Farewell and God Bless to Chris and Barb



What a wonderful service - Sunday 11 January 2015!  Over 240 people including visitors from Chris Cohen's previous congregations shared this special day.


The worship service led into the formal Service of Relinquishment,  speeches and presentations.  Photos from the service and Stan’s summary of Chris’ ministry with us are included here.  Thanks to Rodney Carruthers for the ‘close-up’ photos.  A shared luncheon followed.


Chris Cohen, January 11th 2015

by Stan Davey

First impressions are often right.  That was certainly the case for me, and for many others I believe, from the first meeting and conversation with Chris ten years ago.  There was the strong belief that he was going to be the right person for ministry placement at Warragul.

Our congregation shall always be grateful to the Gippsland Presbytery for listing us a Priority Placement for Ministry.  Knowing that Warragul was on the verge of significant change and a new beginning on a new site – a minister was selected for us – we did not have to seek a placement ourselves.

Not only did we get Chris, but Barb as well with gifts in caring and hospitality; but more importantly, Barb’s absolute support and encouragement of Chris in his total areas of ministry.  

At Chris’ Induction Service, he didn’t say a lot.  But he said he would journey with us as congregation.  Not out front telling us what to do – not behind and watching the action – but journeying with us, alongside and amongst the congregation.  Chris has certainly done just that.

It has been a journey – exciting, rewarding, hard work – sometimes frustrating and a bit daunting and scary - - - in those early years of land development, building construction, working with architects, with Uniting Church Property and Finance personnel.

Chris was an incredible source of strength to us lay people and was very much involved in the whole process.  And we certainly are privileged as a congregation to be where we are today; a modern Worship Centre in attractive spacious grounds; a friendly, generous and caring congregation who desire to worship and work together in reaching out in mission with the love of God in our hearts.

And again Chris’ overall ministry has been the key component in that growth and desire.

Chris has many strengths, qualities, gifts – as a person – as a minister.  Let me highlight just four.

● His Preaching  ● His Pastoral Care  ● His Practicality  ● His Personality  



Preaching Chris has truly blessed us with his preaching.  He has led us in great, meaningful worship.  He has taught us.  He has challenged us and has encouraged us.  And always presented in a way – a manner – a language we could understand and accept.  And always from the heart – AND without notes.  

In the early days when we were a bit ‘blown away’ by his preaching without notes, he said “I just love the Gospel and I love to preach from it and about it.”

And does a service ever go by without Chris referring to – pointing to this cross [here in the Worship Place] as the very foundation of everything in Christian faith.  

Pastoral Care is always important to Chris and he devoted much time to this – probably more than any of us realize.  He has been so faithful.  He quickly got to know people’s names, got to know some of their story and situation and was able to show care for people of any age.

From the youngest children on the floor out front with the ‘flock of sheep’ – the Teenagers Bible Study – Young Adults – Mums and Play Group – Kindergarten – Young Families – and on through the whole mature age group – at varying stages of life – with different needs.

Chris was there for all, to give sensitive and personal care.

Practicality – Chris is pretty handy too – a good all-rounder.  John Currie commented that Chris has still got ‘Mechanics Fingers’.  What he tightens up with fingers, we need a spanner to undo.

Someone also reminded me that on one of our first meetings with Chris, he ended up changing a tyre for one of the folk at that gathering.

As I mentioned earlier, Chris’ practical knowledge and ability and previous experience was invaluable in our building phase.  And he would be at working bees – fencing, gardening, barrowing mulch or metal or soil.   Helping people with furniture shifts.  Helped with our troubles.  Setting up tables, chairs for the whole range of different activities over the year.  And always on hand with Fete preparation and activities on the day.  Barbeque, Apples, anywhere there is a need – part of the team.


A section of the large congregation at Chris Cohen's Final Service

Personality – As a person, Chris exhibits an open, friendly and caring manner – and because of this, people are easily engaged in conversation – a connection is made – and people know that Chris absorbs what is shared.

He is a friend to all of us.  He is everybody’s friend.  Again as I said before it is to all ages and all types.  From the Tiny Tots to hanging around the fellows in the Men’s Group or the Train Shed Gang – the Crafty Ladies – The Diner folk.  Bible Studies, Lenten Studies – Old and New Testament.  Able to relate in every situation.

Chris’ input into community has also been significant.  With the local fires in 2009 there was much long-term counselling and follow up.

He was much involved at another level, with the other ministers in the town.  I think at first it was hard going to get together and pull in the one direction, but Chris hung in there.  He tried to get some support with our annual erection of the cross at the cenotaph.  For a couple of years some turned up sometimes.  And then two years ago – look what happened.  Chris’ persistence bore fruit – four, five other churches involved and a great crowd to join in the whole Easter experience – I think thanks to Chris.

Elders / Church Council

I believe every Elder every Church Councillor over the years will have valued highly the sharing with Chris at those meetings.  His devotional input and leadership, his wisdom and wise counsel, his strength and presence and perception.  In every area of pastoral oversight, planning, administration – worship and visioning.

Much of the planning and preparation for worship would involve the Worship leaders, singers, musicians and our Office Staff.  This again was an area where Chris showed respect and gratitude for work done – for gifts and talents used by the lay people.

A couple of months back the readings were about the wise and unwise virgins who did or did not trim their lamps.  ‘Be Prepared’ was the message.

Chris related to us that early in his ministry a member had said to him to remember the six P’s. 
Perfect – Preparation – Prevents – Poor – Pathetic – Performance.  I believe Chris took that to heart and has practised that in his ministry.  I have never known him come to any meeting, service, or gathering of any kind without being prepared.  Many times, Chris is first to arrive and last to leave.

This is proof of his commitment and readiness to always give his best.  


Our congregation has been so much united, enriched, encouraged and built up throughout Chris’ ministry here.  We feel so privileged to have experienced his ministry.  And we are deeply grateful for the years we have shared together.  So . . .  What’s at the base of all this?  What is the motivation?

At our Elders meeting last September, Chris led devotions.  He asked us to think of and share about one or two readings or part of scripture which had particular meaning to us and impact on our lives.

Some of the elders did just that and then Chris shared his.  He drew us first to the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.  Reminded us that it’s helpful to personalise the ‘Happy am I’ - - - to belong to the kingdom of heaven; be humble; do what God desires; be merciful; pure in heart; work for peace; be known as follower of Christ.

And then he read Philippians 2. 1-11  Christ’s humility and greatness.  A reading which highlights the relationship with Christ and how that effects the mind and motivation and the attitude towards others.  (Verse 5) ‘The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had’.  This is meaningful to Chris.  He challenged us – encouraged us.  That our lives need to reflect Jesus Christ.

I reckon Chris has done that well here in Warragul the past ten years.


Formal Service of Relinquishment led by Rev Sani Vaeluaga


Many people contributed
to the service from 'out front' —
including spoken tributes, leading the
congregational singing, musical items
and presentations to Chris and Barb