Sydney celebrates the legacy of Keith and Carol Garner
Heartfelt messages of personal thanks from the Prime Minister, NSW Premier and General-Secretary, the unveiling of a world-class portrait, and musical performances (where masked guests could actually sing along thanks to recent easing of COVID restrictions) proved on Sunday that not only have Rev. Keith Garner AM and wife Carolpacked plenty of impact into a 15-year tenure as CEO of Wesley Mission, but they also pack a lot into a farewell party.
“I’m so honoured to add these few words of thanks,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a surprise video message broadcast during the special event at Wesley Mission one of many marking Rev. Garner’s retirement in February 2021.
“I do so not just as a Prime Minister, but I do it personally because I have been blessed personally by Keith’s prayers, encouragement and support, and so have so many members of own family – my late father John, my mother Marion, my late father-in-law Roy and my mother-in-law Beth – all of them were greatly blessed by the pastoral role that Keith has played in their lives.”
“Keith has planted, he’s harvested and built so much. He’s lived out the ethos of Wesley Mission, continuing the work of Jesus Christ.”
General Secretary of the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and the ACT Rev. Jane Fry delivered some words on behalf of the Uniting Church.
“Fifteen years is a very long time to be in a pastoral relationship with not just this congregation but a group of congregations as well as all of the people that Wesley Mission touches through all of its ministries,” Rev. Fry said.
“It’s a really significant relationship both the congregations and all of their members and you and Carol have been shaped by this relationship over that time.”
Video messages flowed in from reverends overseas, in South Africa, Ireland, and England – with one reverend quipping that “behind every good man is a surprised woman” as he acknowledged Carol.
Carol took to the microphone to say it has been an absolute joy and privilege for her to work with a team of such committed volunteers. She said thank you for the love she has received over the past 15 years.
“Anything I might have contributed to the life of Wesley Mission I’ve certainly gained a hundred, two hundred, a thousandfold from you all and from the people we’ve helped to serve together,” Ms Garner said.
The room was roused by a moving message from Keith.
He said that as his time draws to a close it is an opportunity to remind ourselves of what lies at the heart of our mission.
“In an increasingly secular world we have a distinctive role to play in the life of this city,” Rev. Garner said.
“One of the greatest needs we have in our community is still to know Christ.”
He used the analogy of how married couples often come to look like each the longer they live together to illustrate how the more you live with Christ the more you start to look like him.
Rev. Garner also touched on the modern-day obsession with restructuring the church.
“It’s not our restructuring that matters it’s our foundations that matter. Once we lose our foundations any restructuring will be useless,” he said.
He urged others not to forget the call of the vulnerable and paid tribute to the leaders who came before him.
“You can’t have success without succession,” Rev. Garner said.
Rev. Stu Cameron will replace him following a time of handover.