Vale John Thompson

By Karen Forman

The oft-used words of the late Rev John Stewart Thompson, affectionately known as Mr T, could well apply during this time of the Covid-19 (corona virus) pandemic: “Don’t worry, God’s got it’’.

In fact, he spoke them just before he went into the long and risky surgery that would lead to the infection that ultimately led to his death at the age of 75, in April. “Don’t worry, God’s got it.’’

He used them whenever his wife Betty and collection of “sorta children’’, which included me, contacted him with a problem. Sometimes those problems were challenges I faced writing and editing The Pulse on time, or with people I was having difficulty effectively communicating with.

John had an unwavering faith in God and acceptance of His will and it is this, along with his many years of service to Him as a Presbyterian Church State Moderator, interim moderator, minister and intentional transitional minister, for which he will be mostly remembered. Betty says that even as his body tired of fighting infection, he was still advising her that God had it all in hand.

Then there was his wit, his ability to “think young’’ (especially when he was helping stale churches transition) and his willingness to physically and spiritually care for all who needed him. Unable to have their own children, John and Betty informally adopted and guided a number of young people (and later, their kids).

At his funeral at Taree Presbyterian Church  “attended’’ by more than 140 people on Zoom (as a result of pandemic distancing restrictions), “sorta daughter’’ Belita  Haynes said in true Mr T style, John had written part of his own eulogy “with that dry sense of humour he had, and left instructions on what to say’’.

“So, who was John Thompson?’’ she asked in her eulogy. “He was born at `a very early age’ on the 4th of September 1945. The second son to Percy and Catherine Thompson, a younger brother for Lex. He was raised on a dairy farm at East Nanango, QLD. He attended a one teacher school at Mount Stanley, until grade six, then it was on to Nanango State High School until the end of year 10. For the year after that he boarded and, in his words, “sometimes studied” at Gatton Agricultural College.

“Was God always a part of his life? It certainly wasn’t in his plan as a teenager growing up on the family dairy farm. In fact, God wasn’t in his plan at all for a long time. He remembered being about 14 when his father, an Elder and Session Clerk, was reading Peter Marshall’s book, Mr Jones Meet the Master, and became a Christian. When he was about 19, John picked up a Bible and found that it suddenly began to make sense to him.’’.

After graduating from SMBC in 1971 planning to be a home missionary, John spent five years working “everywhere” –Gladstone, Pine Rivers (this is where he told The Pulse when profiled in February 2009, he `met, ran off with and married the organist Betty in January 1974’). He worked in North Mackay and St George. When the Presbyterian Theological College began in Brisbane, he was invited to go there to train for the “proper ministry” and so began his fulltime ministry.

According to Belita’s estimate, John travelled in his ministry an estimated 6068.2km . . . “that was 6068.2 km dedicating his life to God and helping others with “Mrs T’’ by his side. He also travelled to India and the Middle East while he was State Moderator,’’ she said.

“But that you see was Mr T, he never complained about being busy, he never asked for acknowledgement for what he was doing. He just did it! He did God’s work whole heartedly and with everything he had.’’

Where John served

1971 Graduated from Sydney Missionary and Bible College to the Home Mission Dept of Qld Presbyterian Church and appointed to Gladstone

1972-73 Pine Rivers (north of Brisbane and incorporating Bald Hills, North Pine, Strathpine);

married in Jan 1974 at Bald Hills then moved to North Mackay;

1975 – St George (SW Qld);

 1976-1978 Theological College of the continuing Presbyterian Church and also serving as Home Missionary at Windsor, an inner northern suburb of Brisbane;

1979-80 Roma (was ordained at Roma);

1981-85 East Toowoomba;

1986-1990 Chaplain at Fairholme College Toowoomba (a college of the Presbyterian Church of Qld);

1991- Nov 2003 Taree;

Nov 2003-2004 Intentional Transition Ministry (ITM) Wauchope;

2005 ITM Wollongong;

2005-06 PCNSW/ACT State Moderator

2006-2007 ITM Castle Hill;

2008 ITM Manilla;

2009-Sept 2010 ITM Lismore;

Sept 2010 retired to Taree;

Feb-Apr 2011 ITM Murwillumbah;

Aug 2012-Feb 2013 Ashfield (pastoral oversight during vacancy)

Sept-Nov 2015 relief Young

Recent years: interim-moderator Gloucester, Kempsey-South West Rocks and Wingham.