, for me, a key priority is maintaining pressure to empower women to achieve gender equality, for we are all entitled to a safe, healthy, equitable environment. So my other goal is to continually affirm the rights of every individual, so that we can be part of a community that loves and accepts one another unconditionally, regardless of our ethnicity, nationality, class, caste, religion, belief, gender identity, or language.
This is the legacy I hope we all may be able to take from being part of the life of PLC.
What is the best part of your job?
There is no greater power in the universe than the power of love. Love is the purest and greatest power, that when unleashed has the potential to transform and liberate any community. Sharing this core message of Jesus is what I enjoy doing most.
I believe every student is a leader. Each of us needs to be empowered and we can be at our best when surrounded by a safe environment that manifests inclusion, a positive outlook, and continual support for one another. In essence, this is core business for all of us; staff, students, and of course, the chaplain.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to cook, and my family and friends tell me I am very good at it!
Whenever I have spare time, I love to invite our three daughters, their partners, and my grandchildren to our home. Even though I have lived in Australia for more than half of my life, Sri Lankans love to celebrate life by sharing food and offering hospitality is our favourite pastime. We find any excuse to get together with friends and loved ones over a meal.
Out of the kitchen, I love to read, keeping up to date with socio-economic theory, social media, marketing, and consumer trends, as well as theology.