Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem along a … Rocky Road
We don’t exactly know where to begin.
As we have been thinking about how to tell you our news, our thoughts and emotions have been all over the place, but we trust that this is the right time to share with you that at the end of this year, David, Crystal, Wendell, Marigold, and Ernie will be moving back to Sydney. The church that we’ll be moving to (and where David will serve as Rector) is in the suburb of Gymea.
That’s the exciting part.
The sad part is leaving Norfolk Island. This is our home, and it occupies a huge place in our hearts.
This is now our seventh year serving the Church of England on Norfolk Island, and truly, each year has been a joy and a blessing to us. You have shaped and formed who we have become. We really believe that these years have been the foundational years of our lives – you are so clearly imprinted on who we are. Thank-you for your unconditional love, care and concern for our family, and for your commitment and love for the Lord Jesus and His church.
While it is always exciting to be on God’s agenda, it has been a difficult decision for us to leave because of our love for you and our joy in what God was and is beginning to do here on Norfolk Island. We have loved you with all our hearts, and you have loved us back. We will always treasure this time God has given us, and we will look upon it with only the fondest of memories, just as we look forward to our new assignment with anticipation and excitement.
Your friends in Jesus,
David, Crystal, Wendell, Marigold and Ernie
Is Anything Wrong?
Not at all.
When we came to Norfolk Island, we were asked to stay for five years and we can honestly say that leaving never crossed our mind. We knew we wouldn’t be here forever, but at the same time we felt such a sense of peace about where the Lord had led us. Our five-year anniversary came and went (and with it, the end of a five year diocesan grant) and we felt like we were still in the honeymoon phase! From time to time I would get calls from other organisations and churches who wanted me to consider joining their team. I was never tempted. I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. At the end of five years we committed to staying on for another two or perhaps three years (three years would see Wendell through to high school). As it turns out, we are making the call to return to Sydney after just two additional years. We made this decision with our family in mind. It was wonderful to have both sides of our family here at Christmas time, however by the end of their visit we knew it was just about time for us to go. While they have always been supportive of our ministry, the previous year had seen the onset of some serious heath problems for Crystal’s mum Pam, and in the case of Dave’s mum, losing Brian just prior to the pandemic was also very significant for us. We were beginning to feel as if our situation had changed. It suddenly seemed much harder on them (and us) to be so far away.
What Has Been The Process Until Now?
Not long after this, we spoke with David Buffett and David Rodgers (Dave’s Rector’s wardens), and then shortly afterward to all the wardens. Normally, it’s not very wise to resign (or to speak about resigning) from your current position without having a place to go. Nevertheless, we wanted to give those whose job it would be to replace us as much notice as we could. The wardens assured us of their care and support, and we all wondered (given the complexities of applying for a position from Norfolk Island) whether we would be still here in 2022 in any case. As it turned out, from that point things happened very quickly. The Lord brought the retiring minister of Gymea Anglican Church to Norfolk Island on a holiday. On his return to work, he would get back in contact to encourage me to apply for his job! In the Lord’s goodness, Gymea is not far from Cronulla where Crystal’s parents live, and it is an area of Sydney where we still have many friends.
What Is Your Timing Moving Forward?
We have agreed with the Gymea parish that our first Sunday will be the 16th of January 2022. We are making arrangements to take our Long Service Leave before commencement which would mean leaving Norfolk in October 2021.
What’s Next For The Church of England?
We wanted to be as helpful as we could when it came to succession planning for the church. To that end, Bishop Stead has also known about our plans. Under God, he is confident of appointing another clergyman (a family man with school aged kids) to commence in January 2022. While we take Long Service Leave there will no doubt be a short period of locum ministry. Please join us in praying for Norfolk Island and the appointment of our next minister which will bring, we pray, a renewed energy to the mission and help the spread of the gospel on the island and beyond.
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace”.
I have been praying that you are sensing God’s presence during this difficult week for us all. Last night the Church board and I held an emergency meeting and I am writing to inform you that we have come to a difficult decision. Writing this email is one of the hardest things that I have had to do at my time here at Belmont Community Church. Before I tell you of our decision, I felt that it was only fair to explain how we as a Church leadership came to our decision and for me to share with you how I have been affected by your behaviour. In order to maintain clarity I will address the various issues regarding your employment as a pastor at our Church. Before I start I really want to say how difficult this has been for me and Alison, I am not above stating that I cried before I wrote this email. Things started so well when you came on staff, it was a joy to have you around the place and the congregation loved having you. I am still struggling to comprehend what went wrong. But here goes;
Behaviour During Church Services
I have communicated time and time again in our leadership meeting the idea that how we as leaders act, affects the whole congregation. Sundays are meant to be a fun, upbeat and inspiring time. We are trying to create an atmosphere that communicates the idea the gospel is good news and that those who put their faith in God will receive abundant life. Your constant habit of crying and weeping over the fate of our neighbourhood, completely works against this. I have been so confused by your mood swings, one minute you are full of joy – the next you will be weeping for the whole service. After talking to Dr Blackby I am more and more wondering if you suffering from a form of Bi Polar disorder or manic depression, I really encourage you to go and get this checked out. You can be so dark sometimes, which is not attractive to unchurched people and a totally different place to where we are going as a church.
Being a Good Example
I hear things about where and with whom you hang out. I really do hope that some of the stories that I am hearing are wrong and merely gossip. But I have to admit that some of the people who you bring to church do make me wonder what circles you are mixing in. I certainly hope the stories about the party at Matt’s place are not true. As a single guy it is never a good look to be hanging around with women who work in the adult industry. To turn up to leaders meets smelling of dope can only lead others into bad places. You need to get into an accountability group ASAP.
The Jewish Thing
I totally understand that you were raised in a Jewish home and in the Jewish faith. We loved the service that you put on during passover it was great to hear you sing the psalms so beautifully in Hebrew. The ladies at our Golden Gals ministry loved you teaching them Jewish Dancing. But I really do not understand why you continue to wear your prayer Shawl and yarmulke to church. At the interfaith city dinner Rabbi Rosen told me that you attend synagogue weekly??? He was under the impression that you were a practicing Jew and did not refer to yourself as Christian??? For goodness sake you need to work out where you stand, and who you identify with! Are you Jewish or are you Christian, what team are you playing on? Where do you loyalties lie??? Your behaviour just makes things confusing for people.
The Night at @tomic.
After ripping my hair out for months wondering where to place you, I finally thought that our emerging young adults congregation @tomic would be the best place for you. It is edgy, justice focused, andthey love conversation, it is in a bar, and filled with Christians who don’t like the vibe of our sunday services. But then the morning after you speak – I am inundated with emails from angry young adults telling me that you got all ‘hellfire and brimstone’ on them. They even started a facebook group to keep you away from the bar! Seriously what were you thinking telling them that ‘they will always have the poor with them’.??? Don’t you know that half that crew work for Christian aid organisations? I had to promise them that you would not come back! They said that you were too full on, too fundamentalist.
The Incident at Belmont Reformed Church
After the @tomic incident I was totally at my wits end of what to do with you. I mentioned the incident to my friend Rev Peterson and he said that he would love to have you come and spend a month preaching at his church and that he loved a young preacher who had the guts to talk directly about hell and eternal consequences. I thought all of my problems with you were solved. Then you go there and deliver a bunch of confusing stories that seem to skirt around the issues. Half the congregation walks out and you end up in the car park with the remainder explaining yourself. Rev Peterson is still rope-able, he not only thinks you are unable to preach the gospel he has serious concerns over your theology.
The Incident Last Sunday
And now to the straw that has broken the camel’s back. You know as well as I that it is so hard to get a Preacher like Pastor John Rosetti to speak at our church, he is world class. Ok even for me he can be a little ‘prosperity focused’ but he is such a gifted speaker and the Church was packed. When you overturned his merchandise tables I wanted the ground to eat me up. The damage that you caused to our ATM cash machine in the lobby will put the church back around $10,000. I can put up a with a lot, but vandalism I cannot. Your actions were a direct undermining of my leadership.
So I am writing to inform you that we will be making you redundant. I have with great difficulty convinced the Church board to not press charges and we will not be referring the matter to the police.
I am so heart broken, you are one of the most gifted young men I have met. I find you maddeningly frustrating. I have barely slept since last sunday, I keep wracking my brain trying to figure out why you are like this. I wonder if it is your age, 32 is pretty young for a pastor role at a church our size. I can’t help think that it must be mental health issues, probably the bi polar condition that Dr Blackby referred to.
We don’t want to turf you out on the street so we will be giving you a generous severance package, plus Jane has sent you a card that the staff has signed which includes a gift voucher to Brysons Christian Bookstore.
It will always perplex me why things did not work out. In your heart I know that you mean the best.
Sadly Jesus we must ask that you never come back to our Church.
Yours in him,
Pastor Craig Clements
(A fictional email by Mark Sayers)
Christian history offers plenty of ammunition to its critics: crusades, inquisitions, the oppression of women — not to mention the recent horrific incidence of institutional child abuse, covered up by the church.
So would we be better off without Christianity?
Join us on Wednesday nights at Grarbaleg’s for a four part documentary (https://www.publicchristianity.org/fortheloveofgod/ that weighs up the good, the bad, the ugly — and the unexpected – about some of the impact Christianity has had on the world we live in.
6pm for Soup, Scones, DVD and Dessert.All welcome! We’ll enjoy wonderful Grarbaleg food AND food for thought! Suitable for those filled with spiritual questions, long time Christians, skeptics and everyone in between!
In his book, The Dynamics of Spiritual Life Richard Lovelace speaks a word for 2021 from over 40 years ago:
…America and the rest of Western culture now seem to be more on the edge of dissolution than on the point of renewal. A cloud of irony hangs over our festivities. The situation in this country seems to call for a jeremiad, not a celebration. The worst scandal in our government’s history still lingers in our memories. Race prejudice, latent under the surface of political campaigns, seems intensified by our very efforts to correct it. The crime rate is outstripping police restraint and turning private surveillance into a growth sector. Pornography and violence filled the media, and a host of other social problems run in counterpoint with an uncertain economy.
In the rest of Western culture the situation is no less grave. Economic problems which are only painful in America are critical elsewhere. The open market of ideas which has sometimes accompanied free enterprise is yielding to closed totalitarian systems of the right and left in country after country. The Western civilization rooted in Christianity is increasingly faced with Arnold Toynbee’s rephrasing of Nicodemus’s is question, “Can a man be born again when he is old?”
Of course, as Augustine pointed out, a civilization can decline and fall without implicating or affecting the Christian church. The City of Man cannot blame the City of God for its own decay, and the church may well prosper at the same time that other powers fail. But Toynbee and other historians have argued that the fate of civilizations reflects the strength of the religious ethos around which they are built, and observers during this century both within and outside the church have expressed doubts about the savor of its salt.
Richard Lovelace, Dymanics of Spiritual Life, p. 25-26.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…”
One of the questions we struggle with is: Why? Why did this happen to me? There are many things in life that we don’t understand. But in Romans 8 we begin to see some of the outlines of our situation in a fallen world. We see that God is still in control, “working” events for the good of his children. And we see a future glory beyond our present struggles.
The Christian life is not easy. Fighting sin is not easy. Enduring persecution is not easy. Coping with day-to-day life in a fallen world, with corruptible bodies, has its difficulties. Nevertheless, just as there was for Jesus, there is joy set before us — a future so wonderful that our current trials will seem minor. Paul wrote about this 2 Corinthians 4:17-18:
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal…”
But we are not the only ones who will benefit. Paul says that there is a cosmic significance to God’s plan being worked out in us: “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed” (verse 19). The creation not only wants to see us in glory — the creation itself will also be blessed with change when God’s plan is brought to completion, as Paul says in the next verses: “For the creation was subjected to frustration…in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (verses 20-21).
Even despite our trials, our weakness and our sins, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (verse 28). God does not cause all things, but he allows them, and works with them for his purpose. He has a plan for us, and we can be confident that he will complete his work in us (Philippians 1:6).
God planned in advance that we should become like his Son, Jesus Christ. So he called us through the gospel, justified us through his Son, and united us with him in his glory: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified” (Romans 8:29-30).
It’s been 100 years since the mission chapel was gifted to the Norfolk Island community. This years Spring Fair will celebrate this important island precinct and the many significant memories and ministries of the last hundred years.
The 2020 spring fair has been modified in order to be “Covid Safe” but will still feature the Water Slide • Wettls • Organ Recitals • Picnic Lunch • White Elephant Stall • And More…
All are welcome to join us at our Spring Fair as we celebrate 100 years at the Chapel and then again on Sunday as we give thanks for the last 100 years enjoying the Willis Organ and a sing-along of island hymns.
We also invite you to share your own photographs and memories of baptisms, weddings and church events over the weekend.
Jono writes: It’s sad that we’ve stopped meeting on Sundays as God’s people. But church doesn’t need to stop for any of us. Jesus said,
“For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them”
We know that church isn’t a building, it’s a people – God’s people who meet together. And when we meet together – even two or three of
us – we know that Jesus is with us through his Spirit.
Meeting together as church is important for so many reasons:
- When we’re saved, we are adopted into God’s family, and not left as individuals
- We’re told to love and encourage each other. We can’t do this alone!
- We’re called the body of Christ. We need each other to function effectively
- Our hearts are deceptive. We need others to keep us true in our spiritual walk
As you and your family can no longer come together as a bigger church, I would encourage you to spend time regularly with your family in God’s Word and in prayer. And in fact, your family functions as a little-church, doing everything that a bigger church does, but on a lower scale. Jonathan Edwards writes:
“Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church, consecrated to Christ, and wholly influenced and governed by his rules…”
And in fact, one thing that God might be wanting to remind us is that we can easily forget the parent’s role is to be the head-discipler of our children – not the Kids Church leaders, not even Jono! Paul writes:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right… Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6.1, 4)
This has been the case from the very beginning. Although there is definitely a place for a larger gathering of God’s people (Ezra 10.1), Moses writes:
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6.6-7)
In the Bible, discipleship begins at home. With this in mind, this booklet has been written to give you some ideas about how you can use this time to help your young people to continue to flourish in the Lord. While the Church of England suspends its regular meetings, I would encourage you to set aside time to have your own “family church” – along with what you normally do. This booklet begins with ideas to disciple your children in normal life. Next, there is a basic plan for running a “family church” service.
C. S. Lewis’s words – written 72 years ago – ring with some relevance for us. Just replace “atomic bomb” with “coronavirus”:
“In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us are going to die in unpleasant ways.
We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anaesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds”.
“On Living in an Atomic Age” (pages 73-80) by C. S. Lewis from the book, Present Concerns.
Open House is free, open to the public and visitors are most welcome to attend.
We hope these series of public lectures will be suitable for longtime church goers, brand-new Christians, wounded-by-other-traditions Christians, people filled with spiritual questions and lovers of history alike.
12-Feb-20 The Intertestamental Period And Its Influence On Christianity
26-Feb-20 The Early Church (AD70-312) “Growth”
4-Mar-20 The Early Church (AD70-312) “Persecution”
18-Mar-20 The Early Church (AD70-312) “False Teaching Part 1”
1-Apr-20 The Early Church (AD70-312) “False Teaching Part 2”
If you’ve ever flipped from the last page of the Old Testament to the first page of the new – you’ve just skipped over 400 years of history with that single page turn.
Have you ever wondered what happened between the Old and New Testaments?What exactly happened during these 400 years? Who was in control? What people groups shaped the experience of the earliest Christians?
In those four hundred years, the Pharisees and Sadducees, synagogues, Roman governors, and the family of Herod emerged onto the scene. None were present in the Old Testament. Where did they come from?
And countless events not mentioned in the New Testament had a profound impact on the world of Jesus, such as the Maccabean revolt, the rise of the Essenes, the dominance of the Greek language, and the rise of the Roman Empire.
So what happened between the Old and New Testaments?
Open House is held every second Wednesday in the Parish Centre