A rose equals love. Just ask John Parer. The OneLife Church pastor knows love is the key to transforming lives and our community and will gift 1,500 red roses to men, women and children at Carols in the Park in Taree on December 9.
The gift of a long stem red rose is striking in its beauty and symbolism of love. Why are you and members of OneLife Church choosing to give so many roses to people that you do not know?
A rose equals love, and we want to share and celebrate that it symbolises God’s love for us during a wonderful community Christmas event. I love Christmas. It’s a time of celebration, connection and opportunities to be real with people in our community.
We will gift roses to people with the simple message, “You are amazing, and you are passionately loved”. People don’t hear that enough.
We gave roses out for the first time during last year’s carols, and it was an amazing experience. Since then we have given roses to people in Manning Mall in Taree and we try to welcome visitors to our church with a red rose.
The rose is a key to opening the door to a conversation about God’s love. It’s not my job to make someone believe in Jesus. It’s my job to attract people to Jesus and share the gospel. We hope people at the carols will see our joy, our desire to give to community and want to know more.
What prompted you and OneLife Church to claim the red rose as a way to symbolise and speak of God’s love to people?
It was about a year and a half ago that as a church we started being interested in flowers. I planted sweet peas around the church, and sunflowers, and we are collecting the seed with the plan being to cover the property with more sweet peas every winter. There was a stirring in my spirit to make flowers a focus of our church.
Then in October last year my wife, Mary-Ann and I took a month off and went to Europe. While in Italy, we went to a a little café in Tirano and met this Indian man selling roses. I bought one for Mary-Ann and we couldn’t believe how beautiful it was and it had an amazingly sweet perfume; then as we walked through the streets, we noticed so many more beautiful roses, doors and gates, and it felt significant.
On our return home, I went for a walk on Old Bar Beach on the Saturday before I was due to preach; it had been a while, and I didn’t exactly know what to preach.
It was a perfect day, 25 degrees, great surf, I was walking in the water up to my knees, but frustrated because I was not really getting any clarity after about 40 minutes on what to preach. As I walked back, I saw something on the beach near the surf club and I thought it was rubbish, but as I got closer, I saw it was a perfect red rose, and right next to it were two more.
I was amazed and shocked and thought, “God, what does this mean and what do you want to say to your people?”. So, I researched and learned that one rose means “you’re my one and only” and three roses mean, “I love you”. It really excited me to tell our church that God had sent a message, that He loves them, and He did it in such a beautiful way.
Jesus is referred to as the Rose of Sharon in the Song of Solomon, and there is also beautiful symbolism in the rose. The five sepals represent the five wounds inflicted on Jesus, the red of the rose is his blood and underneath the petals and sepals is the stem with its thorns, and it symbolises His spilled blood that covers our sins – the thorns.
I had roses to hand out to people on that day, and we have kept going with it, and now the church has the “Rose = Love” Facebook page to help us to share the message.
The gifting of so many roses at a large Christmas community event is a unique way to present Christian love to the community. What do you hope to achieve?
We need to embrace new ways of positively connecting with our community. Lots of people have had bad experiences with the church and religion. Nearly every day there is a negative report in the news about sexual abuse, about war, about Christian leaders abusing positions of power.
I think the church has just got to own the fact that we stuffed up, there’s a lot of crap in our history, and we must be leaders in the process of healing. The church has lost people’s trust, I totally get that, and now we’ve got the big job of rebuilding that.
We are just one medium-sized church in a regional town, but I believe with all my heart that this is the call on my life, to break the stereotypes, and trust that as we follow God as best we can, it is going to be attractive and we will attract people to Him, not to us, but to the spirit within us.
Christmas is increasingly becoming a commercialised holiday season, and it is easy to ignore that it is a Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. How would you like people to consider Christmas?
We as a church don’t get uptight about all of the Christmas commercialism and the fact that they are singing, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”. I love Christmas and think the church needs to join with the community, to be real and be where they are at.
If people haven’t intimately met God, if they don’t understand who Jesus Christ is, and then we as Christians get uptight or upset with them for not behaving in a certain way, or with a certain level of reverence towards Christmas, then we are not being wise, and that’s not loving.
If people are willing to come to carols, then they are open to the Christmas message, and it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to connect and be generous and kind.
If they see our joy and the spirit in us, some people may think about going to a church just for Christmas Day, and that is my passion and desire.
Carols in the Park will be in Fotheringham Park in Taree on Sunday, December 9 from 6:30pm to 9pm. Homegrown talent, local schools, Taree Arts Council and other community members will perform, including special guests, Andy and Luca Saunders. The event is presented by LJ Hooker Taree and Viatek and will end with a fireworks display by Ka-Boom.