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As we were preparing this edition, the Adelaide foothills where I live and other parts of South Australia were battered by what I will call (in deference to TV’s The Vicar of Dibley) The Great Storm of 2022.

More than 400,000 lightning strikes had hit South Australia overnight and there were warnings of gale-force winds and pounding rain. In the afternoon, a savage front raged across Adelaide, with our street in the firing line. Winds in excess of 100 kilometres per hour tore branches off large trees and hurled them like javelins into yards, verandahs and roofs. When I could see the trees through horizontally-driving rain, they were bent by lashing winds and water before shedding limbs in resignation. It looked like a typhoon.

A large tree in the gorge opposite our house snapped in half and, unsurprisingly, powerlines and other service infrastructure were damaged. Electricity was cut, internet connection gone, lights out, no hot water. Without a word of a pun, I felt powerless.

With the storm passed, chainsaws roared into life in our street. Ladders, tarpaulins and spare tiles appeared as neighbours helped one another remove branches from roofs and cover the breaches. Neighbours helping one another, often forgetting their own needs to do so. I reflected on God’s gift of community, and on his greatest gift to us as we go through this Advent season – the Christchild. We know the incarnation text well … the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

This neighbourhood scene reminded me about our calling as Christians – not to just know about God’s plan of salvation, not even just to share it with others, but also to be God’s hands and feet as we take Jesus’ love out with us to the streets, the cricket ground, bush track, school, shops, farm, office, café, theatre … or rooftop.

In this edition, we are privileged to share stories from our Lutheran family about stepping out of our homes and churches and taking God’s love for everyone with us as we go. I pray that you will be inspired by them, as I have been.

As this is the last edition for 2022, I would like to thank you, our readers, subscribers and group collectors for your loyalty. My gratitude goes, too, to our wonderful team – Linda Macqueen (executive editor), Elysia McEwen (graphic designer), columnists Helen Beringen and Bishop Paul Smith, proofreaders Lyall Kupke and Kathy Gaff, Olivia Harman in subscriptions and Trevor Bailey and all at Openbook Howden.

The Lutheran will be different next year, as we trial a move to six editions to make our churchwide magazine more sustainable in the face of increasing production costs and diminishing church membership and subscriber numbers. We will reduce subscription costs along with this change. We ask for your understanding and look forward to your continued support.

Have a safe, joyful and blessed Christmas,


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Bishop Paul’s letter

Rev Paul Smith
Bishop, Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand

Nativity plays have been part of our Christian communities for centuries, as we annually dramatise the Christmas gospel with a simple retelling of the story of the manger. This tradition of retelling shows a deep appreciation of the human soul and of God’s gracious heart towards humankind.

We human beings need story. We tell stories. We watch stories on big and small screens, sometimes ‘bingeing’ on them. We read stories to our children from an early age. We create stories. When someone has died, we gather to tell their story. We are stories.

A master storyteller and faithful Christian, J.R.R. Tolkien has become famous in our modern era, through blockbuster movies based on his stories in the Lord of the Rings series. Tolkien understood the significance of story and had studied the history of northern European medieval storytelling, particularly in the colourful Viking sagas. Tolkien wrote how a story can capture your breath, lift the heart, or even give a person a glimpse of joy. Stories can transform us in our deepest soul.

Central to all that Tolkein cherished and celebrated about story, was the greatest story of all. As a Christian, throughout his life in England, he knew the story of God’s plan of salvation in Jesus Christ. God enters our world in a Bethlehem stable with angels and shepherds, through a young woman who has no proper place to deliver her baby.

This one born in the manger grows to adulthood and takes on sin, death and the power of the Devil for us. At the point in his story, when he dies on Calvary’s mountain, when even his followers despair, Jesus rises from the grave. These are great turning points in the story of Jesus Christ, which change human history and change us forever.

There were those shepherds who watched their flocks at night, outside of Bethlehem who were ushered into this story, when the angelic proclamation declared to them, that the Saviour had been born, who is Christ the Lord. These farmhands were so transformed by this turning point in history and in their own lives, that they left their flocks and hurried, in the dark with all its hazards and uncertainties, to see for themselves, ‘this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us’. Then, when they had seen for themselves the Lord of the manger, they ‘made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them’. They told the story.

And today, we have the wonderful tradition of nativity plays, to tell the story to each new generation. This is the story of God’s gracious heart for the people of the world.

May every carol you hear played in coming weeks, be a reminder to join with the shepherds in telling the story, in the face of uncertainties and amid all kinds of opposition.

Then on the festival of Christmas Day, we will gather to hear the story and to personally receive this story continued. The one enfleshed and found in the manger declares himself fully present in the holy meal of bread and wine where we will receive grace upon grace.

English Poet Laureate John Betjeman wrote this Christmas good news into a profound poem from 1954, simply entitled, ‘Christmas’:

‘And is it true, this most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

‘And is it true? For if it is, no loving fingers tying strings Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

‘No love that in a family dwells, no carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine?’

In Christ,

Lord Jesus, we belong to you,
you live in us, we live in you;
we live and work for you –
because we bear your name.

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by Carly Hennessy

The stage is open to everyone. This message was demonstrated with heart and passion by six Lutheran Services aged-care residents and four professional dancers recently at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC).

Teaming up in the unique intergenerational dance theatre production If Only I Could … , the 10 performers received standing ovations for their courage and dance virtuosity.

Lutheran Services CEO Nick Ryan describes If Only I Could … as a celebration of our elders – of their big lives, loves and passions.

‘Guided by our Lutheran ethos, our creative programs act as a way to seek out and affirm people’s agency’, he says. ‘We see people as a gift, made in God’s image, making them worthy of dignity and honour.’

He says the act of creative expression had the potency to help and heal. ‘Creative expression generates community; it is an act of love to share and revel in each other’s articulation of who we are. (Creative engagement) allows agency, spark, imagination, creativity and connectedness – and that’s what’s fundamental to life. They found it is not “if only” – they did!’

Lutheran Services Director of Chaplaincy Dr Russell Briese was moved by the performance, describing it as a joyful and non-judgemental space to revel in people’s gifts. ‘It felt wonderful to watch and be part of’, he says. ‘It reminded me that Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life … in all its fullness”.’

At 75, Michael Bailey didn’t expect to ever have the opportunity that If Only I Could … presented – but he gave a star turn as he glided across the stage in the two-show season in late October. A resident at Tabeel Aged Care in Laidley near Toowoomba in southern Queensland and a fan of crooner and smooth-mover Neil Sedaka, Michael says performing was a ‘lovely’ experience. ‘I never, ever thought I’d be on stage in my life’, he says. ‘[Know that] always in your own heart you can do whatever you put your mind to.’

The show’s director, Angela Chaplin, and Lutheran Services’ creative programs advisor, Clare Apelt, first collaborated on the idea of illuminating the creativity of older people almost five years ago. ‘At the time I was running an organisation called Ausdance’, Angela says. ‘I decided it would be really interesting to work with people who don’t necessarily have access to exploring their creativity.’ She says one such group is elderly people. ‘They have such big lives, and they are so important to our community, but we rarely get to celebrate their creativity’, she says.

Clare approached Angela, saying ‘have we got the cast for you!’

The project has now worked with more than 100 residents across Lutheran Services aged-care sites. There had been ‘test’ performances – in 2018 and 2021 – but nothing as significant as taking to the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. The bond and understanding that grew between the professional dancers and residents were key to developing the dance pieces, she says. They worked on improvisation and duets, finding creative expression in touch and movement.

Queensland University of Technology Dance Performance graduate Nadia Milford and Angus Polzin, 83, have become firm friends after dancing together for the past 18 months. Speaking and moving can be difficult for older people, so Nadia and Angus worked on movement that expressed emotion through subtlety and restraint.

Their duet opened the show, with Angus mirroring Nadia’s movements until she comes closer, and they dance with tactile movements to the song ‘Lean on Me’. ‘Physically using your body affects your emotions’, Nadia says. ‘Moving one to start the other. The biggest thing is this project allows the elderly dancers to be seen, not just looked at. For Angus, moving is difficult and speaking is difficult. Just taking on whatever he offers without judgement is liberating.’

Older people taking centre stage was a fitting theme to explore as the performances took place during October’s Senior’s Month in Queensland.

Carly Hennessy is Lutheran Services Communication Manager Content/PR/Production.

If Only I Could … is a partnership between Lutheran Services, QPAC and Director Angela Chaplin. Lutheran Services thanks the generous sponsorship of LLL Australia as our Premier Partner for If Only I Could …. LLL Australia ( is a philanthropic bank with a commitment to missional partnerships to assist Lutheran schools, aged-care organisations and congregations to grow and prosper for future generations, as well as missional funding for local projects.

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by Jess Smith

Ten South Australian Riverland locals – most of whom are Lutherans – are getting loud on mental health, taking part in a wellbeing movement that’s having a significant impact on the community.

The Vocal Locals are prominent Loxton community members, either farmers or with agricultural connections, who have been working with wellbeing group ifarmwell to share their mental health journeys via social media. Each member has undertaken workshops and a coaching program, as well as learning strategies through ifarmwell online modules and other resources they’ve been able to share to help others facing similar challenges.

The program aims to normalise conversations around mental health, strengthen wellbeing and build drought resilience, helping people to realise they’re not alone.

The backstory to Vocal Locals began when Little Town Productions theatre show Kick off ya Boots premiered last year. The production told the story of a typical Australian farming family, the Conners, and revealed the often-unspoken side of life in a rural community. One of the production’s main goals was to start the mental health conversation, after its creators recognised the community need for practical, targeted support.

‘When we first developed Kick off ya Boots we were very conscious of not having people attend the show, having a great night of fun and laughter, but then promptly forgetting about it two months later’, says John Gladigau, Kick off ya Boots producer-playwright, Vocal Locals project coordinator and member of St Peter’s Lutheran Church in Loxton, from which Little Town Productions hails.

Little Town worked with UniSA’s Dr Kate Gunn, ifarmwell’s founder, to create a production that went far beyond merely entertaining its audience. Galvanised by the overwhelming response, and with funding from the national not-for-profit Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, the Vocal Locals initiative was conceived. Little Town Productions remains a supporting partner, as does St Peter’s Lutheran Church, which has opened its offices for wellbeing coaching sessions.

Vocal Local Leanne Kaesler, who is also a member at St Peter’s, was the coordinator of Kick off ya Boots and is part of a farming family. She knows firsthand the struggles that many farmers face – often in silence.

‘I have struggled with anxiety and depression issues, and suffered burnout quite a few times’, says Leanne. ‘It really excited me to be invited to become a Vocal Local and to be given the opportunity to focus on learning new skills and tools to manage my own wellbeing, and to also be able to share my journey to help others.’

John says the community response has been exceptional.

‘Mental health and wellbeing is something we all seem to agree should be part of our normal conversations’, he says. ‘We all talk about how we should be open about it, but we rarely do it. We’ve seen through the Vocal Locals posts how much people appreciate the engagement and open conversations, and the community has been very engaging, supportive and encouraging not only of the Vocal Locals but also of each other.’

This story first appeared in the LCA South Australia – Northern Territory District’s Together magazine.

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by Jonathan Krause

If you look at a map of Australia, it’s hard to find two places further apart from north to south than Darwin in the Northern Territory and Victor Harbor on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula. And both places are a long way from the refugee camps at Kakuma in Kenya.

Yet more than 700 students from seven Christian schools – six of them Lutheran – have stepped out in those two areas in Australian Lutheran World Service’s Walk My Way to help more than 6,000 refugee children to go to school at Kakuma. And in SA, the school walkers were joined by members of Lutheran congregations and the wider community.

Anita Synott, Year 12 Team Leader at Good Shepherd Lutheran College in Darwin, says Walk My Way was so popular with the school community, they held two events this spring. In total, Good Shepherd raised more than $16,800 – enough to support nearly 650 refugee children in school for a year.

‘We are incredibly proud of our college community for recognising this initiative as being something very special, with the ability to make a huge difference to others less fortunate than us’, Anita says.

The first walk featured Years 6–12 students and parents and involved more than 170 people. Participants could ride, run or walk the 26-kilometre trail from the Leanyer Campus in the northern suburbs of Darwin to the Howard Springs Campus 25 minutes south of Darwin.

Good Shepherd followed up its first Walk My Way with its junior school students organising a successful ‘coin trail’ activity and completing round-robin events held during lunchtimes.

Meanwhile, at Victor Harbor, approximately 80 kilometres south of Adelaide, six schools came together in October for the inaugural combined schools Walk My Way.

A total of 569 walkers from Concordia College, Rivergum Christian College, Encounter Lutheran College, Immanuel College, Cornerstone College, and Endeavour College could choose either a 13-kilometre course or a 20-kilometre course. Each course included a circuit of local landmark Granite Island and started and finished at Encounter Lutheran College, just north of the town centre.

Before the Victor Harbor walk, ALWS Emergency Coordinator Peter Egesa reminded students why their help was so important, saying: ‘The UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency) estimates there are 89 million refugees and internally displaced people globally [and] 41 per cent of these refugees are children – one-and-a-half times the population of Australia. As you walk today, think about a child in Djibouti who is in a tent as a classroom and the temperatures are over 45 degrees and there is no cooling facility.’

As of 16 November, the Victor Harbor walkers had raised $62,912, enough to support 2,419 refugee children to go to school.

The Victor Harbor and Darwin events are part of a nationwide Walk My Way effort, with members of our Lutheran family taking part from congregations including Cowell on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, Unley in Adelaide, and Rochedale in Queensland, as well as through Lutheran Services in the Sunshine State. As of 16 November, 1,035 walkers had raised $169,956 across 10 walks and supported education for 6,537 refugee children.

ALWS Executive Director Michael Stolz has praised the way so many parts of the LCANZ are forming partnerships to support refugee children and show the community our church at work. ‘Seeing Lutheran schools come together like this, encouraged by Lutheran Education Australia, supported by the LLL and LCA, welcomed by the hospitality and volunteer time of local Lutheran congregations – this is a snapshot of what it means for us to be a church where love comes to life’, he says. ‘It’s a privilege for ALWS to bring Walk My Way to our Lutheran Church’s ministries so that we can “walk in the way of love” to help refugee children who are so vulnerable, and in danger of being forgotten by the world.’

LLL Australia is a major sponsor of Walk My Way, while LEA, ‘The School Photographer’ and local businesses also supported the Victor Harbor event.

Jonathan Krause is ALWS Community Action Manager.

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Australia’s largest regional inland city, Toowoomba in southern Queensland, is well known for its stunning gardens. For one month each year, the city’s green spaces, homes, schools, aged-care services and businesses attract visitors from across the nation to a carnival highlighting the region’s floral abundance. As its centrepiece, an annual parade showcases the beauty of flowers. This year, local Lutherans led an ecumenical group that captured the event’s colourful spring spirit – and took the message of Jesus’ love for ‘all sorts’ on parade. Monika Bennett explains.

Toowoomba’s annual Carnival of Flowers marks that special time of the year when the region’s gardens are at their glorious best – spring. The pinnacle event, which captures this best, is the Grand Central Floral Parade.

This year members of Emmanuel Lutheran Fellowship led a group of Toowoomba Christians on a creative journey of a different kind.

The parade theme for each float to follow was ‘Connect, Reflect and Sparkle’ – and we did precisely that! After many planning phone calls, emails, Zoom online meetings, craft days, engineering feats and lots of prayers, we came up with an idea for our group motto: ‘Jesus Loves All Sorts’.

We painted boxes and made skirts to look like liquorice allsorts, made funky headpieces out of pizza boxes and paraded the most stunning, reflective, sparkly cross made from recycled cardboard covered with cut-up CDs.

Together an ecumenical group representing around a dozen churches from a broad selection of worship styles walked the streets of Toowoomba, singing worship songs loudly and brightly to the thousands of people who were present at the street parade.

It was such an overwhelming, uplifting experience! Meeting so many Christians from different churches, building relationships around crafting, flowers, building props, singing and praying boldly was as much a positive blessing as walking and singing in the parade itself.

It was truly amazing to participate in this venture. Many parts of the one body came together to publicly profess the love and promise of Christ – he loves all sorts, every sort, no matter who you are!

Monika Bennett is the coordinator–administration officer at Emmanuel Lutheran Fellowship Toowoomba.

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by Erin Kerber, Nevin Nitschke and Matt Anker

At the LCA International Mission office, we love Christmastime – spending time with our families and friends, eating delicious food, opening presents and watching Christmas pageants. But, most importantly, Christmas is a special time to remember how God our Father sent his precious Son to be born as a gift for the entire world.

In Australia and New Zealand, Christmas is a popular holiday, but not every country celebrates the way we do. If you went to a country that does not celebrate Christmas at all, what would you tell them about this special day?

LCA International Mission has friends who live in different countries, and we thought it would be interesting to share with you how those who do celebrate Christmas do so where they live. What might you see, hear, cook or make in one of those countries at Christmastime?


The 12 Days of Christmas – otherwise named Twelvetide – mark the period between the birth of Jesus and the visit from the wise men. For Christmas this year, we are providing Australian and New Zealand families with a resource they can use with their children during the 12 days of Christmas.

Entitled ‘Joy to the World – 12 Days of Christmas Around the World’, it shares some insights into the way Christmas is celebrated among our partner countries and churches. We hope that it will encourage families to spend time reflecting on the true meaning of Christmas.

We have also included some activities in the booklet for readers to do which they can pass on to friends and relatives who aren’t Christian. So, this is designed to be both a faith-building and faith-sharing resource.

There are three parts to each day (and country) in the booklet – firstly, information about Christmas in that country; secondly, a Bible verse and a few words about the verse; and, thirdly, a craft, activity, or recipe to do or make related to the country and/or the Bible verse. The Bible verses tell the story of Jesus’ birth as you go through the booklet.


We hope you enjoy travelling with us around the world this Christmas and, while doing so, remember that Christmas is not just about carols, decorations, beautiful lights or the gifts that we give and receive. It is about Jesus Christ. Jesus’ birth fulfilled God’s promise that he wants to bring us into his loving arms forever.

Will you join us as we prepare for Christmas by spending 12 days reading and reflecting on Jesus’ birth? Order your booklet by emailing or by phoning 08 8267 7317, or download one at

Pastor Matt Anker is LCANZ Assistant to the Bishop – International Mission, while Erin Kerber and Nevin Nitschke are LCA International Mission Program Officers.

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