To farewell church planters from Pitt Town Anglican Church was always going to be difficult, but to do it during COVID-19 forced the church to take the celebration service online.
It has been 20 years since the Rev Greg Peisley and his wife Sue planted a church at Arndell Anglican School with 15 adults and 20 kids. In 2008, Mr Peisley became rector of Pitt Town and ran both the Arndell and Pitt Town churches until they merged three years later.
“As part of the original church plant with 15 others, we had the pleasure and privilege and sometimes the heartache of seeing God at work,” Sue Peisley said in a special farewell message during the service. “We have made many brothers and sisters in Christ that we will always treasure as God's gift of friendship. Many workers for the harvest have been sent out by us but trained here and loved here.”
To say the Peisleys are a fixture in the area would be an understatement. Among the many to come to faith through the couple are some young people who have been under the couple's ministry their whole lives.
Mitch Currell, a former Arndell pupil, recalled the days that Mr Peisley was co-chaplain at the school. "I remember hearing that Years 5 and 6 got to have him in Scripture class, so it was a big deal to get up to Year 5 and finally have Greg teach you," Mitch said. "He always made sure to bring it back to Jesus."
Holly Shunmugam told the special video presentation, “I'm very, very fortunate to have grown up under the ministry of Greg, and if you are part of this church you probably have burnt into your brain Greg saying, ‘Get out your Bible and read along with what I'm saying – don't just trust me’”.
Messages of support came from as far away as London, as well as from former Archbishop Peter Jensen and the current Archbishop Glenn Davies, who preached on Jonah.
Said Dr Jensen: “When people talk about the church plant that has grown to be here they say that it is a church rich in fellowship. Of course, all this is the Lord's work and it's the work also of the whole church, but it wouldn't happen without the pastor. It wouldn't happen without him and it wouldn't happen without Sue.”
From that small church plant, the church has grown to 300 adults and 60-80 kids across four services, plus a youth group of more than 100. The retirement comes as Greg Peisley battles Stage 4 “wild”-type brain cancer.
“We have so many memories of how good God has been to us and through us, and so many things to be thankful for," Mr Peisley told the congregation via video.
“Keep being involved and keep looking for how you can share Jesus with other people in a way that they can understand their great need for him and that he is the only answer. He is the way and he is the truth and he is the life, so let's keep on about him!”