Tribute to Rod Whitford

1 Aug 2022

On Sunday the 17 July, Pr Rod Whitford passed on to be with the Lord.

Pr Rod had been experiencing some heart complications in May this year.  In early June, it was thought that he’d had stroke, but was later found to be Bells Palsy. Soon after on June 11, he tested positive to covid. He was not able to fully recover from the effects of the virus which developed into covid pulmonary pneumonia.

Pr Rod and Ros Whitford’s connection with CRC officially began on the 1st June 1986, when some of the congregation from the local uniting church under the leadership of Ed Trotter joined the CRC as Western Port Christian Family Church.  A move of God had brought the reality of the Baptism in the Spirit to the people of this mainline church, they were joined by other likeminded Christians from surrounding areas that felt compelled to be able to fully express this gift in their worship.

Twelve months later after visiting Indonesia, Ed Trotter sensed a call to serve as a missionary.  This facilitated a transition of leadership to Rod within 12 months because of his availability, competence in ministry, calling and willingness to serve the people of this fledgling church.  It also released Ed to pursue the call in Bali for the next 25 years.

Rod left his employment at the Hastings Lysaghts steel plant (now BlueScope) where he had been a respected Trade Training Officer for fitting apprentices and influential advocate for the Gospel. His love for people and mentoring capacity was already evident there.

Rod had always been Gospel-centred and committed to his family, church and community. His love for his beloved Ros and children was beautifully fierce.  He gave his all, physically, emotionally and spiritually to WPCF.

Rod’s pastoral ministry, his preaching and teaching was singularly Jesus-focused. He wasn’t distracted.

Rod also had practical and trades skills which he tirelessly employed for the Kingdom. This shows in the attractive and functional worship/ministry centre in Tyabb. Community events and celebrations such as the annual Carols in the Park at Tyabb oval took place largely with Rod’s prayer and sweat. Rod fulfilled countless personal and home projects and needs for members and community.

In the early days, Rod established an op shop in the church centre along with Western Port Community Care. They continue to provide for community need, a place of meeting, emergency food aid and garners funds for ministry.  Proceeds also supported the work of missions, including for decades the mission in Bali.

Rod was a respected pastor within the CRC movement and among pastors and leaders for other denominations.  He served on the Victorian Executive, however his health battles cut this time short, but he continued to assist other churches by providing oversite and governance support when called upon.

Rod had developed serious health challenges.  Thankfully a heart transplant gave him a new lease on life for extra time with family and more fruitful years of ministry.   After Rod’s passing social media comments have been full of expressions of grief yet gratitude and tribute to a passionate pastor, caring father, wise counsellor and loyal friend, which testified to his character and reputation.

Rod and Ros’ family including his in-laws have been key in the positive formation of WPCF’s caring family ethos.  In recent times Rod and Ros had mentored pastoral successors, Bill and Rhiannon Lowrey.  Bill is Rod’s nephew and has been credentialed and ordained in recognition of his call.  He continues to carry the Light—a fitting tribute.

Ed Trotter’s personal words: I could never overstate Rod’s personal encouragement and care. Just one instance. in the early 1990s my dad was ill and had been hospitalised in Sydney. I was back from Bali. Rod took the time and effort to fly up from Melbourne and visit my dad and mum and encourage me. Much more than the 2nd mile! In addition to many encounters of hospitality in his Tyabb home and words of wise counsel, Rod always affirmed the work in Bali and arranged practical support as mentioned above.

Our hearts go out to Ros, Michael, Ben, Paul and Claire, the grandchildren, as well as friends and the church who are mourning Rod’s passing from this mortal phase.  May they be comforted by the reality of the promise of resurrection for all who belong to Jesus.

We thank God for the hope that Rod is undoubtedly revelling in His presence, enjoying Jesus and those already there. We eagerly anticipate our eternal reunion and immortal transformation with our friend and pastor.

Pr Dan Parker & Ed Trotter

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