Susan Joy Nevile


AUTHOR of Joy and Compassion: Stories and Prayers for a Life of Faith (2021, 384 pages, Coventry Press, Melbourne) 

"my goal ... give thanks, love my family, live in hope and trust, have an open heart, respond with grace"

The late Rev. Susan Joy Nevile (1963-2018) was a woman of light, life, and love, known for her calm presence, gentle wisdom, deep affection for people, resolute faith, and enthusiasm for colour and creativity, especially in her quilting. She was married for almost thirty years, and a mother of three. 

Susan Joy was passionate about serving in the world, meeting and supporting people in their life circumstances. For ten years she worked as a hospice and hospital pastoral carer. Before that, for seven years she was a school chaplain, and teacher of religious and values education (RAVE), to primary and infants students. She was an experienced children's and family minister, and volunteer Lifeline telephone counsellor. In 2009 she was ordained into the permanent diaconate of the Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn. She lived the call to be as Christ to others. She led worship across many settings, particularly valuing story, visual resources, and candlelight. She would search for hours to find images to engage, delight, and inspire. 

Susan Joy left a collection of writings, produced over 15 years, which she described as "my voice, on faith and how to live as a person of faith in this world". Her husband, an academic writer and editor, compiled and edited these, and brought them to publication as the book Joy and Compassion:  Stories and Prayers for a Life of Faith (2021, Coventry Press). The book offers a collection of more than 80 story-oriented reflections, each focussed on a specific aspect of faith life, and accompanied by a related prayer, and one or more questions or comments for thought, discussion, or action.  

Please get to know Susan Joy through these pages, and be encouraged and inspired by a woman who sought to change the world by, "loving the people God gives me each day, keeping an open heart - focusing on the grace".

"at the end, what is important is relationships ... relationship to self, to others, to God.

Meaning is found in relationship"

about Susan Joy


Susan Joy grew up on the lower north shore of Sydney, Australia, and as a small child spent time in California and Western Australia. With husband Maurice she had three children. They lived together in Sydney before spending a year in Broome (WA) and then Wagga Wagga (NSW), finally settling in Canberra in 1992. 

She was an avid reader, a keen cook, baker, and gardener. She learned to play the saxophone. She loved to walk, especially to appreciate trees. She described trees as 'a place of sanctuary for me ... for like the kingdom they grow and give shelter'. 

She especially valued Psalm 23, "...you prepare a banquet before me", and Psalm 139, "...you created every part of me". She marvelled at the Spirit's power, for example in the stories of Pentecost, and in the story of 'dry bones' in Ezekiel 37:1-14. 

Over time, she enjoyed music of Elvis Costello (always), Eels, Sons of Korah, Cafe of the Gate of Salvation, Morcheeba, Housemartins, U2, Beautiful South, worship and music of Celtic traditions (e.g. Iona), and earlier, Midnight Oil, Bette Midler, Cleo Laine, the musical Godspell, and Carole King

She was especially impacted by the films Millions, As it is in Heaven (Sweden), and The Blues Brothers.    

education and work

 Susan Joy was educated as a primary and early childhood teacher (BA Hons, Dip.Ed., Macquarie University), also majoring in anthropology. She later studied for ministry (M.Min, Dip. Anglican Orders) at St Mark's National Theological Centre (Charles Sturt University), where she twice won The Victoria Gibbons Memorial Prize for Preaching. She trained in Clinical Pastoral Education, and as a Lifeline Telephone Counsellor.

She was a deacon, ordained in 2009 into the permanent diaconate of the Anglican diocese of Canberra and Goulburn.

Susan Joy responded to her call to serve and care. She worked as a hospice and hospital pastoral carer for ten years, and before that for seven years as a school chaplain (primary and infants), also teaching religious and values education (RAVE). She was an experienced family and children's minister, often using Godly Play. For four years she volunteered as a Lifeline Telephone Counsellor. Early in her working life she was a curriculum developer, and a university tutor.


Susan Joy gained great pleasure and fulfilment from visualising and creating - making things. She was especially proud of her many quilts (25+). Most were gifts for family and friends (and new babies). She also quilted four stoles, one as a gift. When no longer able to quilt she returned to watercolour painting, for the joy of 'playing with colour'. She was struck by the quote "colour is light, light is love, love is God", attributed to Dutch artist Petrus van der Velden (1837-1913). 

Susan Joy made things as creative responses for courses and programs, using various materials: drawing, painting, dripping wax, rubbing dust, curving thread and wool, weaving paper, splashing coffee, shaping playdough, whatever worked! She would write for (and within) these creative responses, interpreting her life experiences, often poetically. 

Susan Joy also undertook InterPlay, a  program creating with the body through play and movement... "spirit, play, simple, fresh, gorgeous, intimate, connected ... hand to hand contact ... personal, creative, I will light up, at home, being, restore" (one of a series of reflective texts, assembled from newspaper cuttings). 

"as I grow more experienced in my work ... I am thankful that I had the chance to listen, carefully, to the small still voice of God ... and find its resonance within"

Joy & Compassion:

Stories & Prayers for a Life of Faith

(2021, Coventry Press, Melbourne, 384 pages)

How can we live as people of faith in this world? What does it mean to believe, to belong, to hope, to risk, to serve, or to find true life? At times of trouble, how does faith strengthen and sustain us? And how is God alongside to guide us on the way? This book shows how a life of faith is one of joy and compassion, as gifts from God for how we can live, and live with others, to become the people God knows we can be.

Joy and Compassion offers more than eighty story-oriented reflections to support faith life. Each reflection focuses on a specific aspect of faith life, and has an accompanying prayer and one or more questions or comments to prompt further thought, discussion, or action. Reflections show how 'story' is an immensely powerful means for understanding ourselves, our experiences, and our relationship with God, as we live in faith and seek to be as Christ to others. Stories are drawn from the Bible and many other sources, including literature, movies, art, sport, politics and the simple ordinary events and moments of life.

This book is ideal for individual or small group contemplation, and as a resource in ministry contexts such as pastoral care, chaplaincy, family and youth ministry, or spiritual direction.

CONTENTS: The book is organised into five sections

  • We are, we can be includes ‘Called’, ‘Known’, ‘Child’, ‘Friend’, 

  • With us includes ‘The way’, ‘Hope’, Peace’, ‘Light’, ‘Grace’, ‘Father’

  • Along the way includes ‘Committing’, ‘Searching’, ‘Praying’

  • Encountering troubles includes ‘Starting over’, ‘Bound’, ‘Tempted', ‘Facing giants’, ‘The scream’, ‘Scarred’

  • We change, we become includes ‘Knowing yourself’, ‘Wearing armour’, ‘Transformed’, ‘Finding true life’, ‘I am’

Joy and Compassion was compiled and edited by the late author's husband of almost 30 years, Maurice Nevile (Adjunct Professor, PhD), an experienced social sciences researcher and academic editor.

"keep on loving, seeing the positive, seeing the gift in each person"

some quilts

"God is very patient with me as I become the person God knows I can be"

'playing with colour'

some of the watercolours Susan Joy painted in her final months

"I could tell you about ... dancing with God"

Prayers of Light, Life, and Love

an illustrated book of 38 prayers

This is a brightly coloured photo book created by Susan Joy's husband. It combines Susan Joy's prayers with some gentle watercolour paintings (e.g. see directly above) that she completed in her final months. Susan Joy's prayer style emphasises brief and familiar language, simple and repeating structures, and corporate forms (i.e. we, us, our). The 38 prayers are grouped into four sections:
  • Daily life and inspiration (e.g. Go before us, This day, As we walk, Trying again)

  • People (e.g. Others, Friends, Relationships)

  • Creation (e.g. Abundance, Creativity, Seeing, Stories)

  • Seasons (e.g. Spring, Summer, Easter, Christmas, At year's end).    

For example, here are two prayers...

Staying awake - Lord, for all those times we've let you down, when we were too busy, too tired, too lazy, to stay awake with you, and we missed a chance to hear your voice, to see the world your way, to help someone in need ... forgive us, and help us to stay awake with you. Amen

Seeing - Dear God, we are sorry for the times we are blinded by what is immediately around us, when we judge with only part of the picture in view ... help us to look at the world the way you do, give us your eyes to see the whole picture, to see ourselves, others, and your world, to see the beauty of your creation more clearly. Amen

"a seed grows in darkness towards light, until it flowers, gives fruit - new relationships"

what readers say

Joy and Compassion: Stories and Prayers for a Life of Faith

by Susan Joy Nevile (Coventry Press, Melbourne, 2021, 384 pages)
"Here are beautiful words from a deep, spiritual heart. … As you read these reflections enjoy and be moved by them to the very depth of your soul. You will come out a changed person, a person who has felt the warmth of the words and appreciated their application for a life of faith." 

From the Foreword by The Ven. Anne Ranse, Archdeacon Emeritus OAM

"Very occasionally in our lives we find a book that can literally transform us. This is such a book. It is a book of love. It is a book of compassion. It is a book of prayer. And it is a book of contemplation. It is a spiritual guide to each one of us who embraces the many insights it has to offer. Without question, this book is a God-inspired gift to us all." 

Professor Quentin Grafton, Australian National University

"We see Susan Joy as a person of colour and creativity, with a pastoral heart, humility, and a wonderful sense of liturgy and ritual. Written in a down-to-earth style, this book of reflections and observations on faith life, encapsulated in prayers, is a treasure. Dip into it, sit with it, share it, be entranced by it." 

The Very Rev’d Susanna Pain, Dean, St Paul's Anglican Cathedral, Sale, spiritual director, pastoral supervisor, InterPlay facilitator 

"These writings reveal a ministry of care that is profound and deep, offering a presence to assure anyone that they are not alone, and that confidence can be found in Jesus." 

Bishop Matt Brain, Bishop of Bendigo

"I encourage you to read this book daily at private worship ... Susan Joy turns the reader’s attention to how they know, where they are, with God, Jesus. This will help in any spiritual journey. George MacLeod, founder of the Iona Community, says “It is the primacy of God as Now that we must recover in Christian mysticism, as the starting point of the new holiness.” I commend this book to you." 

Chris Polhill, member Iona Community, early woman priest in the Church of England, poet, and writer

"Susan Joy brings her life to these reflections on faith. In life, she was a sign of liberation, a picture of joy. In life she loved with a heart never defeated by fear or prejudice. In life she walked alongside, bringing comfort and courage. In life she taught, always taught, usually in story, always with colour. In her dying, Susan Joy kept living and teaching: love wins, life wins, and in all things, there is a place for joy. In dying, she assaulted our thrall with death. In this exquisite collection, Susan Joy still teaches." 

The Rev’d Richard Browning, Director of Mission, Anglican Schools Commission, Qld

"These stories and prayers take us to the very heart of the diaconal vocation, whose spirit permeates the volume. Here also we discover a faith expressed with great clarity, cheerfulness, and insight. Her openness is palpable in this Festschrift to Life. It teaches us with unapologetic and unmistakable directness that in the practice of perfect love there can be no fear." 

The Rev’d Nikolai Blaskow, Assoc. Chaplain, Head of Religious and Values Education, Gippsland Grammar School 

"I found my own faith to be clarified, affirmed, and encouraged. Through her words I found wisdom, inspiration, comfort, and healing, enabling me to get up and move forward. I found myself returning to truths. I was reminded of how my life story, and hers, related to others’ stories, to Christ’s story, and to God’s great story for the world."

From the Introduction by Adjunct Professor Maurice Nevile, the late author’s husband who compiled and edited the book

"These reflections and prayers offer clues, encouragement, and support, as we consider the question ‘how then shall we live?’. Susan Joy draws from her experience and strong faith to share insights, compassion, and wisdom, for our contemplation and meditation, and to prompt discussion and action."

Beattie Hatfield, retired school principal