Last Letter from John Woodhouse

Dear friends,

The first thing I want to say in this, my last Bulletin letter as acting senior minister at St Thomas’ Church North Sydney, is “Thank You” for the warm encouragement and support extended to me over the last 20 months or so as we have navigated together a rather turbulent time in our church life, sharing in the ups and downs of this remarkable couple of years. It has been a privilege and a blessing to join with you in the fellowship of this church family, and to witness God’s faithfulness to us as we have listened to his Word together, joined in prayer, cared for one another and been sustained by God’s goodness. Thank you for welcoming Moya and me into this body of believers. It has been a rich blessing to us. We are very grateful.

I want to say a particular “Thank you” to our churchwardens, parish council, and the staff of St Tom’s who in various ways have proven to be faithful self-giving servants. These 20 months have had their difficulties, but I am grateful for the many ways in which these brothers and sisters have “looked not only to their own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

I find myself acutely conscious of God’s kindness to us through this difficult time. There are many aspects of our church life that seem to me to be stronger and healthier than might be expected after the disruptions of the last two years. The firm commitment of many to this church is wonderful. The ongoing fellowship we have been able to enjoy through technology has been important. There continues to be clear evidence of the love we have for one another because we are disciples of Jesus (John 13:35). There really is much for which the Lord must be thanked.

I am more thrilled than I can tell you that Mickey Mantle is to be our new Senior Minister from 1 September. Without over-stating the role of a Senior Minister, there is a sense in which new leadership opens a new stage in the history of a church family. Things will change. Of course they will. Other things will stay the same. Of course they will. One of the challenges for us all is that some of the things that we (individually) would like to change will stay the same, and some of the things that we (individually) would like to stay the same will change. That is inevitable. And good! A mature church will welcome godly leadership that is likely to take us to places we might not otherwise choose to go. I warmly commend Mickey to you as Paul commended Tychicus to the Colossians: He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.

It is a challenging time for Mickey to begin his ministry among us. It seems that face-to-face meetings are at least a couple of months away, perhaps quite a bit longer. Getting to know people in these circumstances will not be easy. Many of you will come to feel that you know Mickey through seeing and hearing him online, but he will not be getting to know you in the same way. I know that you will support him with your prayers and patient encouragement.

The challenges of our time are, of course, far bigger than Covid. There is a massive moral revolution taking place throughout the western world. That is putting it mildly. We are witnessing the consequences of the denial of God and the repudiation of Christian teaching playing out in alarming, often catastrophic, ways. Many thoughtful observers (by no means only Christians) are seriously worried. One major concern is the denigration of marriage and family life. This is not the place to go into detail, but as a huge and troubling generational change engulfs our society, our churches need leadership that is able “to contend for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints,” while understanding the times in which we find ourselves. The generational change represented by Mickey Mantle’s appointment as our Senior Minister is as necessary as it is welcome.

May the Lord richly bless Mickey and Ellie and their family as they join us, and may He give us all the grace to “shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life.”
Thank you all, dear friends, for your fellowship and love.

John Woodhouse
Acting Senior Minister