Newsletter 27 March

27 Mar 2020 by Rev John Thornton in: Latest News

I took this photo of the magnificent Ellenborough Falls following a service at Elands a few weeks back. We do live in a glorious part of God’s creation.

The last twelve months will be one we all reflect on in years to come. Unprecedented drought, horrifying bushfires, then flooding rains and now we find ourselves in the midst of COVID-19 a virus that has evolved into a global pandemic.

This present experience is one that none of us has ever lived through before. Even if Corona Virus does not touch us, reality is that it already has. No one is immune from the effects of this outbreak. It is quite unbiased: we all get to suffer in some way.

My hope is that as we all walk through this time, separately yet together, we can continue to live out our faith – a living community of Christ – in new and creative ways. We hear a regular call for us to leave behind our buildings and be the the body of Christ out in the world. Well, here we go!

This is edition 1 of hopefully a weekly update of all things MNC Presbytery. This week will be light on because I don’t have that much material to offer. Hopefully I will get some news from across our region about what various congregations or faith communities are up to and we can all share in the learning.

Many of you will likely be on information overload this week as either myself, Geoff Battle, Cherie Strudwick or Marie Battle have sought to offer you resources, hope and inspiration for our changed circumstance. No doubt there is also local resourcing going on that I have not yet heard of and possibly don’t even need to!

So, what is happening outside all of this? Let’s start with a whole bunch of welcomes.


WELCOME!! Only a couple of months back we welcomed our first ever Tertiary Chaplain into ministry at Charles Sturt University and Port Macquarie UC. Rev Tau’alofa Anga’aelangi (we know her as Lofa)  is settling into her new role despite the challenges that COVID-19 shutdowns have caused. Her induction was a great celebration with the Moderator Rev Simon Hansford as guest preacher. Lofa will need all of our support in a new role and a first time placement, apart from family and the added pressure of a CSU shutdown!

Hopefully a colleague close by will add to the support and encouragement of Lofa and so we have another addition to the team.



WELCOME!! We are very excited to welcome into ministry in the presbytery and more specifically at Port Macquarie, Rev Stephen Larkin and his wife Glynn! The Larkins have had a long journey to get here; leaving their previous placement in Western Australia a couple of weeks back, it must have been quite a trip.

An induction service for Stephen is on hold at this time but I am aware that he is already involved between unpacking boxes. Pictured are Stephen and Glynn with their two daughters Amy and Merinda and son-in-law Cam. The children remain in WA.


WELCOME into a new role! Rev Cherie Strudwick is well known to most of us, but Cherie takes on a new role on April 1 as the Mid North Coast Pastoral Relatiosn Minister. We are very excited to have Cherie take on this new position that will hopefully enhance our support of congregations and see Cherie’s miistry blossom even more. 


WELCOME soon! Some breaking news for us all. As part of the Manning Valley Churches project we can now announce the appointment of Rev Claire Wright as Ministry Development Minister to the region. Claire is a gifted educator, community connector and a highly creative worship leader and we are very excited at the news that Claire will be joining us in July. 

Claire’s arrival will be the fruition of some two years of dreaming and hoping for a new style of ministry in the Manning Valley that might be a model for future ministry across our presbytery, as it is very much descriptive of our Strategic plan.  

In collaboration with Wesley Mission we will now have a dual identity in the region. Cathy Barker is another of our WELCOMES as she joins Wesley Mission’s Taree Hub as Community Chaplain. Cathy has already been visible at local UC congregations as well as working across Wesley Missions growing clientele.


So in the midst of all of the turmoil, there is a great deal to be thankful and excited about!

‘Everything in the universe is subject to change

and everything is on schedule.’

A bumper sticker

This time of social distancing can be a time for us to focus on the woes of life, but it might also be a time for the church to work on the wonders. I have made and received more phone calls, emails and text messages this past week than I have ever had before in the same period of time.

We can pull the blankets over our heads and wait for it all to go away, or we can wonder just what might be, given this opportunity for something new. Are we just going to wait until it all goes back to the way it was? Or might we grasp the moment and see what God might be doing in this new time?

Hoarding isn’t just about toilet paper. We can be guilty of holding on desperately to a whole bunch of things with no desire at all to share any of it with others. This doesn’t just happen in the middle of a crisis, but it is growing to be uncomfortably more common.

Rev Stephen Robinson, our Disaster Recovery Chaplain Co-ordinator points out the interesting difference between a natural disaster such as bushfires or flood and a pandemic:

During an ordinary disaster

  • people pull together
  • people see where it is coming from (eg. fires near me)
  • people fear the disaster (eg fire)
  • people congregate
  • Community is built

During a pandemic

  • people are forced apart
  • people can’t see it
  • people fear people
  • people isolate
  • community is broken

Perhaps this is a God moment for the church? An opportunity for us to be open to new thinking and new things that might just herald in a new time – a new way – for us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world? A healing and restoration time.

One of my favourite future church thinkers, Leonard Sweet sees the old way of being church as a very linear thing. Someone throws you a ball and you catch it. Simple. Well at least for some.

He says that we need to move beyond the linear to a more spiralic way of thinking. ‘Let loose an inflated balloon and then try to catch it’ says Sweet. That can be ministry in a new time. Frustrating? Yes. Fun? Could be.

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.  He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.”  Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

Ezekiel 37:1-6

Can these dry bones live? I know my answer.

If you have news to share please let me know and we can publish some weekly good news for all.

Grace and Peace – John T