In the backyard at Porter Road, there stands a gum tree towering above all other plants. One suspects that it is a bit of a rogue: growing as it is so close to the fence: it is the one tree to have survived the transition from the old manse to the new, a survival that included an attempt to remove it. Today new branches reach to the sky and spread out across the yard. It is full of life - new life - growing from an old trunk, drawing from roots which had nourished the tree for years.
Today begins another transition in the life of Rosanna Baptist Church. As we bid our farewell and give thanks to God for all that he has done through our time sharing together in ministry, we recognise and affirm that change of a different order is taking place today. As we look back over the past nine years, we have seen change as a constant in the church's life. Whether we have actively instigated change or not, time has wrought its own changes in us, around us, and through us by the Spirit of God. Much of this change has been barely perceptible. But not today’s change. Change of this order raises deeper questions within us.
We look today in two directions: we look back and give thanks for all has been shared, and by grace seek to place it all once again in the hands of God. Where we have fallen short we share in the forgiveness that is ours through Jesus Christ. And we look forward with a sense of hesitation and wonder at what the future might bring. We are invited afresh to trust in God with the big things as well as the small, to believe that no matter what, God is still leading his church, and equipping it for service in every sphere.
It is the gum tree in the backyard which stands as a strong reminder of the grace of God to empower and renew growth, drawing on roots which are firmly in him. No matter what the order of change taking place, the life of God continues to flow through his people, just as life flows through this gum tree. As long as our life is grounded in God there is always a future and a hope.
It has been a great privilege to serve you as Pastor over this time. You hold a very dear place our hearts. We have seen God at work in and through you in so many ways. More than any words we might have spoken, or any programs we might have run, we have sought to share our lives with you - seeking to live the love of Jesus he has placed within us. And in doing so we have seen the love of Jesus in so many of you, we have experienced his love through you. Thank you.
As we follow the call of God to new places and say farewell, we do so in the full knowledge that today and tomorrow as in everyday, God's life continues in you.
February 3, 2002