27 APRIL 1937 – 13 DECEMBER 2020

A Reflection by Rev Peter Sanders

On our first morning attending worship at Arden Crescent we were welcomed by Les at the door. Over time I became aware of Les’ wonderful way of setting up small groups, both in the church and in the wider community. Through his association with the Watsonia Neighbourhood House, he started a weekly Walking Group in Gresswell Forest, a weekly Thursday morning Coffee Group, three Saturday Men’s Breakfast Groups and who knows what else.

Les was a key supporter of the hope springs ministry as a member of the Committee of Management and treasurer from the outset, and of great personal support to me.

Starting with a small group of residents at Chippendale Lodge, Les instigated the hope springs ‘Worship on Thursdays’, always concerned that those who wished to come had transport. As well as conducting regular services with his meticulously prepared Order of Service booklets,  he rostered Network ministers to provide continuity. For the Cross Generation congregation he ran a Good Friday Taizé service, stepped in to provide Sunday 5pm worship gatherings through January and other times when we were away, such as at our annual camp, and lately providing us with our weekly email notices.

An inspiring personification of Christian love and service, Les had his own blend of special qualities – he was meticulous, assiduous, dependable, self-effacing, as a companion to many on the way of Jesus.

We are thankful to God for the difference that he has made in so many people’s lives. We will miss him and keep his memory as we walk on.

Les, rest in peace good and faithful servant.

Worship on Thursdays

If you want to leave your thoughts and reflections on the life of Les Heilbronn, please use the ‘Leave a Reply’ box below.

9 replies
  1. Charles Gibson says:

    Thanks Peter for this reflection. Les was always very welcoming, encouraging and humble . Integrity is a word that springs easily to mind. He also had a good sense of humour and I certainly enjoyed sharing with him in worship, Taize and in the fellowship of the Saturday Men’s Breakfasts.

  2. Rebecca Harris says:

    Les you were such a thoughtful, caring, supportive and helpful person, I’m sure you’ll be missed by many. I’m so lucky to have met you. Thanks for the lovely reflection Peter.

  3. david campbell says:

    In the short time I knew Les he made a big impact on my faith. Thanks Les
    I see him as a humble hero for Christ and I believe our Lord will be saying well done faithful servant !

  4. Alyson & Bruce Lohrey says:

    We remember Les with much affection firstly as a member of the Arden Crescent Congregation.
    Secondly on a more intimate level as leader of a weekly bible study group over many years.
    Les was meticulous in his presentation using a variety of resources. We all grew in our faith and valued
    his knowledge and encouragement to share the love of God.

  5. Janette Wilson says:

    Les was my Rock.

    I know Rae, my best friend and his dear wife of 57 Years is happy for me to say this.

    Les was one of Gods steadfast faithful servants.

    Les loved unconditionally -His family, his relations and his friends.

    His ability to listen and hear something he could not comprehend because of its absurdity or irrationality or its hurting or kind of pain he had not experienced, was a great gift which I know many will always remember.

    His empathy with those of us who suffer mental illness was extraordinary. He always tried to understand and well I remember during very difficult times discussions regarding
    Yes “There IS Balm in Gilead”

    When life was really tough for me Les and Rae took me in and I lived with them and they helped me heal and move on.

    They saved my life many years ago. As they woke me, I slowly opened my eyes and saw Les;
    “ Jesus is here with me”was my only thought.

    I moved to Macleod to be near the Heilbronns; Rae and I had coffee together almost everyday with Les often joining us if it was not a walking group day or a men’s breakfast day or a time for preparing one of his famous and well researched liturgies.

    Les was an encourager. Just before his unexpected death he was so proud that Scotty, his first grandchild had a job and not only was this great news in itself but would mean from now on Scotty would have a CV to enable him to move ahead when needed.

    I remember the evening before Kate was to be married. All was prepared, the house full of family; the wedding dress hanging ready and my sewerage chose that particular night to block and overflow.

    No question as to what to do ——— call the Heilbronns and the plumber and send the bride to sleep the night at the Heilbronns.

    Every single day in recent years Les walked or drove past my house and quietly checked on me. If my blinds were shut he would email me to ask if all was well. This steadfast loyalty to family and friends is something rarely seen.

    Many years ago my son Andrew
    left a CAT required to complete for VCE until the 11 th hour and I called Les urgently to ask if he could photocopy the cat. He sounded surprised and said he would try but how would we keep it still while photocopying. His subtle quiet humour was always present

    We all have to move on but the influence some have on our lives is everlasting. Les and Rae were There for my son in law’s graduation and ordination. He rejoiced in our highs and was there when we needed his wisdom or his practical assistance.

    To Les’s dear family I understand your shock and sadness at the unexpected nature of his leaving us but he had his bags packed by living his faith every day.

    Janette Wilson

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Cathie Clarke says:

      Thank you so much for your honesty and wonderful tribute, that is so beautifully written. I loved the bit about having his bags packed – so true and what an example for the rest of us.

  6. Mike Clarke says:

    Les Heilbronn was always one of God’s faithful gentle men. His unassuming and inclusive manner of creating informal and formal opportunities to discuss issues of life and faith was part of his DNA, expressed in a variety of ways. Les had a passion and spiritual gift for linking people who shared a common experience (e.g. profession, life circumstance, isolation). He’d create gatherings that enriched our lives; perhaps through just sharing a chat over coffee, or more formally through discussion, bible study or worship. I benefited profoundly from Les’ ministry throughout the nearly 30 years of my academic career at La Trobe. When I was a recently appointed lecturer, Les initiated a regular catch up for several Christian academics who would meet on campus for lunch to discuss faith, life and the challenges of working in a University setting. Les’ encouragement, empathy and support for my faith in a setting he knew so well from his professional experience at Melb. Uni was immensely important to me over many years. I will miss Les’ gentle passion for sharing his faith. However, he has shown us all how rich and effective intentional and thoughtful lay ministry can be, and leaves us with a challenge to go and do likewise.

  7. Jon Buttery says:

    Les was one of nature’s gentlemen. He was a quiet unassuming man, who just did so many things to help others and to support the church. I will miss our coffee catch-ups. Meeting people like Les reminds us of what true faith and Christianity is all about. He will be very sorely missed by many many people.

  8. Cathie Clarke says:

    These are some comments from people when I let them know that Les had passed away:
    Les’ contribution to the Banyule Network, and in particular supporting Cross Gen and Hope Springs, has been monumental and transformative for many people over many decades.
    Les has been such a special person for so many individuals.The Heidelberg Scots congregation will be deeply concerned. Les and Rae have been much loved worshippers in our church family.
    I have enormous admiration and respect for Les – as a person, for his faith and approach, and the example he’s set for so many of us (me included). We will miss him, but his legacy will live on in the lives of many people for years to come.
    Les was a man who lived and breathed his faith in very practical ways and just kept doing what he believed God wanted him to do.
    He was a lovely man and did so much for many people.
    He was truly a remarkable man
    Organizing the breakfast groups was a great ministry and Les was the driving force
    I am sad that Les has gone, he was such an incredible person in getting people together and in the Aussie parlance, “ a real good bloke’.

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