April 2017

Welcome to everyone joining us for our Monthly Celebration today at St Matt’s! It’s a great time of: catching up with each other’s news;  re-kindling our sense of community; taking the opportunity, as community, to think again on God’s words to us; and coming to him corporately in prayer for the things we hold dear in mission and well-being for the world and ourselves.

This month, as part of the season of Lent, and therefore as we head towards Easter, we will be focussing on Jesus’ relentless pursuit of His Father’s goals. Luke 9:51 “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem”. Some different versions of the bible phrase it like this:

•    ESV - “he set his face”
•    The Message - “he gathered up his courage and steeled himself”
•    CEV - “he made up his mind”

Jesus was determined to do His Father’s will, no matter the cost and all for our benefit. He died, so that we might have new life. We discussed last month that the devil, the enemy of God, tried to do everything to dissuade Him from this solitary goal - and failed - because Jesus was faithful to the task. 

This month we discover that difficult as it was, Jesus was prepared Himself and wanted to prepare His followers for a new reality – that death is not the end, and that Jesus Himself had power over death.

As John looked back over his long life, and especially those amazing years at Jesus’ side, he could see how Jesus had prepared them for what was to come. These very famous words

. . .  (John 11:25-26) “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”  


 . . . come to us as a powerful reminder that it is God, and neither humans nor any other power on earth, who has control over life and death. The worst the world could do to Jesus was killing Him but that was not enough. Despite everything that seems wrong in our society, despite all attempts to rob us of our faith, the world just does not have what it takes to kill God, even when he came in flesh as a human being. 

I find these words so comforting. Sometimes it is very hard to do the Father’s will. It has its costs. But there is always resurrection for those who believe and trust in our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

So, this is the last written word from me. I finish on 30th April and your Locum Vicar, the Rev Andrew Grills takes up responsibility from 1st May. I wish (and will be praying for) him and you very well indeed and I am glad to hand you over to his care, all the while confident that we are all in the care of our wonderful Heavenly Father.

God bless you always,    Ian.


NB: The farewell date mentioned last month is now rescheduled for Sunday 23rd April at 5pm.

P.S. A new, mid-week service for Seniors and others will commence on Wednesday 10th May at 10am for coffee, service at 10:30, finish by 11:30m & rides home for those who need them!
 

March 2017

Welcome to everyone joining us here at St Matt’s for our monthly Celebration!

We hope you will find us welcoming and will enjoy our fellowship as we: drink coffee; sing songs of praise to God; remember all that Jesus has done for us as we partake in Holy Communion; discuss our bible reading; pray; and then finally share a meal together. 

So sit back and relax, take your time to get to know each other better and enjoy all that God is doing amongst us!

Today we will be discussing the “Temptation of Jesus” from Luke 4:1-11. Right from the outset, the test for Jesus was whether he would follow the will of the Father, no matter what. We will note that the enemy does everything he knows how to turn Jesus away from this fundamental obedience, which marks a true child of God. 

It is a path marked with humility, suffering and sacrifice and it is a path, I’m “proud” to say, is one we are well acquainted with at St Matt’s. When I think of you I will always remember you as followers of Jesus who were willing to put the Lord’s will first and think of others more highly than yourselves.

For it is with a mixture of sadness and relief that I tell you that finally I have been offered a new job! The congregation at Emmanuel Uniting Church, Enoggera, Brisbane have invited me to become their new Ministry Team Leader which I have accepted gladly and with some considerable measure of excitement yet also the grief of having to leave you wonderful folk as well as family, friends & Julie’s employment.

I will finish working at St Matt’s at the end of April with a farewell being arranged for 23rd April. A Locum Vicar will be appointed for the interim period between my leaving and any future arrangements for ministry, which as you know, are being explored by the Parish Council, City on a Hill and the Diocese.

In the meantime, let’s Worship well together, let’s be extended Family on Mission, and let’s seek out our People of Peace!

God bless,   Ian.
 

February 2017

Welcome to our monthly celebration service. If you are visiting, please relax and enjoy the fellowship as we catch up with each others’ news, worship with music and Holy Communion, participate as much or as little as you like in the discussion and prayers and do stay for dinner afterwards!

As the year rolls out we are expecting many significant changes. But of course some things remain the same; especially the love our Heavenly Father has for us. It is a wonderful privilege not just to be “called” children of God but to know, deep in our spirit, that covenant of grace so richly bestowed on us by Jesus, when He died on the cross in our place. 

I wonder if you’ve ever thought about your identity. Who are you exactly? How can you tell?

In our discussion today, we will focus on how others can tell whose we are; by the way we live our lives as “salt & light” in the world. 

You see, our identity matters! It matters to us for our own emotional & spiritual well-being. Being confident of whose we are helps us choose to be obedient to the will of the Father. As we willingly follow Jesus down the road of sacrificial service, our identity also matters to others. Through us they can find the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Last month we thought about how Jesus is the centre, cause and purpose of everything.  This month let’s think about how we can indeed be “salt & light” or signposts to Jesus so others may also find their identity in Him.

God bless,  Ian.

 

City on a Hill Update
Parish Council will be meeting each month, (and the Wardens in between) during this transition period for our church as we continue to explore how City on a Hill (CoaH) might join in ministry together.

This month we agreed to make conscious decisions to allow ourselves to get more involved with what CoaH are doing. 

•    Yesterday we were able to join in a working bee to spruce the place up a bit and attend to some minor repairs. We also relocated the admin office to make space for the ever-expanding Sunday children’s ministry of CoaH.
•    The Parish Council will attend and encourage s all of us to attend CoaH’s monthly prayer meeting, on the first Monday evening of each month at 7pm for an hour. Next one tomorrow, 6th February; please come if you can.
•    And we recommitted to being at Sunday morning worship on the Sundays we’re not at our own services or at Missional Community gatherings.
•    We are also exploring ways of helping folk from CoaH to get involved in our ministries, especially playgroup, op-shop and Tate Street.

January 2017

Welcome to 2017! Can you believe it?

As we reflect on the year that’s been - with many upheavals - and also contemplate the year ahead, many people might be tempted to “throw in the towel” and simply let the wave of events wash over them.

Today I found helpful this verse from Psalms 93:4 “Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea–the LORD on high is mighty.”

When we come to the Lord in prayer, at any stage this year, let us remember who we are speaking with. Him, who made heaven and earth and everything in them. Him, who installs governments and brings them down also. Him, who chose not to be distant from us and to open the path for a personal relationship despite our unworthiness.

He is awesome and He is intimate.

Let us draw near to Him as he has drawn near to us! Let us learn this year to be closer to Him than any other.

Paul writes in Colossians 1:15-20 “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

Therefore our goal must be to learn to love Jesus, to trust Jesus, to thank Jesus, to implore Jesus and (of course) to follow Jesus, wherever He leads.

Let’s walk in His footsteps together this year! God bless,    Ian.


City on a Hill – Update
As promised at the 2016 Annual Meeting, each month we will provide a brief update on the process of exploring how we might join with our friends at City on a Hill, Geelong, (CoaH). 
What an amazing time was had at the two Christmas Eve services CoaH ran. So many people! Add great music, a strong & biblical message, and a great idea of having drinks and nibbles after each service, out in the “courtyard” area. And in air-conditioned comfort! 
Other than that there is not much to say apart from the Wardens, myself and Andrew Grills will meet with Bp Philip Huggins on Monday 16th January to discuss what next steps there might be. We value your prayers covering us all during this process.

Christmas 2016

Welcome to Christmas! 

About two thousand years ago the hills around Bethlehem rang out with the sound of many angels singing their praises to God – because Jesus had been born. They were announcing Good News!

When I look at that statement again there’s so much that seems to contradict the worldview of so many of our friends and family: Angels! God! Jesus!

For me, the last one is the key – Jesus. Obviously to those who care, Jesus is the reason for Christmas. But he’s also the one on whom we can do the easiest investigation and of we’re honest we conclude that a baby who grew to be a man, called Jesus of Nazareth, lived two thousand years ago and was born in Bethlehem and died in Jerusalem about thirty years later.

Why is he Good News? Precisely because He is the key to true life. He shows us who God is, because when we carefully and honestly investigate his life, death and resurrection, we can be left with no other conclusion than that he is actually God Himself.

If we believe the bible about Jesus, then it begins to be easier to believe about some of the harder issues like angels and miracles – but both of those are meant as signs or messengers, pointers if you like, back to Jesus and understanding who he is.

If you’ve never done it before, this Christmas, investigate Jesus. Find out the truth and begin to live life that is full of Good News!  

November 2016

Welcome everyone! It’s great to be with you again and for us all to have the chance for a proper catch-up.  Take a moment to think about what you’ve noticed God doing in the last month since we met. Is it something you read in scripture? Is it something you noticed in Creation? Maybe a word someone spoke to you (or you spoke to them)? Did you have an unusual dream or prophetic vision of how the world could or should be? God is speaking to us all the time in many and varied ways – but are we listening? (During the service you will have a chance to share something you think the Lord may be saying . . .)

As most of you know, since we last met in this context, I’ve been fortunate to travel on pilgrimage in “The Footsteps of Paul” through Turkey & Greece. After a couple of days in Istanbul, we traveled first to ancient Antioch (where believers in Jesus were first called “Christians” and from where each missionary journey was launched), then Tarsus (Paul’s hometown), and then visited the various towns mentioned in Acts and the area of Galatia (Side, Perga, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra (the hometown of Timothy, Eunice and Lois), Colossae, Laodicea, Hierapolis, Ephesus. 

On day 9 we caught a ferry and traveled to Greece and journeyed the area called Macedonia in the bible, which included Philippi, Thessalonica, Athens, & finally Corinth.  One real highlight was visiting the river where Lydia (and her household) was baptised. The water was cold!

The Apostle Paul was just so amazing - so many obstacles - even the intimidating buildings, hostile country and especially the oppressive darkness of pagan (& highly sexualised) religion.

But he had:

  • Clear call/encounter with Jesus
  • Encouragement & challenge from those further ahead in the faith
  • Accountability with the Church
  • Many years training & preparation
  • Failure & redemption
  • High character

Nothing to it really!

“Persistence despite many and great adversities” was the overwhelming impression I had of Paul. Nothing was wasted and everything was used in the promotion of Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah (to the Jews) and the one true and living God to the pagans. And his fundamental tools for growing the church were preaching about Jesus, demonstrating his power and living life amongst the households of people of peace. There was not much growth for many years, but in the end his own disciples were planting churches in places Paul had never been to – his message was so compelling. 

You will receive your annual report today and I encourage you to take it home and read it and give thanks to God for all that is happening. The work of the Gospel goes on, even here at St Matt’s. For those of you so inclined, please also consider taking nomination forms for Parish Council, Wardens & Incumbency Committee. I’d be very glad to discuss those opportunities with you before you nominate. Our Annual Meeting will be held on Sunday 4th December, after the service and before dinner . . . 

God bless,   Ian.

October 2016

Welcome to everyone joining us for our monthly Celebration service! I’ve really grown to love these gatherings as we get to: catch up with people we haven’t seen for a while; hear about what God’s been up to amongst us; worship in our own, unique style; learn more about what the Lord is calling to do and be; pray for his intervention in our lives and the issues of our world; and finish up with a satisfying meal - It’s New Testament church in the 21st century! 

And this is St Matthew’s Day (well, it’s when we’re celebrating it anyway) and so we will focus again on Matthew’s own call to discipleship, His report of Jesus’ call to all disciples to make more disciples, and therefore our own part of that call. How are we going as disciples ourselves and making new disciples?

The last month or so have been very unusual for me with only part-time employment but funnily enough the Lord doesn’t seem to be limited by that. There are always new ways to listen and learn from Him and to reach & care for His people. As things stand I am still looking for full-time employment and would appreciate your prayers for that. 

Tomorrow I am off on study leave for just over two weeks to Turkey & Greece following the “Footsteps of Paul”. (You may remember I did a similar pilgrimage called the “Footsteps of Jesus” in Israel 4 years ago). The focus of this trip is to consider how Paul made disciples in each different context he found himself. We start in Hatay and make our way to his home town of Tarsus and then westwards along the coast to various places like Lystra, Derbe & Iconium. We will eventually visit Ephesus, Corinth, Philippi, Thessaloniki & Athens.

In my absence, as usual, any pastoral matters can be taken up by Jeanenne Thomas and other issues in the first instance by the other Wardens, Chris Crook & Michael Sullivan.

I’ve been really enjoying City on a Hill’s series of Tough Questions – have you been lately? The sermons are first class! Did you know that their average attendance is up by approx 50 people per week since they started using our buildings? That is yet again something to really celebrate as we consider everything that God is calling us to.

God bless,   Ian.

September 2016

Welcome to everyone worshipping with us this month at St Matt’s and Happy Father’s Day also! Today for our discussion we will pick up on this theme and think about the idea of “Spiritual Parenting” – it might not be what you think . . .

Unfortunately, I have some disappointing news - last week I was terminated from my role at Church Army. I was caught completely unawares as there had been no warning or indication of any kind. As I was in a probationary period I have been paid salary in lieu of notice and so have finished up already.

I can assure you I have done nothing wrong - just a difference of directional priorities and they obviously thought I would not be able to contribute to the new ones. The organisation was in a critical situation - far worse than I realised and frankly the Board were unprepared/unable to follow my vision for re-imagining CA over the medium to long term.  

But the implications are that Julie & I need for us both to be working full-time in order to pay the mortgage, etc, and that logically, (most likely) I will probably need to seek a full-time job somewhere other than Geelong. So we have great & unwanted upheaval on the way. There are however a number of possibilities which I have yet to thoroughly explore and I will keep you updated as appropriate.

Obviously there will also be implications for St Matt's and the Parish Council will be meeting ASAP to discuss various options.

So we come back to this idea of “dying”. Who knew when I wrote of this around Easter-time that it would look and feel like this? And yet, so much that is good has come out of the changes. For example, City on a Hill’s numbers have gone up by an average of 50 per week since they moved in!

There are two scriptures which keep me in the right frame of mind at present. The first is as mentioned earlier this year, (John 12:24) Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

And secondly, (2 Corinthians 4:7-9) But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

God is bigger, He is sovereign, and even if He is asking us to go through very difficult times, He will never leave or forsake us.

Let’s hold each other up in prayer, God bless,     Ian.

August 2016

A very warm welcome to everyone worshipping with us today at St Matt’s at our monthly Celebration service. What are we celebrating?

  • That God loves us.
  • That He sent Jesus to show that love.
  • That we are free from the power of sin over our lives.
  • That He is transforming us and our community.
  • That he has included us in His family
  • That everyone is welcome!

Especially this month we welcome (home!) Catherine & Tim Walker along with their children Will, Hannah & Adeline. . .

The Walker family have worked as CMS Missionaries in Rwanda for over 5 years. Tim is a doctor (a gastroenterologist), and in Rwanda he taught and practiced medicine. For the last few years he was in charge of the education program for Internal Medicine throughout the country. He loved getting alongside his Rwandan colleagues and seeing them grow from trainees in the program to practicing specialists throughout the country, overseas and even becoming his boss. It was a wonderful opportunity to model and encourage Christian leadership. As you might imagine, there are enormous challenges to caring for sick people in Rwanda, and doing so in a Godly and servant-hearted manner is a mission in itself, both for Tim and for his colleagues.

Catherine wore many hats in Rwanda: mother, Primary Teaching Consultant, preacher... Memorably, her time in Rwanda was woven with relationships with many people who simply came and knocked on the gate, asking for help. Getting to know their incredibly moving stories, spending time with them, praying for them and helping them practically as she was able was the role that she found the most challenging and rewarding in Rwanda. 

The Walkers are looking forward to sharing stories with you about their mission in Rwanda. They thank you for your prayers and support throughout the years there.

Many of the skills that the Walkers needed in Rwanda are similar to the ones we need as we seek to transform our own community. We are, as we’ve said before, sort of like Local Missionaries.

When Jesus sent his disciples out 2 x 2 to do gospel work, he told them to find a "person of peace" (Luke 10:6). I've found that a "person of peace" is someone who: likes you, listens to you & serves (or helps) you.

Is there someone like that in your life? PRAY that God will show us each who our People of Peace are and that we will find ways of honouring them by sharing something of the Good News with them.

Is a servant of the King, or the servant of a Child of the King, in the Kingdom? PRAY for an opportunity to demonstrate this week that your people of Peace are welcome and included in the Kingdom.

God bless,    Ian.

July 2016

Welcome to St Matthew’s monthly Celebration Service when we gather together everyone from our Missional Communities and all other activities of St Matt’s. It’s great to get together to hear what God’s been doing amongst us, to prepare for what He’s going to do and to enjoy each others’ company in His presence.

By the time you read this a new Federal Government will be established – some will be celebrating and some commiserating but win or lose, all of us will have to live with the consequences.

I find it a real challenge living with the decision-making process of those who have been placed “over” us. Some policies seem generally good but their specific outworking seems wrong. Most frustrating is when it seems that things you feel strongly about are being challenged, eroded or lost. And most of the time it feels like there is nothing we can do about it!

Here’s the solution (big claim)!

17 Show proper respect to everyone, love your fellow believers, fear God, honour the emperor. (1 Peter 2:17)

You’ll remember this from last month’s bible discussion and we’ll give this some more time today but the essence is this: no matter the “societal framework” we find ourselves in, (either now or in the future), we are always called to live as Christians in the world. That is, to live as Jesus lived. I always find it interesting that the only leaders Jesus challenged were the religious leaders . . .

We may find areas to protest about, we may find ourselves as unwitting victims of injustice, we may find ourselves living lives of privilege either by accident or by hard-work. But no matter our circumstances we are called to live trusting in God’s grace and trustworthiness, not humans.

And that is why our fundamental discipleship questions are always relevant; “What is the Lord saying and what are we going to do about it?” If God is the one who installs governments and other authorities, then He is the one with a plan for changing it and/or living within it.

Can we recognize the voice of the Shepherd (Jesus)? Are we even listening for it? Can we trust it? If you’d like help with these questions, please get in touch with me, or one of our Missional Community leaders: Jeanenne Thomas, Chris Crook, Lesley Spurr, Lyn Hudson & Marlene Holloway – they’re experts at it :)

God bless,    Ian.

June 2016

Welcome to everyone joining us for our monthly Celebration Service! Why are we celebrating? Because:

  • God loves us,
  • Jesus has rescued us from our sins
  • The Holy Spirit empowers us to live a new life
  • We can all belong to God’s family
  • On this first Sunday of each month the St Matt’s part of the family gathers together to enjoy each other’s company in God’s presence!!

It’s so good to be together again. I’m finding it really hard not to see everyone, every week but at least it makes me look forward very much to this very special time. Let’s commit ourselves (in the lead up to each monthly celebration) to praying earnestly that when we do meet together it’s a wonderful time. Perhaps even so special that we couldn’t help but invite our people of peace to come along with us! That’s certainly my goal.

And in between times, we meet in smaller gatherings either in local mission contexts or times of fellowship. If you’re not sure how this can work for you – please ask! Most people are now involved in one of our four Missional Communities. That means that almost all of us are actively involved in mission which means that our life of discipleship (following Jesus) is way more balanced in the three sets of relationships; Up (with God, which we maintain by these times of gathering for worship and our own personal devotions), In (with other Christians, meeting in groups at various times and locations), & Out (with people who don’t yet follow Jesus, at home, work, school, clubs, - our People of Peace).

Meanwhile, for me personally, things have changed dramatically as I have “eased” into being half-time Vicar of St Matt’s and half-time Director of Evangelism & Discipleship for Church Army Australia. Actually it’s far from easy! I’m struggling to juggle the work load, the changes and the challenges and I would value your prayers . . .

The truth is we’re all struggling a bit (or a lot) aren’t we? We have given extra life to a new church but at considerable cost to our own church life. It’s uncomfortable, strange and unfamiliar.

But that’s why, (under trial), it’s important that we indentify first and foremost as Children of our Heavenly Father who has promised, “be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."  (6)  So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can human beings do to me?"  (7)  Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.  (8)  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Heb 13:5b-8)

Our circumstances change but God does not. And that’s the other reason we celebrate – because He is with us!  

God bless,  Ian.

April 2016

Welcome everyone to our first ever Monthly Celebration at 5pm! A special welcome to our part-time Locum, Rev Steve Copland, (currently serving as Assistant Curate at Ocean Grove / Barwon Heads), who is a great friend of St Matt’s and our model of church.

Now that City on a Hill, Geelong has taken responsibility for morning worship, each Sunday at 10:30am, we have the freedom to concentrate even further on developing our Missional Communities model. The timing is bad for me, due to annual leave, but I assure you I am with you in spirit and I can’t wait to join you properly on my return!

Because we are only gathering together formally once a month, it is vital that as many of us as possible commit to coming ourselves and keep inviting others to join us. And it will be an event worth coming to. I think we all agree now that our formula of: coffee & cake; communion; songs; bible discussion; open prayers and meal are totally worth coming to be part of. But please do make a priority to come especially to this Celebration on the first Sunday of each month!

We call it a “Celebration” because it is the time when we recall everything God has done for us in Jesus, and everything Jesus is doing amongst us in our Missional Communities and everyday life. Come ready to luxuriate in the presence of God and his people. We should be prepared to take some serious time over this – maybe allow 2 ½ to 3 hours! (Think: “family get-together”)

Of course we will see each other plenty of other times: on mission Mon-Sat at Seniors, Tate Street, Op-Shop & Playgroup; at City on a Hill services; in our Missional Communities, etc. We all know in theory that the church is far more than when we gather for a service – let’s prove that to be true in our commitment to each other.

And please do also make every effort to welcome all the new folk we’ll be seeing around our buildings from City on a Hill (and of course any visitors). We are well known for our welcome – let this continue to be our hallmark as we minister together in the new, resurrection-life, mode of being St Matthew’s Church.

God bless, see you in a month,     Ian.

March 2016

As we approach Easter with significant change in the wind, I cannot help but reflect on the nature of missional discipleship as I understand it – learning to die so that others might live.

I’ve chosen some specific readings from John’s gospel to take us into what has traditionally been labelled “Holy Week” which begins with Passion/Palm Sunday, journeys through the desolation of Gethsemane and concludes brilliantly, unexpectedly (originally) with the celebration of resurrection.

We’ll start with the (literally) pastoral image of Jesus the Good Shepherd (and of course from our very own painting in the sanctuary, Jesus the gate for the sheep), who “lays down his life for the sheep”. If we follow (imitate) the example of Jesus then we need to be prepared to lay down our lives for the sake of others – what will this mean for us as individuals and as a church?

Then to the climax of the signs Jesus performed – the raising of his friend Lazarus from the tomb. The one who has power of nature (wind & storm), disease, disability, intellect and spirit now finally demonstrates his power over what the Apostle Paul later calls “the final enemy to be defeated” – death.

This in itself is the source of hope for eternal life for us all. What Jesus was able to do for Lazarus, he promises to do for all those who place their trust in and follow Him. Even if we lay down our lives, we will be raised again. If we as individuals and St Matt’s as a church lay down our lives in one pattern of existence Jesus will none the less raise us to another.

We will have triumphs and celebrations, excitement and vision as we follow Jesus and see lives and communities transformed. But that only happens as we engage and struggle with our own limitations, frailties and fears. The power and thrill of bringing life to others is mediated only through our obedience to a life of self-sacrifice, trusting in the rightness of doing God’s will.

And lest we have any illusions about the road ahead, being crucified with Christ is painful, lonely and fraught with doubt, betrayal and denial by those whom we love, respect and have strong relationships with.

Yet the glorious resurrection shines like light piercing the darkness, bringing healing and wholeness and especially reconciliation with God, not only for ourselves but especially for those who are yet to experience this for themselves.

This is why we do what we do. This is who God has called us to be – disciples who make disciples – who belong to God through Jesus and draw others into the same relationship. This was the journey that led Jesus to the cross and beyond and the journey of a lifetime for all those who call Him Lord!

God bless,  Ian.

February 2016

Welcome to everyone worshipping with us during the month of February. If you are visiting with us we hope you’ll enjoy our hospitality and fellowship and the chance to explore your faith in a group setting.

We’ve had such a good time meeting informally over January that together with the Wardens I’ve decided to continue the format for the foreseeable future. The new music videos have worked a treat and we’ve all loved having a sing together. I think the question and answer format has also worked well and it feels to me like we’re coming to grips with the sort of gathering that Jesus was most used to when he went to synagogue most weeks and Paul was used to planting (starting).

It is good to worship together well! However, the main point of worship is to give glory to God and of course we do that far more in our Monday to Saturday lives than the two hours we spend together on Sundays! So one of the questions we should be asking of our life together as a church family is, “How does this help me live my life better in helping to draw people to Jesus?” Otherwise we would be doing nothing more than “consuming church” for our own sake.

In Matthew’s version of my all-time favourite passage in the bible . . . on the cost of discipleship (i.e. following Jesus), we read that our value is found in giving our lives up for Jesus sake.

Matthew 10:38-39 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

I find it the most difficult question to ask of myself. But ask it I must, each hour, each day, each week . . . “How should I lose my life for Jesus?” or “What must I give up?”

It is the hardest question but it brings the greatest reward! Jesus always gives us more in return than we could ever imagine. In my experience, whenever we choose to give something up for Jesus sake it always turns out that we are gaining more than we’ve lost. Or put another way, When we choose to die to self (and bring life to others – like Jesus did), the result is transformational for everyone.

This year, we may be asked to give things up for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of those He brings across our path. My sense is that we should do it gladly! Anything for the Kingdom!

God bless,  Ian.

Season of Rest, January 2016

Welcome to everyone joining us for our Season of Rest at St Matthew’s this summer. This is a season we engage with every year to do two things:

1.    To really REST from the previous year’s meetings, ministry and life in general, (there are no other gatherings of the church during the month of January).
2.    To really LISTEN to what God might be saying to us as individuals and as a church (we will use this freer time to meditate on God’s Word and allow it to shape our prayers and our hopes for the coming year.

This year when we gather on Sundays we will follow our recent pattern of spending time together over coffee & cake, then drawing together to discuss the weekly bible reading using some questions facilitated from the front, which will then lead into our prayer time when we can ask God by His Spirit to lead us further in our understanding of Jesus and how to follow him, as well as our general prayers of intercession for the world and our communities.

During the week, as part of your preparation, may I make the following suggestions?

1.    Set aside some more time than you usually do to hear from God.
2.    Ask God to speak to you as you read from his Word (the Bible).
3.    Read the passage we’ve just had and the one that is up next.
4.    Read them again!
5.    Write down anything that comes to mind as you read – thoughts, questions, ideas, pictures, songs, other scriptures, dreams, visions, words. Ask, “What is God trying to say to ME through this scripture?”
6.    Pray for clarification.
7.    Talk about what you’ve read with:
a.    A trusted friend
b.    A Person of Peace
8.    Pray as God leads you for:
a.    change in your own life
b.    other people whom God brings to your mind
c.    the year ahead for the church
9.    Write more stuff down so that you can remember what you were thinking about and bring it to church to discuss with others!

This January we will be working through Paul’s 1st letter to the Thessalonians. It’s worth reading through the whole book once or twice to get the overall sense of what Paul is trying to say to the original hearers.

If you'd like to do some personal bible study, you'll find further help on my Vicar's Blog.

God bless,   Ian.

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Sunday, 20th December & Christmas Day, 2015.

Welcome to everyone joining us for our Christmas services in 2015. As a church our prayers are with you and your family for a time of blessing and renewal as we remember the birth of Jesus. (The Archbishop of Melbourne also sends his greetings, best wishes and prayers – you can watch his YouTube Christmas message here:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OjxI7x-Y0E or just search for Archbishop of Melbourne Christmas 2015).

Archbishop Philip frames his message in the important difference that knowing Jesus makes because, of course, this is what Christmas is about.

On Monday 14th we held our last ever SRI Christmas service for the students of Tate Street Primary School at St Matt’s. I say the last because of changes by the State Government to policy about teaching Christianity to our school-aged children. During the “graduation ceremony” when we handed out bibles to the grade 6 students, I asked them to consider seriously the task that lies before them now. As the last generation of Tate Street students with 7 years of SRI under their belts, they have a responsibility to pass on what they know is good about Jesus to others.

Which is the same task we each have. The apostle Paul reminded Timothy, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” 2 Timothy 2:2 Each of us is called to make disciples who make disciples, setting a good example by our lives so that our words and deeds match.  'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will send you out to fish for people.' Mark 1:17

Christmas above all else celebrates God’s choice to come and live among His people and show them how to live and respond to Him and to each other.  We can no longer take for granted that our society understands this which is why we have been positioning ourselves out among the community, more than anything else we do, so that we can teach people about Jesus.

Christmas is our time and it’s everyone’s time. It’s the time when we remember once again that Jesus leads us out to help everyone know that they can be part of God’s family.

Christmas blessings from my family to yours and from God’s family to the world!       Ian.

Sunday, 13th December, 2015

Welcome to everyone joining us for the final Op-Shop community gathering today at St Matt’s. This rounds out our year of experimentation with the informal style and I’m looking forward to the stimulation of ideas from the front and from the people sitting at chairs and tables. The Op-Shop itself has had another amazing year of friendly service to the community and our thanks go again to Glenda, Terrie and also all the volunteer staff who make it such a wonderful place of blessing.

Coming up over Christmas and the summer period:

  • Sunday before Christmas (next week) - 10:30am Celebration in the main auditorium followed by lunch
  • Christmas Day – 10:00am Morning Prayer in the main auditorium
  • Sunday after Christmas (and each Sunday of January) – 10:30 Season of Rest, Morning Prayer with discussion based on 1 Thessalonians (Starting with Coffee & Cake) Volunteers required for morning tea- please let Wardens or me know ASAP

Also during this time, subject to final approval by both sets of Wardens, City on a Hill are hoping to use most of January to work on renovations to the main auditorium and to commence services in February. (This is not set in concrete but just my attempt to keep you all as informed as possible). The leadership of City on a Hill are very excited to be able to use our buildings and are thrilled with our hospitality towards them. Bishop Philip is also very glad that we’ve been able to offer them such generosity.

Meanwhile, despite the distraction of buildings stewardship, our local mission goes on unabated. There is a mixture of sadness and expectation with our ongoing involvement at Tate Street Primary School. Our final SRI classes (in all likelihood) were held this week and this will end a long association with Access Ministries (and its forerunners). I cannot help but wonder what our society is allowing to influence the moral and ethical development of our future generations – who will teach the children that murder is not okay? Our last activity will be held tomorrow at St Matt’s with a final Christmas SRI Service. My thanks go to our current teachers: Jean Ermel, Bob Seaton & Eric Billing but especially Jan Whitehand for her many years of amazingly dedicated teaching and coordination of the program at the School. And there are many others from our church and elsewhere who have given hours of service to the school and our community’s young people.

However, the Good News is that Kids Hope will go on and will need extra volunteers, both male and female, to cope with increased numbers at the school. Readers will also still be required. In addition, the Principal has agreed in principle (I couldn’t resist!) to us providing some kind of Kids Club/Youth Group which he would happily advertise to students and parents and encourage attendance for those who still wish to have some spiritual input in their lives. Somewhat ironically, perhaps it will be this that provides the long-awaited breakthrough . . . exciting times!

God bless,    Ian.

Sunday, 6th December, 2015.

Welcome to everyone joining us for Playgroup Sunday – and an early celebration of Christmas. If you are visiting us for the first time, we hope you will enjoy the informal environment where we can have fun with our young children and learn something from the bible together. There will also be opportunity to pray for any needs or concerns, so at the appropriate moment, please don’t hesitate. In the meantime, please make the most of friendship and cake on offer before the service and do stay for lunch afterwards if you can.

The really big news is that after our congregational meeting last week and all other things considered, Parish Council decided unanimously to proceed with an invitation to City on a Hill (Geelong) to come and use our buildings. The centrepiece of the invitation is allowing them to worship on Sunday mornings, including making significant changes to the interior of the worship space and some other creative ideas they have regarding street signage, etc.

In order to facilitate this, we as the St Matt’s congregation will be changing when we meet. At this stage, we look like holding our Playgroup Sunday on a Sunday evening, once a month. We will also hold a Celebration Service, including a meal and Holy Communion on another Sunday evening once a month. Both the Op-Shop Community and Tate Street Missional Community will meet on the other Sundays respectively, at other times and venues to be decided.

For the Seniors, after discussion with Marlene Holloway & Lyn Hudson, we look like offering a weekly gathering on a Tuesday morning, with Holy Communion about once a month. This will be an opportunity to pool our resources with the 3C’s cafe and Seniors Scrabble groups combining, as it were. Given the age and health of some of our Seniors, we also need to look at transport issues.

For all those who wish to continue to gather for worship on a Sunday morning, it has been reiterated to me this week that we are very welcome to join City on a Hill. I envisage that some of us will indeed want to do this and also do something like gather for coffee together before or after the service. Parish Council has identified this as a priority.

The fine details have yet to be worked out completely; some of them are unfolding as we begin to talk amongst ourselves about the upcoming changes. I will keep you informed as and when I can.

In the meantime, I want to give you some more vision about why we’re making this offer.

1.       It’s the hospitable and generous thing to do for our fledgling, Anglican brothers and sisters.

2.       It’s an investment in the future both for our own congregation and for City on a Hill.

3.       It provides for us an ongoing central place, time and resource for larger, gathered worship.

4.       It releases St Matt’s to push further into the model of Missional Communities.

5.       It provides, in the short term, some much needed renovations to our worship space (albeit in a very contemporary style).

6.       It provides, in the longer term, an additional income stream enabling us to continue our much valued ministry.

I hope you can see that we are in exciting times and that not only will you be blessed by your own involvement but that many others will too. We each have a role to play in this!

God bless,  Ian.

Sunday, 29th November, 2015

Welcome to everyone worshiping with us today at St Matt’s. It’s a 5th Sunday today so morning tea will have to wait until after the service but at least we will get to sing some songs using the pre-recorded worship of Andy Pobjoy.

After the service today, once everyone’s got a cuppa, we will hold a meeting to provide further information and to gain an indication of how the congregation feels and thinks about the proposed partnership with City on a Hill, Geelong, (COAH). The feeling of the meeting will inform our next parish council meeting, tomorrow night, where we hope to ratify a proposal drafted at last week’s meeting held especially for the purpose.

Last week’s news was received by a mixture of outright joy and some misgivings. As the week has unfolded, the Wardens and I have met with the leaders from COAH, had a meeting with the Parish Council and I have exchanged some correspondence with Rev Andrew Grills, their Lead Pastor.

I think I need to make some things very clear:

1.       We are offering to give up our morning worship, in all its forms, so that COAH can run their own church in our buildings. We are very welcome to join their worship but it will be their service, with their different theological nuances and worship styles. We will be their guests, as they will be renting the space and time from us. That means that I (or anyone else from St Matt’s) will not be leading, preaching, presiding or taking any formal part in the service. Likewise, there will be no notices or offerings relating directly to St Matt’s on a weekly basis, unless there is to be a joint event of some kind. When we join them we will do things their way, and when they join us they will do things our way.

2.       For the first couple of years, we have offered that in lieu of some of the rent they may purchase for us new chairs and upgrade the heating (yay!), something we have been unable to afford on our own.

3.       In order to “make the space their own”, as tenants, they will be making some other cosmetic changes, subject to our agreement, at their own expense, with an understanding that they will restore the worship space to an agreed standard should they leave the partnership.

4.       We will need to redefine how and when we do worship. The plan at this stage is to hold a Celebration service once a month at say, 5pm, with coffee, evening meal, discussion based around a bible reading and Missional Community reporting and Holy communion. We also expect to hold a Playgroup Sunday in the hall once per month largely as we have been this year only in the evening timeslot. The other Missional Communities may meet at other times and venues yet to be decided.

5.       We will need to regularly review how things are going and especially if this arrangement is suiting all our worship and other pastoral needs.

6.       Both churches hope that we will be able to hold some joint festivals, mission and ministry yet to be determined. COAH folk may wish to join with us at Tate Street, for example, or the Op-shop or Playgroup and it would be nice to think we could celebrate Christmas, Easter and Pentecost with them – all of which remains to be seen and worked through.

7.       This is not the end of St Matt’s. We are doing well, achieving our goals and will continue to push into the Missional Communities model, with some new freedom I suspect.

8.       There will be teething issues, without doubt, and the transition time will test us all.

9.       We get to bring life to their ministry and they to ours – it’s a great Kingdom Project!

God bless,    Ian.

Sunday, 22nd November, 2015.

Welcome to everyone joining us for our final Tate Street Community gathering for 2015 today. It’s been another great year for our involvement with our local Primary School and we have much to give thanks to God for.

I write this note to you with a growing sense of excitement and thankfulness at God’s provision, along with contentment that even though this year has been hard, our determination to follow wherever God leads us is being honoured. At the Annual Meeting last week I hinted that we would have some big news to discuss and today I can reveal more information about that.

You may recall that in my annual report I indicated that we had some missing pieces to our “puzzle”, which included a “central worship and resourcing hub which the Missional Communities and other Missional activities could orbit around”.

Co-incidentally, some of you may be aware that the newest Anglican Church in our region – “City on a Hill, Geelong” (COAH) – is looking for a more permanent home for worship and general operations.

Therefore I’m sure you can join the dots . . . I have asked COAH to consider sharing our facilities in a kind of symbiotic partnership. Whilst maintaining our separate and inherent identities, (including legal and financial), we would none the less seek to share such other resources as we have to further Kingdom Ministry & Mission. Essentially it’s about them getting a set of buildings to use and us getting a more formal worship service that frees our Missional Communities to push further into their calling.

Most noticeably and significantly, I suspect, is that the arrangement would include COAH taking full responsibility for Sunday morning services, i.e. they will be running them! We will be fully free and welcome to join them and so our two churches will worship together. (My absence today is due to my final piece of research to ensure what they do is suitable for us to participate in – which I expect is not very different to our own monthly Celebration service.)

During the rest of the week there will be little discernible difference, especially with a careful management of diaries - except of course that there will be more people around, more often! (They are currently a church of about 130-150 Sunday attendees). I can tell you that COAH are very interested and just waiting for a formal proposal from us. I can also say that at this stage the Wardens and I are very inclined to proceed.

This will now dominate the meeting of Parish Council for the next two Monday nights. We would all value your prayers as we consider the implications of such a partnership. In addition, it is my hope that we will bring you a draft proposal for your consideration, discussion and indicative vote at a special meeting for the purpose next Sunday 29th November at 12noon. This will then be further taken into account by Parish Council with an expectation that a final & formal proposal could be adopted at another congregational meeting on Sunday 13th December.

I hope to be back at St Matt’s by 12:15 today but Chris, Jeanenne & Michael are also around to answer and take note of any preliminary questions.

God bless, Ian.