By Rosie Schefe and Serena Williams

Approximately 1000 participants gathered in the humid embrace of spring in Brisbane for the fourth Australian Conference on Lutheran Education (ACLE) from 30 September to 2 October.

The Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre main hall was transformed into an auditorium for worship and keynote addresses, while a nearby exhibition space provided room for sponsors and exhibitors to talk to participants during breaks or less formal parts of the program.

The strong elective program included a ‘mini-conference’ on Tuesday afternoon: an extended opportunity to try something new, visit the Brisbane cultural precinct or meet with colleagues to discuss mutual areas of responsibility.

Meeting under the theme ’Wise Up! Transforming Mind, Body and Heart in Lutheran Education’, the conference drew not only teachers and other educators, but also pastors, people in non-teaching roles and international guests from Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and the United States.

But it wasn’t just about professional and spiritual development: ACLE has always been about meeting old and new colleagues from around Australia, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones, as people share their experiences and memories of service in Lutheran schools.

On the stage were 16-year-old Amy DeMartino and 17-year-old Tom Smith, bringing tears to the eyes of some of the 900 assembled teachers as they sang How Great is our God in opening worship on the final morning of ACLE … 

 

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by Beverley Wilson

A young woman comes into the shop, looking for a book on printing or calligraphy.

‘I’m getting married soon and we don’t have much money, so I want to print the place cards myself’, she tells the assistant. As she is leaving, she is obviously attracted by a decorative, antique-style telephone, priced at $45.

A female customer notices. ‘Well, buy it!’ she tells the girl. Laughing, the young woman says, ‘I can’t afford it. I’m getting married.’ ‘Then I’ll buy it for you!’ says the customer—and she does! One happy bride-to-be, and smiles all round.

Welcome to This’N’That Community Store, an op shop in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, which has become an integral part of its community and an opportunity to engage in mission with its people. It is also a highly effective fundraiser for ministries of the LCA Victoria/Tasmania District.

While these ministries have changed over time, This’N’That Community Store has remained true to its original vision for supporting families and individuals in need, whether their needs are physical, emotional, practical or spiritual.

On 14 September This’N’That celebrates 20 years in business at Brentford Square shopping centre, Forest Hill. It currently employs a manager—Barbara Franklin-Browne— two part-time assistant managers and an army of willing volunteers donating time and professional expertise. Over time there have been five managers and five assistant managers, each contributing new ideas and innovations. A management committee meets regularly to monitor the store’s operation, plan and distribute funds.

Volunteers are at its heart, each bringing their special talents and skills—dedicated volunteers like Freda Miles, aged 95. Freda still works in the store four days each week and walks…

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by Rosie Schefe

Having a choice is something that Australians take for granted, but for many people choice is limited—or even absent.

‘We are so beyond blessed in this country. In Egypt, getting involved in politics can get you killed. In Australia we can have a “bloody political coup” without any blood!’ Tom Brennen said.

Tom spoke to The Lutheran on 4 July, the day that the Egyptian Army removed elected President Mohammed Morsi and installed interim President Adli Mansour, suspending the country’s constitution
for 30 days.

Tom and Robyn Brennen returned to Australia from Egypt in mid-June, after 18 months living in a Cairo neighbourhood and working to support refugees who find themselves in Cairo fleeing various situations.

I always wanted to do aid work out of an understanding that the command to love your neighbour includes everyone in the world.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has a processing station in Cairo which acts as a gateway to the rest of the world for refugees from African nations.

In 1951 the Egyptian government signed the Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol and allowed the UNHCR to process refugees on its territory. But they have still not put any Egyptian domestic asylum procedures in place, effectively assuming no responsibility for refugees transiting through their country.

Estimates of refugee numbers in Egypt vary between 500,000 and 3 million people. People who have no access to healthcare, education, or employment. Many of them are from South Sudan, but they also come from other parts of Africa and the Middle East, including Libya and Syria.

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by Reid Matthias

After worship I take up my regular spot at the back of the church. Like a smiling sentinel, it’s my responsibility to greet worshippers as they exit the building. I wait, listening for the swarm to reach me, their voices humming—most assuredly talking about how wonderful the sermon was.

As they approach me, I always have a niggling thought wriggling through my mind: ‘How am I supposed to greet them?’

Let’s be honest. For the most part, Australians are kissers. When I first met my mother-in-law, she greeted me with a kiss. I wasn’t prepared for it. She just leaned in and there it was—lipstick on the young American’s cheek.

I really don’t know how it’s supposed to work. Are there rules for ‘greeting each other with a holy kiss’, as Paul tells us in Romans 16:16? Is there a specific cheek? What about actual lip contact? Some of the women who kiss kind of go through the motion of kissing and then just make the sound of kissing somewhere in the vicinity of my whiskered jaw. I’m awkward and clumsy when it comes to fulfilling Paul’s greeting.

The swarm reaches me. The guys are easy. These farmers with their great big, meaty hands swallowing mine; they clap me on the back, talk about the weather and get out the door.

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by Julie Hahn

The Upside Down Circus was born in 2010—an opportunity for families living in the northern suburbs of Adelaide to discover that Jesus turns our upside-down world the right way up.

It grew out of a group of church leaders meeting regularly for lunch and prayer, led by the Rev Lindsay Mayes of Elizabeth Church of Christ. They felt that there was a need for somewhere for families to go that would cost very little (if anything), where the safety of children was a priority and, most importantly, where they could hear of Jesus’ love for them.

In 2011, a handful of members of The Ark, Salisbury Lutheran Church, attended the first afternoon of Upside Down Circus 2, representing Mainly Music and Toolbox Parenting groups. We arrived early to set up our tents and were astonished to see hundreds of people queuing patiently outside the gates almost an hour before the event began.

The Upside Down Circus was held on the reserve where big circuses set up for the holidays. But this circus was different. It was free. It was child-safe:  all adults needed to be accompanied by a child (though unattended children were welcome), and it was put on by about 20 local churches.

At the end of our first day we telephoned other members of The Ark asking for help for the next afternoon. Child-safe clearances made their registration as volunteers so easy! When we returned to church that weekend, we were all eager to tell of the good news: how thousands of children and their families had come to hear about Jesus. And how we believed our congregation could make a great contribution by joining with other churches in our area. It was an opportunity too good to miss.

So, at the debriefing meeting for Upside Down Circus 2 our team representing Salisbury Lutheran Church apologised for being a bit slow in joining, but affirmed that we were keen to be involved for UDC3.

The 2011 budget of about $15,000 barely covered costs.  The organising team and volunteers were exhausted. But stories reached local churches in the next few weeks of teachers at government schools being asked about ‘this Jesus guy who we heard about at the circus’.

We jumped in whole-heartedly for 2012. What a privilege! More than 50 of us joined as volunteers. Some went to the circus and helped out on craft stalls, by making balloon animals, face-painting, handing out ‘toolkits’ for parents,  clowning, supervising …

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by Chris Button

What could one particular group of African, Indigenous Australian and Caucasian teenage girls from Kilburn have in common?

An extreme level of passion and enthusiasm for the game of Australian Rules Football.

These girls make up the culturally diverse Kilburn Chicks, the under-16 Aussie Rules girls team participating in Adelaide’s North-Eastern Metro Junior Football Association, coached by a footy-mad and dedicated Lutheran, Mal Thiel.

Not only is the team diverse in ethnicity, it is diverse in spirituality as well.

‘Religiously, [in the team] there’s Muslims, Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholics, those who believe in the Aboriginal Dreamtime and those who simply define themselves as Christians’, Mal said. ‘Then I’ve got those who have no concept of God.’

The football team is not just an outlet for the girls to play sport. The team also provides a supportive environment to care for those who may be experiencing difficult times in their lives.

Establishment of the team was far from easy—it almost never happened, according to Mal, who had received coaching offers from the Modbury and Golden Grove girls’ football teams as well.

‘I didn’t want to go’, Mal said, regarding the initial club meeting at Kilburn, citing harsh experiences in the suburb growing up. ‘Kilburn Footy Club is rough—I grew up in the neighbouring suburb and hated the place.’

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by Serena Williams

All generations of our church must come together to face the same challenge the Israelites faced when they crossed the River Jordan into the land of milk and honey, the first national Grow Ministries conference heard.

Keynote speaker Rev Greg Priebbenow told participants that the church is in danger of losing our faith-stories—and our children with them—in our land of milk, honey, internet and Sunday trading.

Grow Ministries is the new identity of the Lutheran Church of Australia’s Board for Child, Youth & Family Ministry, which gathered delegates from around Australia in Brisbane early in September. Rev Priebbenow had participants read and meditate on Deuteronomy 6, with its detailed instructions on how to pass on the faith.

Research shows that each young person should have five non-parent adults as faith role models in their life

‘We need to get back to the way God instructed the Israelites to pass on the faith, through multi-generational festivals of remembrance, and by sharing and being witnesses together’, Rev Priebbenow said.

‘When Jesus went to the temple as a twelve-year-old boy, he didn’t just go by himself. He went with his parents, and the whole family and village. It was a festival, an adventure. We need to make faith-life more of an adventure.

‘The church needs to apologise for saying to parents, “send your children to us and we’ll take care of the God stuff”’, Rev Priebbenow said. ‘We’ve got to help the parents make their homes… Subscribe and read the full article

 

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by Linda Macqueen

‘So, who is this new bloke with the non-German surname?’

In his sermon prior to his installation as our first bishop, John Henderson voiced the question that’s been doing laps around the LCA for months. He was stating the obvious—that his surname rings a bell of change in our church, following the distinctly Germanic names (Lohe, Grope, Steicke and Semmler) of his predecessors in the LCA’s highest pastoral office.

As we come to know him better, we’ll discover that his name isn’t the only thing that is, well, not typical of LCA leaders past and present.

John’s childhood and adolescence were grounded firmly in Lutheran culture, but from there his pathway to leadership departs from the script. It’s coloured with the sorts of experiences that make you suspect that, at every step along the way, God was preparing John for this particular role—to guide the LCA through a time of change.

For change is something John knows quite a bit about. He can’t remember a time when he thought the Lutheran Church was ‘the church’. Probably his maternal grandmother had something to do with that. ‘She was born into a Presbyterian family and married a Lutheran in a Methodist church’, John explains. In her mature years, she worshipped at the Lutheran church in Brisbane’s CBD, went to an Anglican charismatic healing service, sang in the Baptist Crusade Choir and went to Bible study at the Uniting Church.

‘But the Lutheran Church was always her home’, he says. That’s how it is for John too: ‘The church is more than us, more than the Lutheran Church. But this is my home. I’m Lutheran by upbringing, and also by choice.’

His father became a Christian when he was about 23 or 24, after…

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