Frederick Buechner Writing Competition Award Ceremony

Announcing the winners of Vose’s inaugural writing competition


The winners of the inaugural Vose Frederick Buechner Writing Competition were recognised in a ceremony on 29 August. We congratulate the winner, Roland Maxwell, and the equal second-prize entrants, Chris Ellery and JJ Hsieh. The three winners read from their entries at the ceremony; their full essays will be available on the Vose website.

The competition is part of the Vose’s participation in the Frederick Buechner Center’s seminary program, with the centre providing US$1000 prize money for excellence in preaching and writing each year, as well as copies of Buechner’s influential books for our students.

The judges, Dr Victoria Lorrimar, Lecturer in systematic theology, Trinity College, Queensland, and Nathan Hobby, writer and Vose librarian, presented the following report on the winners.


Winner – “Faith and Fiction” by Roland Maxwell

This essay has an overall theme of ‘searching’. It’s an account of the writer’s faith journey after emigrating from South Africa to Australia many years ago. It has a distinctive and wise narrative voice. It is wide-ranging and has many poignant moments. The tone is elegiac and the stories illuminating. The judges commend its lively tone which compelled them to keep reading. The story running through it – from youth to vocation to death – keeps returning to elements of faith and fiction.
To read Roland’s essay, click here.


Equal second prize – “My Quest for Faith” by JJ Hsieh

This essay narrates the writers’ encounter with Christ while at university, the testing of faith when her parents died, and an act of hospitality which helped her at a time of crisis in her faith. The judges were particularly impressed with the opening story in which the writer finds herself at an intersection between “Wilderness Way” and “Serenity Way”. The use of this story shows an understanding of the genre of the personal essay and is skilfully deployed. Throughout, the essay contains a number of charming personal stories.
To read JJ’s essay, click here.


Equal second prize –  “A Test Tube of Faith” by Chris Ellery

In this essay, the writer looks to the parable of the mustard seed as a kind of fiction and discusses Bryce Courtenay’s The Power of One as a work of inspiring fiction. Juxtaposed with these two is his own personal experience of providence which saw him reach a church service against the odds while in military training. These stories then connect with Geoff Bullock’s faith journey. The judges were impressed by the direct engagement with the role of fiction in shaping faith and the sense of personal development being recounted as the author explores his own faith journey.
To read Chris’s essay, click here.


The seminary congratulates the winners and thanks all who accepted the challenge and entered the competition. Thanks to Victoria for being one of the judges and offering her insightful perspective on entries.  We are grateful to the Frederick Buechner Center for their partnership with us.