A last letter from me – John Woodhouse will write for the 15th December – and some blessed memories come to mind.
1. Wonderful friends
We have hundreds of wonderful friends in the St Thomas’ family and would happily sit down for a meal with any and all of you. Some of you we have known for many years and some for a short while but we are deeply grateful. You have been patient and kind –hospitable and helpful – and though I may not be your pastor we will continue to be friends. Leaving such a church us very hard so pray for us as we will for you.
Truly St Thomas’ (by its size and property) is a place of great opportunity and may its influence deepen and widen. Where else is such a venue for Christian services or for school events or large weddings and funerals? I can picture the full building for many of these events in the past and thank God that tens of thousands every year hear the name of Jesus and come under the sound of His word.
How good that so much has advanced as the Lord has led and provided. Doors have opened – think of the Preschool ministry on such good foundations or the wedding ministry grounding so many in the facts of Jesus or the outreach of things like Jaffa and ESL. We have tried to “seek first His kingdom” (Matt 6:33) and He has faithfully provided the people and the gifts and the funds and the blessings. Surely we long for the things we do to ‘get better’ and so much has got better.
4. Changed lives
I can picture people who sat in the Christianity Explained groups – or listened on Sundays or Saturday in their home groups and grasped the gospel (or were grasped by Jesus)! Some were so excited as if I’d put a billion dollars in their bank account – and the Lord Jesus did more than that. Without His illumination we continue to do only outward things, but when He illumines people everything changes. I remember a man bringing his son to the youth group to make friends who was converted in a small group – now in the ministry.
Paul talks about “each part” doing its work (Eph 4:16) and we have had such good wardens and councillors and leaders and servants. Some have been gifted with finance and administration and graphics and technology and music…the list goes on. Thank you again to all who work faithfully and quietly behind the scenes – for the Lord- making the whole task so much better and so much more effective.
As the truth of God has seeped into minds and hearts so that we agree on the gospel priorities – so the grace and love of God has seeped into minds and hearts. This is not our doing and certainly not our right – but is a small taste of what it means to come under the King of love. I thank the Lord that (as Paul says in Phil 1:27) we can be of “one spirit…for the faith of the gospel” and pray it continues.
When we think of the steady stream of people into ministry and mission we can be very thankful. I am not elevating this in any way above the faithful people who serve the Lord wherever they are but we must be thankful for those who learn the word to teach a congregation or learn the word to take it where Christians are few. The great group that has done MTS or Cornhill then SMBC or Moore and are now equipped to equip others is cause for praise to God.
It has been a joy to see people meet their spouses here, get married – sometimes see themselves converted and married – have children and see those children turn into disciples and leaders. I remember some things we tried that we no longer do (like business ministry and the September lectures) but even if these had a season of usefulness they were useful. I remember so many lovely people (now in glory) so many characters (and crazy people), so many who have moved away from North Sydney and so many who remember St Thomas’ fondly.
Kathy and I will visit churches to find one we can settle and serve in. I will begin my two days at Moore in March (thank you so much to those who made that door possible with your generosity) and I’ve begun getting invitations to speak at, so things aren’t too quiet. Kathy will keep working two days a week at the TAFE with special students and we will still live in our place in Artarmon. The friendships will continue and I trust and hope you will contact me if I can be helpful as a friend if not as your pastor. The office can provide all you need.
10. St Thomas’
The time with John and Moya Woodhouse will be rich in the word – many churches round the world would do anything to get his ministry. The nominators are getting close to a new appointment and – even if the arrival is some months away – that will be something to rejoice in, pray for and look forward to. Your fellowship and witness will continue to be a beacon in a dark world.
We are full of thanksgiving. God bless and keep you.
Remember Isaiah 30:18 “The Lord longs to be gracious to you and He rises to show compassion. He is a God of justice. Blessed are those who wait for Him.”
With much love from Kathy and me