Anna Doecke didn’t recognise she was suffering from burnout until a counsellor pointed it out to her. Since then, she has learned how to set boundaries and treat herself with care and respect.

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.

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 vulnerably 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 (www.journeez.com.au) and regional manager at Schools Ministry Group.

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More than 370 people recently participated in the first LCA Child Safety Standards for Congregations webinar. Conducted jointly by the LCA Child Protection Project Officer Mary-Ann Carver and members of the Professional Standards Department, the webinar outlined the new child safety standards developed especially for LCA congregations.

Ms Carver explained that churches, along with all other entities that work with children, are obligated to implement the ten National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, an outcome of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

‘As they stand, the National Principles are not well-tailored to faith-based organisations and those with a heavy reliance on volunteers’, she said. ‘This is why we have created the LCA Standards, which have been developed to suit our context while also complying with the National Principles.’

She pointed out that while the LCA Child Safety Standards are new, the LCA has a longstanding commitment to child safety, and much good work in the area is already being done within our congregations. She commended congregations that are taking child safety seriously and already making much progress.

The LCA Child Safety Standards for Congregations were approved for implementation by the General Church Board in October 2021. Every LCA congregation or parish is required to undertake a self-assessment of their child safety progress and prepare a child safety plan to guide their child safety activities.

Ms Carver stressed that the oversight and implementation of the LCA Standards, as well as the completion of the self-assessment and plan, should not be the sole responsibility of the congregation’s Safe Church coordinator. ‘This important leadership responsibility lies firmly with the church council, which is consistent with the duty of care that councils carry’, she said. ‘This is an important development for the LCA and a fine example of its longstanding child safety leadership and commitment.’

‘We acknowledge that hard work you are already doing. We appreciate that most people in our congregations are volunteers’, Ms Carver said. ‘This is why we’ve worked hard to make these standards as easy for you to implement as we possibly can.

‘Implementation of the standards is part of God’s work. They reflect God’s abounding love for children and his expectation that we will dearly and lovingly do our very best to keep them safe.’

The webinar was recorded. It is strongly recommended that congregation and parish church council members watch it. It is available for viewing or download at www.lca.org.au/css

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by Helen Brinkman

Matthew 19:26 assures us that, ‘with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’.

Retiree Robert ‘Rob’ Krause reflects on that Bible verse when he thinks of the decades of service he has provided to his local community. It is service provided simply because he has seen a need and tried to help.

From reacting to a fear of fire by assisting a group to start a rural fire brigade, to responding to the call for a local Lutheran school, Rob’s need for action has come in many forms.

The fourth-generation dairy farmer’s home is the historic village of Marburg, on the scrubland between Brisbane and Toowoomba. Rob’s service to this regional community was recognised when he was awarded an Order of Australia medal in this year’s Australia Day Honours.

And his list of service is long! It includes decades of support for the local Marburg Show Society, activities in his Lutheran congregation of Rosewood, and supporting several local schools, among other volunteer roles.

Rob says it was a desire to help his local community that drew him to volunteer.

‘I guess it grew out of wanting to be part of the community, and to put in an effort to make things a bit better around the place’, Rob says.

‘Things were hard in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and a lot of us had to make our own entertainment, and it was a matter of wanting to help your neighbour.’

Rob has lived in Marburg for most of his 86 years. One of six children, he grew up on his parents’ dairy farm and eventually took over the farm from 1972 to 2002.

This personal connection with Marburg, 15 minutes west of Ipswich, helped Rob find ways to help out in his community, starting with the local show. As a schoolboy he began helping with stalls and acting as a steward, then gradually took on more jobs, which has led to his 75-year association with the Marburg Show Society.

Rob served as the show society’s president from 2006 to 2017. He has been a life member since 1994. In addition, he not only helped set up the Marburg Rural Fire Brigade but also became its treasurer for a time. He is a former member of Ipswich Council City Country Consultative Group and was chair of the Marburg State School Centenary celebrations in 1979.

Rob and his wife Janet have been members of the Rosewood congregation for more than 50 years. The pair met through church and the local rural youth group. They were also active in the activities of Lutheran Youth of Queensland.

In June they will celebrate their 50th anniversary. ‘She is my biggest support and strength’, Rob says.

Rob served as congregational chair for several years. Janet, a former school teacher, also took on the congregational chair role for a few years. Both have served as General Synod delegates and have held other congregational roles.

Always interested in education, from 1982 to 1993 Rob served as a board member of the Bethany Lutheran Primary School, Raceview, where their four sons attended.

Their children had all but finished secondary school when the idea of a new secondary school in the region was sown. And so planning began for the Faith Lutheran College in nearby Plainland, with the school opening in 1999 with about 35 students.

Rob was part of the planning committee and a member of the school council for a decade, from 1999 to 2009. With Faith College now educating almost 800 students from across the Ipswich and Lockyer region, Rob and Janet’s son Paul is among its teaching staff.

As grandparents to eight grandsons and one granddaughter, Rob and Janet say that there have been many times when they have seen the hand of God in their activities.

‘There were a lot of things that happened which were quite miraculous’, they recall.

 

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by Lisa McIntosh

When Tom Krahling was about 12 or 13, he began to wonder whether God wanted him to become a pastor. So, he spoke to his parish pastor about it and received some surprising advice.

‘He told me to be like Jonah, to run away and that if God wanted me to do it, he’d send a big fish to swallow me up and spit me out’, Tom says. ‘I went and asked some other pastors and other mentors and they thought that advice wasn’t bad, and so throughout high school, I spent my academics preparing to be an engineer and I spent my Sundays growing in the faith and preparing in that way.

‘At the end of the day, it comes down to the theology of vocation. What has God given me to do? How can I use those gifts to serve others?

‘I thought I would pursue engineering, and I worked at it as if working for the Lord. But when the opportunity came up at church to grow or to get experience, I would go for that as well.’

The sense he was meant to be a pastor didn’t leave Tom, despite putting his energies into engineering studies. And so, with COVID ramping up in 2020, he decided to take leave from university and ‘test the waters’ by enrolling in the Discover program at Australian Lutheran College (ALC) from the second semester. Now 21, he has since completed three semesters of Discover and has applied to enter pastoral ministry study.

In his second semester at ALC, Tom moved onto campus at North Adelaide – a move that helped crystalise his decision to pursue pastoral ministry.

The two-part Discover program features academic study and personal formation, including a ministry placement. Tom’s placement was at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Adelaide, helping out with the youth group and livestreaming services there.

His own experience shows that the so-called ‘aha’ moment of discernment is ‘often a lot more mundane than people expect’. ‘Over the years I’d had an interest, I’d had encouragement from people, but the final moment was just that last person who said, “You know Tom, I think you should become a pastor”’, he says. ‘And she was not the first person to say this. She was maybe the 100th person – pastors and mentors and friends confirming the inner call, and that’s really what made me sure.

‘There is more than one good thing that you can do in life, and I felt like God was saying, “Tom, you can be an engineer and do good and I will work through you in that; you can be a pastor and do good and I’ll work through that. I’m giving this choice to you”. I chose to study to be an engineer, and he said, “Good choice, but try again”.’

Contact Australian Lutheran College at enquiries@alc.edu.au to learn more about Discover

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‘Like a piece of knitting, we hold in tension what is already there and what is emerging … who we are and who we are becoming.’

Principal of Australian Lutheran College (ALC) James Winderlich has used a knitting analogy to explain the two guiding principles for the college’s new direction: its identity deeply embedded in the history and life of the LCANZ, and the need to embrace and respond to the diverse needs of a 21st century learning church. Explaining the vision of ALC’s recently unveiled strategic plan ‘Towards 2028’, Pastor Winderlich said, ‘We are not always who we once were, and we need to balance this with who we are becoming and need to become’.

The ‘new ALC’ has been shaped by feedback from members, congregations, leaders and agencies, gleaned from various churchwide surveys in 2021. One key theme was the need to focus on being gospel-centred and knowing how to minister to people. There was also widespread reluctance to move to Adelaide to receive training; this was seen as a ‘deal breaker’.

‘We’ve listened to you, we understand your training needs, and we are responding’, Pastor Winderlich said.

The change of name from Luther Seminary to ALC in 2004 was a major step in promoting the college as the LCANZ’s training institution for not only pastors and teachers but for all people of the church. The new direction builds on progress made in creating learning hubs that equip LCANZ people for mission and ministry wherever they are serving or will serve. A stated aim of the plan is to ‘affirm people in their vocation and reflect the diversity of the contemporary, missional church’.

The days of teaching exclusively via classroom lectures at the North Adelaide campus are long gone. Under the new plan, ALC is embracing practice-driven learning and experience in the field, while ensuring that the college is ‘a safe place for learners (staff and students) to wrestle with questions of theology and faith’, Pastor Winderlich said.

Digital learning capability will be enhanced to engage with learners as they remain connected to the community in which they live, worship and serve. Flexible and responsive learning programs will be key components of the new ALC.

Increasingly, the staff team will reflect the diversity of the communities in which LCANZ people serve.

Cheryl Bartel, vice-chair of the ALC Board, said the changing profile of the church ‘is triggering a need to understand what it means to be inclusive’. ‘We need to visualise what a connected, intercultural learning community looks like, and to value the richness that this brings to our church’, she said.

Reflecting on the recent ALC Festival of Learning, which was held under the theme ‘Speaking Many Languages, Hearing One Voice’, Mrs Bartel said it presented ‘a rich and diverse opportunity to engage with practical theology and contemporary issues’.

Pastor Winderlich and the ALC Board encourage congregations, schools and other agencies to discuss their training needs and to share them with ALC.

A copy of ‘Towards 2028’ can be downloaded from the ALC website at https://alc.edu.au/about

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by Helen Brinkman

At Lutheran Archives in suburban Adelaide, up to 100 years of stories from Australia’s past are disguised in a largely forgotten handwritten German cursive script known as Kurrentschrift. And, just as archaeologists decipher hieroglyphics, the LCANZ has its own sleuths decoding the amazing stories contained in writings of this ancient German script, to share them with future generations.

Early this year, Australia recognised one of our supersleuths who has spent the past 30 years transcribing and translating Kurrentschrift to reveal its stories.

Dr Lois Zweck’s decades of research were recognised when she was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her service to community history in the Australia Day 2022 Honours List.

‘Our local stories can be as dramatic and significant and inspiring as any history anywhere’, says 74-year-old Lois.

The volunteer transcriber, translator and research assistant has been at the forefront of deciphering Kurrentschrift, a feature of many records of early Lutheran history in Australia. ‘Lutheran Archives has 80 to 100 years of records not only in a language few of our people understand, but also in a handwriting even fewer can read’, says Lois. That presents a great challenge for anyone who wants to research the history of their family, their congregation, church, or missions.

That’s where Lois, a member at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Adelaide, feels so grateful for having acquired the skills that make it possible for her to help researchers access those stories.

‘You get addicted to following stories, to finding the answers … to following the trail and seeing how the stories help you understand what our church is and what it has been in the past’, Lois says.

A Lutheran Archives volunteer since 1992, and a life member of the Friends of Lutheran Archives, Lois is one of about 10 people who can read Kurrentschrift in the Adelaide-based archive. This houses correspondence and minutes in the script, and printed sources from the advent of church papers in the 1860s.

From 1920, English become the official language for synod reports and other official documents, as English began to predominate in church life.

Decades of German language studies and 10 years of formal tertiary study, including a PhD in German Studies and two post-doctoral years in Germany, laid the groundwork for Lois to crack the code of the Kurrentschrift telling the firsthand stories of Australia’s first Lutherans.

But her academic history alone was not enough.

Like her colleagues, she taught herself to read the script in 1988 to translate documents for the centenary history of Adelaide’s Concordia College, using an old textbook with the German alphabet. It went from there.

Her mastery of German also led to her work for two cardinals at the Vatican for 17 years from 2002, translating papers and speeches. She was even presented to Pope John Paul II in St Peter’s Square in Rome.

That’s not bad for a person who was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa aged 17, on entering the University of Adelaide, and who later was assessed as legally blind. Her condition means Lois has a small section of central vision (5-10 degrees), instead of up to 180 degrees. Fortunately, that’s all you need to be able to read.

Her love of language has been life-long. Supported by encouraging people, she’s gone further than she ever imagined. ‘I’m enormously grateful to those people for being God’s guiding hand to put me in the place where I am, doing what I enjoy most, in an area where I can best contribute to my community’, Lois says.

Among Lois’s favourite Psalms are Psalm 77 and 78, describing why we need to remember God’s ‘wonderful works’ in the past and tell it to future generations so they too ‘might set their hope in God’. Psalm 77:11 – ‘I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord’, appears on the dedication plaque of the original LCA Archives, where this story began 30 years ago.

The LCANZ’s new churchwide Bishop Paul Smith quoted Psalm 77 in a congratulatory letter to Lois after identifying a Zweck at the bottom of the honours list in the newspaper.

He said that honouring ‘those who have gone before us is a call to continue this work for the sake of those who come after’.

‘You cannot give thanks if you don’t know what you have been given’, Lois says. ‘We have to tell future generations about what God has done for us and those before us.

‘I cannot imagine a better life for myself than the life I have been given.’

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by Craig Heidenreich

If someone accused me of being racist, I think I would feel quite defensive because of all the negative connotations around that term.

I would probably defend myself with the thought that I am more tolerant and open-minded than that other bigoted person I know – that person who says what the rest of us only think (from time to time).

Let’s be honest, humans experience this strange tension along racial lines that is almost as old as history itself.

What is this driving force in our nature that will justify ourselves by putting someone else down?

Sadly, this is as old as sin itself, as old as Adam justifying himself by putting Eve down – ‘this woman you gave me caused me to eat the fruit’. It wasn’t Adam’s finest moment to focus on gender that day and about as silly as our focus on genetics.

Racism is part of the air we breathe in this fallen world and is fed by our insecurities.

We squirm when family members or certain politicians overtly appeal to the worst in our tribal natures, but we also contend with it in many subtle ways.

We need to fight this instinct if we choose to follow Jesus and be anything like our Heavenly Father.

In heaven, when ‘every tribe and tongue’ are worshipping, there is simply no racial hierarchy.

Jesus left his followers with a final request – that we should go out among all the nations to invite them back into a relationship with him.

The Father loves the whole world. Probably the most quoted verse of the New Testament would be John 3:16, ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave …’.

Our Heavenly Father invites us to love like he loves and enter into his joy as each lost sheep is found.

Let me offer a stark challenge: Racism is one of Satan’s primary attacks against God’s plan to gather all people back to himself!

Satan tempts us to judge the very people that Jesus died to save, the people we are called to love.

We need to see this attack for what it is and not tolerate it – it is as deadly as the self-righteousness that stops me associating with a sinner when I should be ‘the beggar showing another where to find bread’.

As we adjust our thinking to value what the Lord wants, let’s take in something of his sheer delight in the diversity of the humans he has made.

This is not about tolerating each other. This is about celebrating each other. This is about a church that is enriched and completed when we all come together.

So, what does this all mean in practice?

If we as individuals are to be free of this subtle racist pull, we probably need to ask the Lord to wash our minds of attitudes that we have taken in from our parents, our schooling, the impact of media, and even our church life. He may bring attitudes to mind that we should repent of.

Just think of the strong confirmation bias that happens when we access the internet and get our news from limited or similar sources. We think that we are sophisticated enough to spot the prejudice, but our minds can be shaped by what we see and hear.

I am aware of a dislike of certain nations or ethnicities that have lodged in me after watching some movie (maybe 30 years ago). The movie was probably quite biased, but at the time it suited my fallen nature to dislike those people. All these years later I find myself reacting to certain accents when I hear them.

How easily we start to judge other nations or ethnic groups for systemic injustices while self-righteously thinking, ‘I am not like that’. This is very thin ice!

We need to go through the Lord’s washing machine as much as Peter did in Acts 10. A voice from heaven said to him that day, ‘You must stop calling unclean, what God has made clean’.

When we meet together in church, our human instinct is to gather with others like ourselves and to seek leaders who look like us.

Is it possible that our church experience should be less about our comfort and more about our growth in love?

Humans contend with all sorts of tensions that play out along generational, gender, social and intellectual lines. These are the contexts for us to ‘prefer one another in love’ (Rom 12:10). Our racial differences are also a great context to act maturely and, in a world riven by racism, our mutual respect (across racial lines) is a clear witness to the work of our Lord.

Recently I was in a church service watching people line up to take communion and the line that day was a veritable ‘united nations’. It made my heart feel glad to see the transforming work of Christ in action among our Lutheran family.

Let’s lift our gaze to focus on what the Lord has in mind.

 

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Long-time Lutheran Archives volunteer researcher Dr Lois Zweck is among LCANZ members honoured in the Australia Day 2022 Honours list.

A volunteer transcriber, translator and research assistant at Lutheran Archives since 1992, Lois is a member of Bethlehem Lutheran Church Adelaide. She was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her service to community history.

Mr Robert (Rob) Krause, who has served the LCANZ as a volunteer at congregational, district and churchwide levels for more than 60 years, also received an OAM for service to the community of Marburg, a rural town in the Ipswich area between Brisbane and Toowoomba in southern Queensland.

A joint winner of the History Council of South Australia’s Life-Long History Achievement Award in 2017, Lois has been a Lutheran Archives advisory committee member since 1998 and a committee member of the Friends of Lutheran Archives (FoLA) since 1992. She served as chair of FoLA from 1995 to 2014 and was made a life member of the group in 2014. She is a founding committee member of the community history collaborative German Heritage Research Group,

Lois’s work at Lutheran Archives includes transcribing and translating the Kurrentschrift German handwritten script, which is a feature of many records of early Lutheran history in Australia.

Lutheran Archives Director Rachel Kuchel said she was ‘thrilled’ that Lois – a ‘researcher extraordinaire’ – and her service and contribution to community and Lutheran church history had been recognised through the award.

‘Lois has an eye for detail, an incredible memory, and will follow all avenues to pursue a record and discover what it can tell us about our church’, Rachel said. ‘Her truly special talent, however, is to inspire other people to explore one’s congregation story or one’s personal connection to our collective church story.’

Lois, however, said she was ‘shocked’ to receive the award and almost deleted the initial email notifying her of the honour.

‘When I got the first email about it, my cursor was hovering over the delete rubbish bin, thinking it was a scam’, she said. ‘I was shocked of course because you look at people who have spent lives in really significant causes who receive awards, but then I guess you realise that this cause is a significant one. You have to realise that dedicating some of your time and some of your efforts to something like history is considered valuable by the wider community.’

A member at St Matthews Lutheran Church Rosewood, Queensland, Rob Krause has given many years of service to Lutheran youth, schools, his home congregation and the Marburg Show Society, as well as to other community organisations.

Rob said it was ‘quite a surprise’ to receive a call from the Governor-General’s office about his award.

‘It was certainly an initial surprise, but it was then a bit of a thrilling feeling to think that you’re on the list for Australia Day’, he said.

Rob was inspired to volunteer in his youth days by the preaching of Pastor (later Dr and LCA President) Les Grope, on the story of Ezekiel’s reluctant service and God’s promise to help him.

‘There have been many times when matters have been difficult, but I have seen the hand of God help in many ways in youth, school and church activities’, Rob said.

A former LCA General Synod and Queensland District Synod delegate, Rob was a planning committee member for Faith Lutheran College Plainland and served on its college council from 1999 to 2009.

He was also a member of the board of Bethany Lutheran Primary School Raceview for more than a decade and has previously served as chair of his congregation. A former state secretary of Lutheran Youth of Queensland, Rob was also involved with the establishment of Luther Heights Youth Camp at Coolum Beach on the Sunshine Coast in the late 1950s.

His community roles have included being a former treasurer of the Marburg Rural Fire Brigade and serving as Marburg Show Society President from 2006 to 2017.

The congratulations of the church are offered to these recipients and any other members honoured with awards.

 

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by Helen Brinkman

One of the first wood carvings Albert Noll ever created was a carved wooden message: ‘Blessed by the grace of God’.

It was two years ago, just before turning 90, that Albert tried out the scroll saw at his local men’s shed at Waikerie in South Australia’s Riverland.

The sawn message has not only remained a favourite carving, but its creation instilled in him a passion for this new hobby.

It’s also turned into an unexpected fundraiser for Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS).

Faced with requests to sell his carvings, most of which are Christian-themed wooden ornaments, 92-year-old Albert felt uncomfortable making money from his hobby. So, he decided to direct the funds towards something else that has always brought him joy – raising money for ALWS.

A couple of hundred carvings later and he’s already raised more than $800 from giving his wares to friends and local groups in return for a donation.

Albert’s farming background means he’s always been good with his hands, turning odds and ends from the shed into useful fixes.

He used the shed men’s scroll saw to make name tags out of wood for everyone attending his 90th birthday in January 2020.

‘Then I bought my own scroll saw and that’s when I started making my crosses and religious signs, seeking inspiration from books’, Albert says.

Albert has been inspired by his love of wood – sourcing a range of wood including walnut, mallee, redgum or black oak so hard it breaks a lot of saw blades!

‘I was walking through the property of a friend, Graham Smith, when we found a whole acacia wattle tree that I’ve cut into timber with a band saw 10 to 15 millimetres wide’, recalls Albert. That’s become the fodder for much of his wood carving to date.

‘I can look at a piece of wood and image something into it’, he says. ‘One of my favourite ones is a dove cut out overlayed into the top of a cross – it involves two different coloured pieces of wood.’

It usually takes Albert just as long to finish a piece as it does to cut it, the finishing work including sanding the piece smooth and varnishing it with four coats of varnish. Some pieces take him only a few hours in total, while others require many hours of work. ‘If I charged an hourly rate, ALWS would be the richer’, he says cheekily.

‘It’s just an offshoot of what I have done all my life. If we were farming and something broke, you just went and you made it. I have made some weird and wonderful pieces of machinery!’

He gets requests from people for his wooden creations and a popular one is a carving of a man in an outside lounge chair saying: ‘It’s not my problem, retired’. But most are Christian ornaments.

And, as a longtime supporter of ALWS, he’s pleased his handiwork can support the mission of the LCA’s overseas aid and development agency to bring love to life for people hurt by poverty, injustice and crisis.

Albert’s also been shaped by a strong faith nurtured in the congregation he’s been a member of since birth in 1930 – Bethlehem Lutheran Church at Murbko, about halfway between Morgan and Blanchetown on the eastern side of the River Murray.

Albert and his wife of 66 years, Gladys, drive a round trip of 70km, past two other Lutheran churches, to worship at Murbko each Sunday, in a parish led by Pastor Peter Traeger, who also serves three other congregations in the region.

There may only be 10 members at Bethlehem now, ‘but we still manage to make our local budget’, says Albert, who is congregational treasurer and chairman, as well as curator of the church cemetery. He’s giving up his second stint as chairman at this year’s annual general meeting.

He’ll keep up his treasurer duties, assisted by the clever spreadsheets set up by their daughter Meredith, a retired accountant, to assist his task.

Albert and Gladys, 88, feel blessed that they remain living independently and still both drive. Their faith has supported them through tough times, including the loss of two of their three children in separate car accidents.

Crafting wood has been a comfort and solace in these past few years.

‘Six years ago, it was confirmed that I have Parkinson’s. It was diagnosed so early that I can manage it well’, Albert says. ‘I can still get a glass of port up to my lips without spilling it.

‘If I keep myself busy with the woodwork it helps every time. It keeps my brain busy and my hands busy.’

And, as Gladys says: ‘A lot of love goes into it’.

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Some Queensland Lutherans would know at least a little about new LCANZ Bishop Paul Smith, who served as their district bishop between 2015 and 2021. But many in our church may not have heard the incredible and inspiring story behind the faith journey of our sixth churchwide leader. Who is Paul Smith and how has God led him to this role?

With a surname like Smith, with no German heritage, and hailing from the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland, it’s hardly surprising that the incoming LCANZ bishop is not a born-and-bred Lutheran.

While God brought him to baptism through the Anglican church in Western Queensland as an infant in 1962, Bishop Paul Smith was not raised as a churchgoing Christian. And, as the biography of Paul in Robin Kleinschmidt’s book Your Most Humble Servant states, his childhood family life gave him ‘no experience of regular worship, religious teaching, prayer or Christian formation’.

But God had his eye on Paul and when family circumstances led to him attending St Peters Lutheran College at Indooroopilly in Brisbane as a boarding student in Year 11, his life and faith were transformed. His teachers – including chaplain and English teacher Pastor (now Dr) John Kleinig and the late Adrienne Jericho, who would later become the executive director of Lutheran Education Australia and took Paul for Scripture classes – were among those whose Christian example and gospel witness greatly affected him. Some of his classmates were instrumental in his early faith journey, too.

He was not only confirmed in his Christian faith while attending St Peters, but he also acknowledged a call to the ordained ministry and began studying at the then Luther Seminary (now Australian Lutheran College) in Adelaide in 1980.

He took time out of his pastoral ministry training in 1982 and worked in factories, studied at Adelaide University and continued with part-time seminary study. After a bout of glandular fever, he returned to ‘the Sem’ full-time in 1984. Also in 1984, Paul met Heidi Muller from Henty New South Wales, who was studying at Lutheran Teachers College and was the sister of his best friend at seminary, Tim. Heidi and Paul were married in 1986 and today they have three adult children, Ben, Felicity and Jeremy.

Today, Bishop Paul calls Heidi his ‘co-worker’. ‘She will pray with me, pray for me, encourage me, listen to me and tell me when I’m being a cranky old goat’, he says of his wife, who has studied theology and is a qualified secondary teacher, as well as having worked as a Lutheran aged-care chaplain. This year she will begin work for the SA-NT District as its chaplaincy ministries coordinator.

‘And so, we have that open and robust relationship. She’s a dyed-in-the-wool, card-carrying Lutheran but she understands it doesn’t mean culture, history and community only, it means pointing to the big arrow down – what God does for us, and Heidi is good at keeping me earnest in that way. I’m very grateful for that, so she’s a co-worker in that sense and a team participant in my life as a Christian.’

Having completed his vicarage year at Underdale-Glandore parish under Pastor Clem Traeger in suburban Adelaide in 1987, Paul was ordained the following year at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Adelaide.

Pastor Paul’s first assignment was as the first Lutheran college chaplain at Trinity Lutheran College Ashmore on Queensland’s Gold Coast. This first ordained ministry role continued for Paul what has become a close and valued relationship with Lutheran schools.

His next call was his first parish ministry, at Tailem Bend/Karoonda in South Australia, where he served between 1992 and 1995. To follow were parish ministries at Immanuel North Adelaide from 1995 to 2001 and from 2002 to 2005 at Good Shepherd Toowoomba in Queensland. These calls were followed by a return to service as a college pastor, firstly back at St Peters Indooroopilly and then at Pacific Lutheran College at Caloundra.

During his time at Toowoomba, Pastor Paul was first elected as a member of Queensland’s District Church Council, a role he would fill from 2003 to 2007, rejoining in 2010. Later that year he was elected as the first vice-president of the LCA’s Queensland District, a role he would fill until being elected bishop in 2015.

Committed to encouraging and progressing the service of younger leaders in the church, Bishop Paul served two terms and so did not stand for re-election in 2021.

He returned to St Peters as an interim college pastor in the latter half of 2021 and was elected as bishop of the LCANZ in October last year .

He believes God will use his life and ministry experiences in his service as churchwide bishop.

‘I believe God continues to prepare you for any and every role and God will always surprise you’, he says. ‘Has God equipped me especially with experience for this role? Yes, the people in the church have given me the opportunity to make mistakes in the name of Christ and in the cause of the gospel. The people of the church have given me great privileges.’

Bishop Paul comes across as a great optimist when it comes to people and the church. He whistles while he walks, smiles often, loves speaking with people and describes himself as ‘not a glass-half-empty person, nor a glass-half-full person, but a glass-overflowing person’.

He lists three main hopes for the coming years in the LCANZ. ‘The first one is that we would find good dialogue with young Christian people’, he says. ‘At the moment we don’t have a good dialogue with them. What we say, young people aren’t really hearing too well. What they say, is often not heard or properly understood.

‘The second hope that I’d have is that we would discover a growing collaboration with Christian sisters and brothers of our New Zealand and Australian church communities around us.

‘The third one is to discover the way Lutherans are evangelical in the 21st century. How are we Lutherans being evangelical to bring Christ to the nations? We have this great tradition of Lutheran witness, let’s see that grow and flourish in a way that’s authentic to who we are.’

Bishop Paul Smith will be installed as bishop of the LCANZ at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Adelaide on 20 February. Attendance will be by invitation only, but the service will be livestreamed.

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