Port Stephens Church of Christ welcomes new Pastor

Thomas Cooper is the new Pastor of Port Stephens Church of Christ at Salt Ash.

FAMILIAR to many residents and regular visitors to the Tomaree Peninsula, Port Stephens Church of Christ holds a highly visible location along Nelson Bay Drive in Salt Ash.

Since December of 2023 the congregation that gathers at the 55-year-old church has been working to revitalise their mission and ministry to the surrounding community alongside their newly appointed Pastor, Thomas Cooper.

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“It’s a little funny, I must have driven past this church hundreds of times, but I’d never stopped and come inside,” Thomas said.

“In fact I wasn’t even sure that anyone was meeting here anymore.”

Thomas, his wife Brooke and their three sons were welcomed into their new role following an extended period during which the church had been without pastoral leadership.

Thomas and Brooke had most recently been involved with the congregation of Hinton Baptist Church, though prior to that they had led a church congregation in Western Australia (WA) they had established themselves in 2014.

“When you’re planting a church, everything can feel like a battle,” Thomas reflected on his experience in WA.

“There are so many legal requirements to establishing a church, as well as organising a place to gather and making sure everything is in order.

“All of that is beside the fact that you’re constantly meeting new people and building relationships, and trying to help people to create a community where everyone feels welcomed.

“It was a wonderful community and an incredible experience for the years that we served there, but it was five years of non-stop struggle.”

By contrast his first months at Salt Ash have been very different.

“We’ve been welcomed so warmly and enthusiastically by this church community, and there has been a great sense of collaboration and a desire to work together for the sake of the community around us.”

Thomas lived and worked for a number of years in Port Stephens prior to entering pastoral ministry, having trained as a teacher.

He was employed at St Philip’s Christian College until 2013, so this latest appointment is something of a homecoming for him.

“It is nice to be stepping into a church that has a history and is already meeting and has services that they offer.

“For the time being I’m getting familiar with the people here and what they already do.”

Port Stephens Church of Christ has run a “friendship group” on Thursdays for quite some time that also serves as an opportunity shop.

The church will soon become part of the ‘Hands and Feet’ program, offering grocery bundles to families and individuals struggling with difficult circumstances.

By Lindsay HALL

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