Newsletter 7 August

7 Aug 2020 by Rev John Thornton in: Latest News

It must be so frustrating for some, as many of our congregations have recently – ensuring all COVID protocols are covered – returned to worship, and now with the escalation of infections in Victoria and fears of NSW hot spots, we are being advised to suspend our activities once more.

There are some who consider this an invasion of our sovereign rights and various of our federal and state leaders are being criticised for what are considered oppressive rulings.  Friends, none of us have lived through anything like what is happening across the world.  Difficult?  Yes!  Necessary?  Yes.

This week I had a visit to my Ophthalmologist and masked up for the visit.  I must admit that it is not the most comfortable or fashionable of items, but right now it is necessary.  In time this will pass, but for now it is vital that we contribute to the solution and not to the problem.  So please, let us all do our bit.


There are many Elijah stories, but one of my favourites tells of the time when Elijah is given the promise of the long drought breaking.  He tells his servant seven times to go and look out to sea.  The servant faithfully does so and each times there is nothing to report.  On the seventh occasion we read: At the seventh time he said, “Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person’s hand is rising out of the sea.”  Then he said, “Go say to Ahab, ‘Harness your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’” 1 Kings 18:44

Some years ago, the leadership of this presbytery laid out a vision for the future.  In recent years we have seen fit to tweak that vision and offer a Strategic Plan for a church courageous enough to acknowledge that change is vital for us. 

As we have increased the capacity of professional leadership, we are seeing signs of this plan emerging.  Across our presbytery it is encouraging to see little clouds, sometimes no bigger than a person’s hand taking shape.  This is not exclusive to specified ministry as we are increasingly seeing lay leaders looking beyond their local congregations and being willing to offer wider support and be open to new possibilities.

COVID-19 may have closed church property doors, but the church appears to be going okay.


We tend to forget that the Uniting Church has many more strings to its bow than our congregations and faith communities.  We are building excellent partnerships with other UCA agencies. 

Rev Claire and I attended a very positive meeting with the leaders of the Wesley Mission hub in Taree this week, and I am aware of many other collaborations from north to south of our presbytery.  The local church has much to offer but they do not have everything.  Tapping into other resources beyond our skill base can only be a good thing.  These are very exciting times as we continue to build relationships that can only be life-giving for all of our communities.


Our next Presbytery meeting is almost upon us as we gather again on Saturday August 22.  There will be much to discuss as we welcome a new minister among us and spend some time assessing how the Presbytery Strategic Plan is developing.  Due to continued virus concerns we will once again gather via Zoom.

PRESBYTERY RETREAT Thursday to Saturday September 17-19

It has been gratifying to see a reasonable number of registrations for our Retreat in September.  I know that the Saltbush team are extremely excited about coming to share with us and it looms like being a very good time.  Failing further COVID-19 restrictions the Retreat will proceed face to face at Yarrahappini.  Let Penny Archer know if you have not already done so as we begin to tighten up arrangements.  As you can appreciate there will be a lot to do to cover COVID protocols.

It will be great to see people face to face after months apart!

Pentecost 10

Readings: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28, Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22 & 45b, Romans 10:5-15, and Matthew 14:22-33

But what does it say?

The Word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.  The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.  For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?  And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?  As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

The text above should warm the hearts of those with the gift of evangelism.  My feet are not the prettiest of things, but I am hopeful that through my ministry life some may occasionally have found them to be beautiful.

I have always valued the words of Ceylonese Pastor and Evangelist, D. T. Niles:

“Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.”


Ministry has its moments.  That may be a revelation to you, but somehow, I doubt it.  Even in retirement I am still reminded of the blessings and the challenges of our faith.  I was not a big John Denver fan but his song, ‘Some days are diamonds’, I can always relate to.

Some of you will know that we have a new member of the family.  Digby has certainly brought a deal of blessings to a couple whose home has been a bit empty since we lost our boy Oliver last year.  However, the blessings can be mixed with challenges.

Digby, a typical mischievous pup, loves to bring us his findings from the garden and share the joy with us.  He has brought sooo many sticks, and stones, and even a dead bird.  Today though he peaked.  He trotted into the lounge room with something in his mouth not quite distinguishable, until closer inspection showed that the latest exhibit the Digsta wanted to share with us was a sizable piece of archaeological interest.  He had dug up a piece of very well aged pooh!

Some days are diamonds – some days are stone.