Newsletter 23 October

23 Oct 2020 by Rev John Thornton in: Latest News

Someone once said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  You are now aware that Veronica and I have devoted a deal of ISO COVID time seeking to turn a desert into a garden.  When we bought our small old cottage some seven years ago now, it had seen several years of neglect.  Priority was to show the house itself a deal of love which is of course an ongoing task and we seem to have done okay in this regard.  This year COVID has given us the excuse to work on the garden back and front in a more focused way.

A couple of weeks back we had a plumber in to re-locate an outdoor tap.  Working away in the backyard he looked across our slowly emerging new garden.  ‘You’ve done a good job on this backyard’, he said.  ‘It’s a beautiful garden.’ I must tell you I have pondered on and enjoyed that remark ever since.  After all, everyone knows that plumbers are connoisseurs of all things garden!

We see a work in progress with so much more to do, and someone else sees a thing of beauty!  I have found over the years that ministry is a bit like that.  It comes as a glorious gift when your grafting efforts of care, or preaching, or simply just a willingness to listen, is seen as a thing of beauty.

I recall, several years back now, when I was asked to visit a woman – no association with church at all – who was dying from a terrible invasive cancer.  She was now in her final days and asked her husband to find a priest as it may be a form of comfort for her.  Well, I was the priest he found.

Over a number of weeks we three became remarkably close.  We laughed together and we cried together.  We got cranky with the God that neither of my new friends were even sure existed.  It was a rich time.

Eventually her body could not take any more and I will always remember kneeling beside her and praying as she took her final breath.  The funeral was a special celebration of a very full life.

A week or so later the husband and I met for a coffee and he gave me a nice, golf related gift.  I thanked him and he said to me, ‘John, I expected you to give good care for Carol, after all, you are a professional.  But I didn’t expect you to be that b…..  (expletive deleted) good!!’

Good memories and an example of ministry on the run, under some strain and yet a thing of beauty to those you have the privilege of ministering with.

Of course, there can be times when you think that you have it all together and you begin to relax at a job well done, and even take the risk of a little self-congratulation.  The job is done; it is all neat and tidy and packaged up and ready for delivery.  It is just about then that something or other can hit the proverbial fan.  Yes, I have been there too.

I promise my last Digby picture.  For now.

It was great to attend a recent meeting of congregation representatives in our Northern Core area.  The meeting was brought together and led by Rev Hye Jah Kim and it was good to have every congregation share where they are at: their joys, sorrows, and challenges.

It is gratifying for me to see the Presbytery Strategic Plan beginning to have a wider impact and hopefully congregations beginning to understand that ‘all of this is us.’

The church can often fall into the trap of being focused on our lack instead of our abundance.  When we are ruing what we do not have, it is easy to look for someone to blame for why we do not.  When we focus on what we have, then we can discover a more cooperative and more hopeful way forward together.

It was a good time.  Thank you Hye Jah and the Bellingen congregation.



Some of you are aware that we have opportunity now through the marriage of the United Theological College and Charles Sturt University for people to find theological training without trekking to Sydney!

There is another Theology Intensive coming up in January which will be held at Port Macquarie and lead by the Principal of United Theological College, Rev DR Peter Walker.   

Focusing on the subject – JESUS THE CHRIST – Peter will explore the question: WHO IS JESUS CHRIST FOR US TODAY? This subject will be as an intensive and is available for BTh and Graduate Diploma, as a single subject, and for those wanting to audit the subject for interest.

This subject will survey biblical sources and major historical developments of Christian thinking concerning Jesus of Nazareth.  It introduces classical and modern developments in the theology of the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Contemporary themes are also examined, including Christology and religious pluralism, liberation Christologies, and contextual Christologies.

Class Times 19–22 January 2021 9.30am – 4.30pm Location Port Macquarie Information and Enrolment Please contact Joanne Stokes on or phone (02) 8838 8967.

Rev. Dr. Peter Walker, Principal of United Theological College, Lecturer in the School of Theology, will be leading this course.  He teaches in the field of systematic theology, Trinity and Christology in particular, and has a special interest in Christian theological engagement with other faiths.

Online Church

Do not forget that you can still worship Online if you remain in worship isolation and may be looking to connect with the wider presbytery family.  For more information contact Rev Cherie Strudwick on 0400 725 201 or, or simply use this link to join us: 



Your Presbytery Standing Committee have decided that our Presbytery Meeting and Annual General Meeting on Saturday November 14 will be a face to face meeting at Port Macquarie.

We have spent long enough in isolation and on Zoom and it will be good to see each other again in the flesh.  Be assured that we will be taking all COVID Safe protocols and we can look forward to a good positive and safe gathering.

We had a good number of people gather safely for our recent retreat and so we are confident of being able to manage what will be a more ordered coming together than a retreat.

It is likely that we will all have to bring our own lunches to alleviate any catering concerns.  Stay tuned for more details in coming days.


Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8; Matthew 22:34-46

You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition.  For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts.  As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ.  But we were gentleamong you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children.  So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

There is so much to consider in all the readings for this week, but I felt to offer you Paul’s words to the Thessalonians as a basis for some reflection.

The last couple of sentences struck me this morning as I finished off this newsletter: But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children.  So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

The gospel for this week sums it up: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’