Newsletter 9 October

9 Oct 2020 by Rev John Thornton in: Latest News


It has been good in recent weeks to offer some snippets of the good work being done across our region.  One of my personal joys this year was to have led the service of Induction for Rev Tau’alofa Anga’aelangi as Deacon with the Port Macquarie UC and Charles Sturt University.  The arrival of Lofa as a Tertiary Chaplain will remain a highlight of my time as Chair of Mid North Coast Presbytery and I look forward to seeing how this role develops going forward.

That is a longwinded introduction to give a plug to just one of the projects of CSU this week.  Butterflies for Mental Health was held a couple of weeks back and local artists were given a folder and incorporated them into artworks.  What a great idea!

I offer these projects, not just as news items, but also as perhaps an encouragement for you to say, ‘Hey! We could do something like that.’

Throughout history the church has led the way in doing creative and innovative things.  Many of the great universities of the world came about through Christian initiative.  I have this theory that Jesus was likely the smartest man who ever lived; of course we would build universities! We are wise and smart people after all.

I encourage you to consider the examples of ministry or community connection that I have been sharing over these weeks and think about how they might be a catalyst for new things in your place.

For those missing Sunday worship there are a growing number of examples that offer options beyond the ‘normal’ way of doing things.  Take Wauchope Uniting Church as an example.  Two Sundays back Wauchope UC took church to the local Café!  Church in a Café allowed 10 people to share in worship and 10 people duly turned up to enjoy worship in a new and creative way that included a cup of tea or coffee and eats!  I imagine it was a very relaxing way to do church, and there is no need to clean up before or after!  Well done Wauchope 😊.

I hear of congregations meeting in their local park for worship.  For an old radical like me, it makes perfect sense that we meet amid God’s creation and perhaps remind the local community that the church is alive and well.  Can I venture to say that such a gathering might well have a greater impact on the community on one day than meeting in a building for a whole year?  Just putting it out there.


As my time as Chair comes ever closer to an end, I have been assessing some of my future plans.  Having already achieved the goal of becoming a grumpy old man, what other things might lie before me?  Well, right now it is all a bit vague, but to clear the way I am considering how I might make it easier for the leadership of presbytery into next year.

Part of this is looking at the future of this particular piece of work that was never given to me; I simply thought that it was a good idea at the time.  So, whatever the presbytery might decide to do with its communications going forward, I need to give some space for people to consider the value or not of a regular news-sheet, hopefully post-COVID.  To that end, I have decided to publish just three more Newsletters and make them fortnightly.  This will be the first of those three, with the penultimate edition due on 23rd October and I will offer my final bulletin on the 6th November just before our AGM.


You will be aware that anyone in leadership within the Uniting Church needs to do regular Ethical Ministry refreshers to remain compliant.  Our next Ethical Ministry refresher will be held on Thursday 22 October 2.00 pm – 4.00pm.  Please contact Rev Cherie, our Pastoral Relations Minister, on email at: or give her a call on 0400 725 201.

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.

One of the blessings that I have found during COVID is that we now have an abundance of worship and Bible study opportunities.  Over these past months I have been privileged to sit under the teaching of a variety of Godly leaders, both in this presbytery and beyond.  Church is quite different these days and will never be ‘normal’ again.

Should you want to connect with our local Online Church, do contact Rev Cherie Strudwick on the above details for more information. Don’t forget that these services are recorded, and you can find them if you go to the MNC homepage.

Someone mentioned recently that they had not seen a picture of our pup Digby in the Newsletter of late. Well, here he is, now seven months old and looking very hopeful as he seeks someone to play with him and his favourite – now almost destroyed – toy tiger.

Hope and play

They are a couple of things that the church should be good at.  Probably our most playful ministry placement was our church plant at Rouse Hill in North-West Sydney.  It seemed that most of the community linkage work that we did revolved around a party of some kind.

It was also a time when we needed lots of hope and gathering around us a group of positive hope-filled people was a major key to our success.

Last week I offered a quote from Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan Monk and someone who has in recent years become something of a long-distant mentor to me.  He doesn’t know that, but that’s cool.  One of his books that I have recently read, for the third time in three years, was the one I quoted from last week.  I strongly recommend Falling Upward.

I struggle with so much that I see and hear of God’s people doing stuff that … well just does not look like Jesus.  I am also aware that this leaves me vulnerable to the accusation of being myself judgemental and falling into the same trap.  It remains a mystery to me how followers of Jesus, the one who welcomes all and is the ultimate model of inclusivity, are often best known for being excluders and judgemental of those who may disagree with them or behave in a way that we do not consider appropriate.  I do not see that In Jesus??

I have looked closely at Paul’s thoughts on the fruit of the Spirit and I don’t find there some of the things that we can occasionally get caught up in:

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.

We might hopefully ask; by contrast with what?

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.

We are supposed to be a contrast to a world that too easily divides, derides, blames, and excludes.  Rohr says that, ‘if your notion of heaven is based on exclusion of anybody else, then it is by definition not heaven.’

Our young Digsta reminds me of the value and doggedness (excuse the pun) of hope and play.  There is much nowadays to be concerned about, and we should give these matters due attention, but let us not forget that God invites us to enter life as little children.  Kids, like dogs, love to play.  Let us not take ourselves so seriously that we lose the sense of play and the freedom to enter God’s sacred dance.

Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel!  Again you shall take your tambourines, and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.  Jeremiah 31:4

Richard Rohr refreshes my heart and does a fair job of restoring my soul.  I hope that we can all find a spiritual mentor to remind us of what is important.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.  Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.  Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.  Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.  Deuteronomy 6:4-9


Exodus 32:1-14; Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14

I envy the people who have God all worked out.  Perhaps I should just stop reading the Bible and blunder on blindly?  After all, I do it with flat pack furniture!  I see the instruction sheet, usually written in English with a Chinese dialect.  After quickly looking over it, it is usually tossed aside, and I wade right on in there.  Okay, at the end of the build, I might have a couple or three of screws left over and the doors only close if you hold them a certain way; but it looks okay.  Doesn’t it?  

The Matthew reading is the final parable of three.  It reads a lot like the second one, but as you journey through it, it becomes quite disturbing.  The king would appear to be God and the son?  Well that must be Jesus.  It is good that people are invited; but hey; do not knock back the invite!  The troops get sent out, the murderers are murdered, and the town is burned to the ground.   

Then the mood changes and, having failed with the A Listers, the king now invites the B to Z Listers!  Everyone, bad and good are free to come; and they do!  Perhaps they had heard what happens if you don’t.   

However, just when things were looking up, the king spots some poor fellow who is not wearing a wedding robe and he has another hissy fit!  I feel sorry for the poor guy.  One minute he is lined up at the local Soup Place, then he is sitting at the greatest wedding feast he has ever known, thinks he has won the lottery and the next thing he is bound hand and foot and thrown out!  

I would love to give you the definitive answer on this one, but I cannot.  The one thing I would ask us to be aware of, is that Jesus is still speaking to the chief priests and the elders of the people.  This is not a teaching aimed at the disciples or the people, but at the religious leaders of the day.

I fancy that amongst the good and bad of this story (and amongst those listening to the story), there was one pious one, who may have thought himself rather special.  ‘Who needs special clothes.  The king knows who I am.’  And we read that when this man was challenged, he was speechless!

However we view this story, the listeners of the day had heard enough: 

Then the Pharisees and plotted to entrap him in what he said. Matthew 22:15