Linda Macqueen is guest editor while Lisa is taking a well-earned break.

If you poke a skewer into Australia or New Zealand and run it through the dead centre of the globe, it will punch through on the other side pretty close to Iceland. So, if you want to flee as far as planet Earth allows, the place to go is Iceland.

In the winter of a tough year I ran away to Iceland. I hired a car and spent two weeks driving around the island on its hauntingly lonely ring road. It was summer there of course, and so my driving days often ended late in the evening, in the endless dreamy twilight. It was the ideal location for a factory re-set.

In Reykjavik I had coffee with a pastor friend I’d met at an LWF gathering years earlier. Funny how it’s easier to spill your sorrows to a relative stranger on the other side of the world than to your closest friend back home.

‘The tank is empty’, I said. ‘I don’t have anything left to give. I’m sick of looking after everybody else. I curse when the phone rings. I want to crawl into a hole where no-one can find me and never see another human as long as I live.’

He said nothing. He stared out at Reykjavik’s shimmering lake, watched a swan coming in to land. I wondered if he’d heard me. After a long pause, and still gazing at the swan, he said, ‘You know what’s wrong with you women? [pause for effect] You act as though Jesus said, “Love your neighbour instead of yourself”. Jesus never said that.’

It was a lightbulb moment. And right there my healing from burnout began.

It won’t be as straightforward as that for everyone. There probably won’t be one single lightbulb moment that identifies the root of your burnout. That’s why it’s good to hear the stories of others – and there are plenty of stories to tell. Look around and you’ll see a whole host of us church workers and volunteers earnestly loving others instead of ourselves.

Thank you to the brave people who share their stories in this edition. I hope their vulnerability assures you that you are not alone if you struggle with burnout (or depression or anxiety or anything else that steals the joy from your life with God). As you bring your exhaustion before God, I pray that you will discover anew how deeply he loves you, cherishes you, delights in you, and that his Spirit of Peace will set you free.

Perhaps you might find yourself asking God the questions I did, as Iceland’s horizons beckoned me onwards: ‘God, why should I care for me? Why should I love me?’

‘Because I did’, says God.


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Bishop Paul’s letter

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

My youngest son Jeremy is in his final year of study as he prepares to be a candidate for ordination as a pastor of our church. He is currently serving as a vicar at Faith Lutheran Church Warradale under the guidance of Pastor Tim Klein and is having a great time. My wife Heidi and I dearly love our son and thank the Lord that Jeremy can be prepared for the work of a pastor, through his studies at Australian Lutheran College in Adelaide.

This year there are only three students – Jeremy, Edwin Shoesmith and Joel Grieger – in their final year of study, preparing to be candidates for ordination. In 1988, when I finished my studies at Luther Seminary, I was in a class of ten. My class at the beginning of my seminary journey numbered 19.

I have heard various opinions about why we have so few men training for the office of the public ministry in our church in this 21st century. Whatever people may say about this crisis in candidates at Australian Lutheran College, we must address this as a matter of highest priority.

We are a church of the Lutheran Confession; therefore we believe, teach and confess that: God instituted the office of preaching, giving the gospel and the sacraments. Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel (Augsburg Confession Article 5). Therefore, we Lutherans have faithfully prepared ‘servants of the word’ to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments. In our Lutheran Church in New Zealand and Australia we call these servants of the word, ‘pastors’.

At their February meeting, the College of Bishops resolved to initiate a process to address the vital matter of the supply of church workers in our Lutheran communities on both sides of the Tasman Sea. The focus will not only be on pastors but also workers across the ministries of our church and will begin with an initial workshop at the May meeting of the bishops in Adelaide. I have described this May workshop as the task of carefully ‘unwrapping the bandages’, before looking at how we should address this wound of church worker supply among us.

Each of us will have memories of a faithful church worker who helped us grow in our understanding of the grace of God at work in this world, and in our lives. Our church has been blessed with extraordinary men and women in various roles of leadership in the ministries of the LCANZ. In these difficult times of COVID and lockdowns, the workers in our church have purposefully laboured in the cause of the gospel, but many are struggling.

When I consider these issues, we do not despair but can remain deeply hopeful. It is the word and promise of our Lord that guides our conversations about church workers for the mission that we are given. The church is the Lord’s. We properly call our church work ‘the mission of God’.The Lord who calls us and sends us for this work who declared, ‘I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it’ (Matthew 16).

Please pray for those attending this workshop in mid-May, that they would have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church. Also, please continue to pray for this work of church worker development for the ministries of the LCANZ. In Luke’s Gospel, we read the words of our Lord Jesus, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest’ (Luke 10, NRSV).

We take up this vital task to better prepare women and men for works of service given to us, for the sake of the gospel, so that the people we serve in this world, would be gathered into God’s marvellous light.

‘Because we bear your name.’

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 Chris Materne

In October 1990, I was on the pre-opening team for the Grand Hotel at Glenelg. It was a hectic and exciting time. On the day the doors opened on the front bar and the restaurant we were still unpacking and washing the glasses, crockery and cutlery. The lucky first patrons in the bar at 5.00pm got free drinks because the money for the tills hadn’t arrived yet!

The other parts of the hotel opened gradually over the next few weeks. I went from being one of four restaurant supervisors to the manager of the brasserie in about three weeks, as others left the team. Then came the Grand Prix and I had to oversee one of the corporate marquees at the track while also managing the brasserie at the hotel. Then came Christmas and the Rio Tennis carnival. Work was unrelenting. But it was great fun, too, so we all kept pushing.

One night, driving home after closing the restaurant, I woke up with the car nose-first in the gutter on Anzac Highway. It was about 2.00am. I’d fallen asleep at the wheel. Luckily (miraculously, more likely), my foot must have fallen off the accelerator as I drifted into the kerb. Nothing was damaged – neither in me nor the car. How did I react to the realisation I was exhausted? I simply moved closer to work!

I’m no stranger to burnout. Thirty years later, I’m still prone to pushing myself too hard and for too long. I’m much more aware of burnout now but can be slow to recognise how far down the path towards the cliff I am. Thankfully, my husband, family and some trusted friends help to hold me accountable and I’ve learnt some things to help me navigate back to a healthier space.

Those serving in caring professions tend to be at increased risk of burnout, especially doctors, nurses, teachers, veterinarians, clergy and police officers. Burnout doesn’t just happen to those in paid employment though. Family carers and volunteers are also at risk, as not all ‘work’ is paid. Workplace factors linked to burnout include: workload (both overload and underload), role conflict and ambiguity, lack of control or autonomy around organising work, absence of fairness or equity, organisational changes and insufficient social support. There are also personal attributes that are often associated with burnout. According to the 11th edition of The International Classification of Diseases, these include: being young, female, single and higher educated, as well as those with a high level of emotional reactivity, high achievement orientation, low self-efficacy, hypersensitivity and perfectionism.

It is important to distinguish burnout from depression, as not all people who experience burnout are depressed, and vice versa. They are not the same thing; they have distinct symptoms and different pathways back to health.

For me, my personality places me in a high-risk category for burnout, especially if workplace factors linked to burnout are also prevalent. I know I’m not alone.

I did find my way back to good health in the 1990s. It took some time and involved a change in jobs (more than once, as it turned out). I found my way back to a local church, which also helped. I have learned what triggers I need to watch out for and what I need to do to keep myself healthy. There is no magic pill, no one thing that works for everyone all the time, but some things that help me include: eating healthy, nutrient dense food, but also allowing myself treats like icecream; exercising regularly and getting out in nature; praying and spending time with God; reading; journaling; spending time with people I love and also time on my own; and monitoring my energy levels and resting when I need to.

If these don’t help then I need to take more intentional action and critically review what’s happening at work. If I haven’t taken annual leave for a while, that increases my risk. If I have said ‘yes’ to too many people and things, I’m on a slippery slope.

My mother used to tell me, ‘If you want something done, ask a busy person!’ It was as though being busy was a good thing. If you were competent and productive you seemed to keep getting more tasks and more responsibilities. The Bible also tells us in Matthew 25:14–30 that we need to use the gifts we have. But there’s a trap. At some point we must acknowledge that we can’t say Yes to everything.

Jesus didn’t say Yes to everything. He knew there would always be plenty of work to do, but he took time out to pray, eat, be with friends, and rest. Ultimately, he said Yes to the single most important task given to him by his Father.

Talking to ourselves as we would to a loved friend can be really helpful. We wouldn’t want to see our best friend burn themselves out, and yet sometimes we expect so much of ourselves. We are loved and forgiven people of God – a people of hope. Our future is secure and we have great capacity to influence others who look to us and might see the joy we have in our hope. We are called to share our light with others.

If we are burned-out shells, it’s going to make it really hard for our light to be seen. If there is no fuel to keep our flames alight, they go out. Just like our cars, we can’t run on an empty tank. I pray we all find the fuel we need to fill our tanks.

Dr Chris Materne is the manager of the LCANZ Church Worker Support Department.

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by Anna Doecke

It was August 2011 when I had a conversation with my counsellor, who identified that what I was experiencing was burnout. ‘Burnout?’, I inquired, having never heard that term – apart from what the local lads used to do in the back paddock near the farm where I grew up.

My counsellor explained that I needed to learn to look after myself. She introduced me to words and concepts such as self-care, date days, being kind to myself, setting boundaries, saying No and asking for what I need.

I was almost 26 at the time and had just moved back to Adelaide after working as a youth worker and chaplain in schools and churches in Adelaide, Melbourne and the Gold Coast for seven years.

As I reflect on my years in ministry, I have many fond memories. They were some of the most formative and fun years of my life. I had great friends and community, but it was a very busy time. There were many factors that led to my burnout. It wasn’t easy being away from home at a young age and I often felt homesick.

I struggled regularly in my work environment, feeling that I was unsupported and isolated and with impossible tasks and expectations piled on me. My immediate pastors and managers were great, and we would often talk through how to make changes, but this rarely resulted in any long-term helpful solutions. I was also studying and caring for my housemate who had mental illness. Life was busy and simply too full.

I was a ‘yes woman’ and this went on for about four years. I and those around me didn’t know about boundaries. I didn’t know how to say No, and didn’t know I needed to say No. I didn’t know what I needed. I didn’t know how to ask for help. It was also in the era where burnout and self-care were only just starting to be talked about – much different from now.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know I was heading towards burnout, or already burnt out. Upon reflection, and through my counselling journey, I have become aware of the signs. These include: losing motivation and excitement for work and life; feeling overwhelmed, and more anxious or worried than normal; struggling to make decisions; having a sense of feeling depressed; lacking empathy; increasing irritability or anger; feeling exhausted; being unproductive at work; experiencing a change in eating and sleeping habits, and suffering from headaches, light-headedness or nausea.

Apart from experiencing some of these signs and symptoms, I was also behaving in ways that were unhelpful, including: saying Yes to everything and everyone, feeling like I couldn’t say No, not taking a lunch break (or any breaks), being out every night of the week, not asking for help, withdrawing from social activities, and people pleasing.

Unpacking my life in therapy really helped me to heal and understand what got me to burnout. Growing up I had seen some of the behaviours listed above in my parents and other significant adults, and I learned how to deal with life by what they did. I don’t blame my parents. I had a safe and happy upbringing, which provided me with the privilege that I now experience in life. I’m grateful for having a counsellor who journeyed with me, so that I could heal, forgive and move forward with hope.

My burnout and recovery have come at a cost. I had some hard relationship issues that needed to be addressed. I needed to come to terms with the fact that my upbringing and church experience wasn’t (and isn’t) perfect, and that as humans we hurt each other. I had to journey through a lot of pain by acknowledging, naming, facing and addressing shame messages that I learned growing up in the church – mainly related to what I thought God, and humans, expected of me.

A significant cost I now live with is a reduced capacity for work and life. It’s common that once you experience burnout your capacity changes. A lot of people think they can get back to where and who they were before burnout, but in fact we walk through the recovery to discover a new and better version of ourselves – usually more authentic and ‘real’ than the person before burnout.

I am so grateful for the incredible friends, family, and support people I have in my life. They were vital in my recovery process, and continue to be now. I have learned that by being courageous, and sharing my vulnerability with them helps them to understand me better and know how to support me. Unless I tell them, they can’t help.

In my recovery I learned that burnout is preventable, and I now work in various roles spreading the message of burnout prevention. As a counsellor and speaker with Journeez, I help women and groups to transform stress and burnout into wholehearted living. I also work as a regional manager with Schools Ministry Group, where I support pastoral care workers to help young people discover purpose, value and hope.

Anyone who knows me knows that preventing burnout and increasing self-care and wholeheartedness is in my bones. It’s not unusual for me to ask a co-worker, friend or loved one: ‘When was the last time you did something for yourself?’

My biggest learning from this journey is that we all have a choice. Often, we think we are stuck in our situation, but I will never forget what a mentor once said: ‘Not making a decision is making a decision’. What choices do you need to make today to prevent burnout, ask for help or be the best version of yourself?

One of my favourite quotes that helps me on this journey is from Dr Brené Brown who says: ‘I am never more courageous than when I am embracing imperfection, embracing vulnerabilities and setting boundaries with the people in my life.’

Anna Doecke is a counsellor and speaker at Journeez ( and regional manager at Schools Ministry Group.

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by Jonathan Krause

Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS), our church’s aid and development agency, is mobilising our Lutheran community to assist people fleeing Ukraine.

Support from Australia and New Zealand is implemented by Lutheran World Federation (LWF), supporting the work of Lutheran churches in:

  • Ukraine – German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ukraine
  • Hungary – Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary
  • Romania – Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Romania; Evangelical Lutheran Church in Romania
  • Slovakia – Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in the Slovak Republic
  • Poland – Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland.

Chey Mattner, former Executive Director of ALWS, now Head of Operations for LWF World Service, is working in a three-person LWF delegation supporting these Lutheran churches. Where possible, LWF is also working with the Lutheran churches inside Ukraine.

Chey reports, ‘We were on the Polish/Ukrainian border soon after the invasion began. (People here don’t call it a war because that’s not a true reflection of what’s happening.) It was bitterly cold, too cold for snow. The temperature at night was -12˚C. People were arriving at border crossings. Some were picked up by people they knew, others by complete strangers, while many were taken to nearby reception points.

‘Congregations opened up their doors across the country; they welcomed people in and provided food and a warm bed, even though many of these households are poor themselves, still heating their homes with coal.

‘One Lutheran woman said: “I’m doing this because it is what Christ would have done, and because their husbands are also fighting for me”.’

In one case, an old couple brought 13 children across the border. The children were placed in a bus to Germany but the old couple’s Lada couldn’t keep up, and they were separated. The children found themselves on the street in the freezing cold. On hearing this, a Lutheran congregation member in Slovakia called two Lutheran congregations in Germany and within 15 minutes the family was reunited and all had warm places to stay for the next two nights.

‘LWF was created after the Second World War, with its original mandate to serve European refugees, one out of every four of whom was Lutheran’, Chey says. ‘Seventy years on, we’re doing the same thing.’

Through ALWS, our LCANZ is supporting the LWF action to welcome and care for 170,000 people:

  • shelter and household essentials – 41,000 people
  • food – 65,000 people
  • education – 39,000 people
  • psycho-social support – 2,000 people
  • community engagement – 23,000 people.

Everyday Lutherans are leading the way in this emergency response.

Chey says, ‘In Slovakia, the response from the Lutheran church has been remarkable. They have worked quickly with other denominations to negotiate a space in the small strip between the Slovak and Ukrainian borders to set up a tent where emergency goods are provided to weary children, mothers and grandmothers.

‘The Lutheran schools have welcomed children into their classes and are planning to renovate disused buildings to accommodate more students.

‘Bishops have rolled up their sleeves to become humanitarian coordinators – identifying needs, making contacts with congregations, the Lutheran youth fellowship, the Lutheran women’s fellowship, organising trucks of food, water, sanitary kits, and so on.

‘There is no time for dithering here. People are getting straight into it without thinking twice. They’re making space in their small homes, and giving what they can to serve their neighbours, just like Australian and Kiwi Lutherans do when they respond to a crisis.’

ALWS has pre-committed a minimum of $50,000 to the emergency response for the people of Ukraine, and donations are welcome.

Chey concludes, ‘We can’t overestimate the scale of human suffering in Ukraine. At the same time, I hope this is an opportunity for the world to be reminded of the 80 million people who are forcibly displaced in other parts of the world. Now is not the time for these crises to be forgotten.’

Jonathan Krause is ALWS Community Action Manager.

ALWS offers guest speakers to churches, who can provide updates on the Lutheran action. Donations are welcome: * 1300 763 407

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by Linda Macqueen

Grace Lutheran is certainly not the largest congregation in the Adelaide Hills. About 30 members worship regularly, including those on Zoom, and most are either retired or close to retirement. But the congregation is gaining a reputation locally for its spiritual vibrancy.

A recent example was the ‘Pray for Ukraine’ prayer vigil, hosted by the Grace congregation on 19 March, election day in South Australia. Noting that many people would drive past the church on their way to or from voting, they invited other churches and the general community to drop in to pray.

And people did indeed come – not in a rushing torrent but in a steady trickle throughout the day. Gill Stevenson, one of the organisers, said, ‘It was a statement of solidarity that Christians from other denominations came together to pray. Praise God for his inspiration, power and unifying love’.

‘Words that came to me repeatedly that day were, “God of the impossible, your will be done”. And, with our “shameless audacity” (Luke 11:8), we have the expectation that God heard every prayer and that he will answer in extraordinary ways.’

People who wanted a prayer guide could take a handout of notes, but others simply sat silently on the chairs or on the floor cushions and allowed the Spirit to guide them. Some people lit a candle to remind them of the presence of Jesus, the Light of the World.

Visitors were deeply moved, and thankful. Some suggested that Grace host a prayer vigil like this, or simply a quiet prayer space, once a month for the community.

‘The prayer vigil was a wonderful reminder to us and to the community that God is always with us, and with the people for whom we pray’, Gill said. ‘And we know that when we pray, God not only changes the situation for which we pray; he also changes us.’

Linda Macqueen is a member of Grace Lutheran Church, Bridgewater SA.



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by Anne Hansen

Whenever I send a birthday card, a letter or note, I add a tract that I think might speak to the recipient. Or, if someone comes to mind, I send an e-tract with a note of love and encouragement.

One time recently the Holy Spirit worked through me big time! A friend told me about the struggles she had been having with her children, with an overload of work and then the stresses of volunteering and trying to get everything done to please everyone else. She was on the verge of tipping over into a depression or breaking down.

Without my knowing about this,  I had sent her a card with the tracts ‘Why do we worry?’ and ‘Keeping your life balanced’. She read them and said that just stopping to read them allowed her to take stock of what was happening in her life, to take some time to breathe, and to put everything into perspective.

Sometimes it takes someone, or something shared, to help another person. God is good, and the Holy Spirit often prompts us with words to share with others. He is there to speak if we listen. Open your heart and be prepared to be a witness and help to those struggling. Have a tract or two on hand so you are able to share what God says in love.

At Lutheran Tract Mission there are more than 950 tracts to look through, but use the category listing on our webpage to help you find what you are looking for. Visit our website

We are blessed through being able to share and bless others with words of encouragement and love.

Anne Hansen is the Lutheran Tract Mission’s development officer.

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by Rachel Schilling

Congregational life has changed dramatically during the past two years. Perhaps the most noticeable shift has been the families and young people that once were a part of the community are now much less regular in their attendance, if present at all.

Acknowledging in the midst of this change, churches within Australia have all been affected by COVID-19. This has happened in varying degrees depending on which state mandates they fall under and whether they are city, regional or country congregations.

What is safe to say, is that some things are different especially for our families. The space and time that many families used to give to the local church may have diminished. But the need to care, encourage and support parents, children and families in their faith has not.

So how do we best support and encourage them at this time?

Here are some questions to consider:

  • What do you know about the families in your church?
  • Do they know you have noticed that they are not there?
  • Has the habit of regularly coming to church been filled by something else?
  • Are families enjoying the extra space not going to church has given them?
  • Did they ever feel connected, that they belonged, and were welcome and valued in the community?
  • How do our families want to be cared for?

We know that some families don’t want to come back. Others are enjoying the time to be more involved in their children’s spiritual development. Others are cautious, careful, and fearful of crowds and possible COVID infections. So many questions!


Relationships are always the key and lead to deeper connection. We need to continue to build the bridge to be with our families.

  • Begin with prayer and let them know you care about them and pray for them. Rather than a phone call, send a text message, which may be less confronting. Ask what would they like prayer for?
  • Encourage their role as parents. Encourage the informal and ordinary conversations that happen at night in the home: for example, when tucking their children in at night, praying together, reading a psalm or a story. These questions and pondering together are precious gifts of time spent with God.
  • Who is supporting them as adults? Do they have people around them who care? Perhaps it’s practical support that busy families require, some time out, or a meal.
  • How can you listen to the hurt and brokenness of the past few years? Listen with grace and mercy to the complicated feelings they might have about worship, prayer and other people. Have you simply asked, ‘What is it that you need?’

Asking these (and many other) questions require us to re-think and move beyond our programs and our buildings. We need to establish meaningful relationships and nurturing communities.


If you would like to learn more about how to intentionally minister to all generations, please contact the team at Grow Ministries. Email us at and a member of our team will contact you.

Rachel Schilling is a member of the Grow Ministries team.

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‘I’m a Christian. I shouldn’t be stressed because I should be able to give that to God.’

When Anna Doecke hit burnout, she courageously reached out for help. She encourages others to do this too, because she has discovered that she is a loved and favoured daughter of God.

‘He just loves us so much. There’s nothing we can do that is going to make him love us less, or that’s going to make him love us more, right?

He loves us the most he’s ever going to love us, which is overwhelming.’

You can listen to Anna’s story of burnout and recovery at

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by Tania Nelson

These last few years of pandemic living have been hard for everyone but have been particularly challenging for health and care workers.

We know that compassion, gratitude and thanksgiving are good for our personal mental health and also for the health of our communities. We also know that everyone benefits from mutual encouragement and goodwill.

The LCANZ Committee for Care Ministries has launched a range of resources to help congregations and Lutheran aged care and community services celebrate the care work in our local neighbourhoods that happens 365 days of the year.

With that in mind, we are inviting every LCANZ congregation to host a Christian Care Sunday celebration this year. We invite you to look at the Christian Care Sunday resources on the LCA website and choose a day in 2022 to celebrate with your local community.

You might choose a day from the lectionary, or a day that focuses on a particular helping vocation (nursing and other medical professions, social work or aged care), or a day that highlights the needs of a particular vulnerable people group. You can find a calendar of days to choose from here

Whatever day or week you choose, thank you for taking the time to express gratitude to those who participate in care ministries in your congregation and local community. The LCANZ wants to be a place ‘where love comes to life’, and we want to thank everyone for bringing that love to life through these challenging years of pandemic living and natural disasters.

Dr Tania Nelson is LCANZ Executive Officer – Local Mission.

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