While I was looking for pictures of jacaranda trees for Sunday’s slide show, I came across this story about the jacarandas of St George and Sutherland Shires in Sydney – https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-11-19/the-story-behind-the-jacarandas-in-sydneys-south/13638852  

In 1952 Sister Irene Paxton who ran a maternity hospital began giving jacaranda trees to young mothers, asking them to plant them in their backyards and watch them grow, as they watched their children grow. The name of the maternity hospital was Jacaranda Hospital!

For the people of St George and Sutherland Shires, the jacaranda trees don’t signify exam time (as it did for me) but new life and hope. We, too, are moving into a season of new life and hope, and it has been wonderful to read people’s Advent reflections this week on hope!

It was also wonderful to meet on Sunday, to discuss, among other things, signing the bebaptist.com letter as a church and writing our own letter to Assembly Council about the Special Assembly Motions. We heard well expressed ideas on many different sides of the issue, we listened to each other and we sought the mind of Christ together (one of the principles of being Baptist!) and – I am very glad to say – those two recommendations were agreed to by the church.

Many comments have stayed with me from Sunday’s discussion, but the one I am reflecting on most, came from Rev Dr Thorwald Lorenzen in the discussion sessions before Sunday’s meeting. He commented that we needed to ask our young people and our younger adults what their views on these matters were; that these decisions shaped their future and their hope in the church.

We had only two younger people there on Sunday. (And I want to thank my daughter, Miriam, for being there, as well as Cecelia Aull, our Office Manager. I know Cecelia was there because she was reporting as the interim manager of the Community Centre, but I know they care very deeply about the issues underlying these two letters as well). There are a range of reasons why there weren’t more and I strongly believe this is an area where we, as a church, need to focus some prayer and thought and creativity – where we need to do something like Sister Irene Hoxton and start changing the landscape by planting seedlings that will one day blossom.

At Enos Clark’s funeral, his grandson, Ben, made the comment that families of trees grow best when they have three generations. I think the same could be true of churches; that we grow best when we are multi-generational; when we have healthy older trees sheltering and nurturing healthy middle aged trees which are also sheltering and nurturing much younger trees. In this way we ensure our own wellbeing. We ensure that life will continue.

On Sunday we also welcomed new deacons; Lyle Hingley, Sue Lavery and Tracey Noble. We are thankful for their long commitment to our church, and past service, and we will pray for them and the contribution they will make in the future. We also reappointed Kathy Joyce and Wendy Holland, and they will join Anneke Blackburn, Peter Churcher, John Clark, Rob Fergusson, John Higgins, Leah Hovenden and Ian Joyce for our meeting next Monday, 6th December. Please keep all of them in your prayers. We also want to thank Bev Galloway and Alan Howe, who are stepping down as deacons. They both brought the presence of Christ to our deliberations (a little like that whiff of eucalyptus) and we have been blessed by their contributions.

Two other things from Sunday, from my report, I want to mention:

In the new year, we are going to work through a sermon series on Baptist values, who we are as a distinct community of faith, the historical and cultural backbone of our movement, and how these values impact our attitudes, practices and decisions in our current context. We will be spring boarding off material prepared by Australian Baptist Ministries, and there are studies available for small groups, so my hope is our existing small groups – and some new pop-up groups – will work through this material together.

Also in the new year, we are re-establishing a weekly term-time programme for primary and secondary children during church. Family Church will keep going, once a term, as it has been a wonderful way of building connections and relationships, as well as develop the leadership skills of our youth, but it will be supplemented and supported by a weekly programme. If you love spending time with children, love talking about faith with children, and are willing to do our Creating Safe Spaces training, I would love to hear from you. There will be an induction and training session in late January/early February 2022.

This Sunday Jeanette is preaching on ‘Peace for a change!’ Please think about who you might want to invite to join you for the service – in the church or at home.  (If you didn’t get a chance to watch the Crossover video on how to invite people – here it is again – https://vimeo.com/628185196)

May we continue to be a growing church of green hope! Amen!