In this third miracle article, by late 1984, after this foundational development, I was ready to initiate motor racing chaplaincy; his first point of contact was the Confederation of Motor Sport (CAMS) in Sydney.
I was given a very gracious welcome. I noted that motor sport is an activity fraught with a proclivity to accident, and although the chaplaincy model was not one which focused on track circuit disasters and funerals, the discussion about grief provided a starting point from which relationships developed.
By mid 1985, after a series of administrative meetings, I was invited to the Oran Park race track in south west Sydney to initiate the motor racing chaplaincy.
I recall this first encounter vividly for two reasons. The first was the culture shock, in that motor racing was a family affair which was primarily focused in the pits, and not (as one might imagine) on the track itself. The driver, the mechanics, their partners and all the children made a weekend of it and the pits had a Sunday school picnic atmosphere. The children thoroughly enjoyed themselves as they knew the other children from the various motor racing teams.
The second point I remembered clearly was that, time and time again, people told me that I was the first visitor who asked about the people involved, not the cars or their engines.
I had read of this type of encounter previously; in the US horse racing and equine ministry, where the chaplain was constantly told by the Strappers that he was the only one who asked after their welfare rather than that of the horse!
I also attended the very next Oran Park meet, when Jack Brabham's son David was involved in a serious track crash that came close to taking his life. This was also the first occasion I met the late Peter Brock, who assumed I was a petrol head.
"To the contrary," I explained to Peter Brock. "No, not at all, rather I'm very interested in you as a person, your team members and their family members". Peter then warmly welcomed me, and introduced me to his own entourage.
In late 1985 the CAMS Federal Council approved my 'Pit Padre' submission, and over the following years the motor racing chaplaincy proceeded under its own steam with a coordinating chaplain the Reverend Garry Coleman. Subsequently, in June 2010, Garry was awarded an OAM for his years of chaplaincy service.
The motor racing chaplaincy ministry has grown nationally, and now encompasses bike racing, the Formula 1, Bathurst, the rallies, seven-day events and others, and extended to New Zealand.
Sydney motor racing driver Tom Watkinson, who is an active follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, has come with me to church services, men's breakfasts and youth rallies on numerous occasions and given his testimony.
The miracle of the motor racing ministry was that the careful presentation put to CAMS resulted in a fully professional ministry being adopted; the motor racing chaplains themselves, who have more than adequately served their pit communities.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html