by Helen Beringen

To Rosemary Lange, it looked almost like a blue waterfall coming towards the vineyard where she was waiting for her husband Kevin to appear from among the hundreds of blue shirt-clad walkers.

Kevin’s key supporter for almost 56 years of married life, Rosemary stood with her walker to witness the wash of blue t-shirts wind its way down the walking trail from Redeemer Lutheran School in Nuriootpa right past the Lange’s vineyards in South Australia’s Barossa Valley.

It was May this year, and the vineyard was three kilometres into the 26-km trek of the Australian Lutheran World Service education fundraiser for refugee children, Walk My Way. Then she spotted Kevin.

‘As she looked up, she said it was like a waterfall as we were all wearing the blue Walk My Way shirts’, recalls vigneron Kevin. ‘I managed to give her a kiss – made all the others jealous!’

The 83-year-old continues: ‘My wife is a bit of an inspiration to me. She’s had cancer and had both hips and both knees replaced, and she is still out here supporting me in whatever I want to do.’

Mobility issues and past illness hadn’t stopped Rosemary from cheering on Kevin, the oldest of 650 walkers to complete the full 26-kilometre walk, a fundraising effort helping more than 7300 refugee children in East Africa go to school for a year. (Across all walks around Australia in 2021, LCANZ members and friends have so far raised more than $340,000 – enough to help send more than 13,000 children to school.)

Accompanied by his 16-year-old grandson Halen, Kevin raised $800, even though a week out from the event he had not sought sponsors.

‘On the Wednesday before the walk, I was checking my email and up popped a donation’, Kevin says. By the end of that day, there were about $200 to $300 in donations.

‘When we got to the halfway mark of the walk, I kept getting text messages from my wife saying we had collected several hundred more in donations.

‘For that, I’ve got to thank the people who opened up their hearts and their wallets, as that was not my original intention. We were just going to do it and put a couple of children through school.’

And even months after the event, donations haven’t stopped, with an additional $100 donated by a member of Kevin’s vine pruning team. That brings Kevin’s fundraising total enough to support more than 34 students!

‘When I spoke with our Cambodian pruners to say I was going to talk to The Lutheran about the walk and raising money for refugee children in Africa, I received another $100 donation’, Kevin says. ‘I realised then that she had been in a refugee camp for about five years herself, so she wanted to donate. It just goes to show again that small seeds do grow into big trees.’

Kevin still can’t quite believe the wonderful experience that came out of the event. Plans for a group walk in 2020 had been cancelled due to COVID-19 and were replaced by fundraising walk efforts by individuals, and Kevin hadn’t really trained for it this time around. And only a few weeks before the event, Kevin had asked Halen whether he’d like to join him.

Both are members of St Petri Nuriootpa (Kevin’s a sixth-generation member, Barossa born and bred, while Halen is the seventh generation of Langes to worship there). One of Kevin’s ancestors arrived in Port Adelaide in 1846 after 90 days at sea on the George Washington.

‘We think we have it tough at the moment, but it’s nothing compared with what our pioneers had to do’, he says.

Ever since then, a branch of the family has lived in the Barossa. They remain connected to the land, where Kevin still works his 18 acre-block (7.2 hectares) and caretakes another 12 acres (4.8ha), assisted by his Cambodian friends during pruning season.

He and Rosemary had semi-retired in 2013 and have been blessed with three children, their grandson Halen, and four granddaughters.

Over the years, Kevin’s been involved in many local groups but is still involved in the Tanunda Liedertafel.This all-male choir was founded by Barossa pioneers as far back as 1850 and includes about 44 members from across the Barossa region.

Over his 83 years, Kevin has been guided by a verse from Ephesians 2:10 which reminds us that God has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.

‘We can forget that when we go out and live our life, but he’s already made preparations for what he wants us to do’, he says. ‘We can always do what is within our abilities. Give of yourself the best way you possibly can.’

 

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by Nevin Nitschke

In the cool morning air in northern Thailand, a young woman looks at green rice fields across a flowing stream, all still partly in the shadow of the forested mountains. The lush vegetation that seems intent on blanketing her Lua community village is filled with the sounds of life. So much so, that it is almost possible to hear the growth in the plants that were once home to tigers and elephants.

Khun Daw reflects on her past and the fear her family felt from the tight hold spirit doctors had on their lives. These fears were enhanced by the closeness of life in a small community, being enclosed by nature and surviving as ‘foreigners’ whose forebears came from nearby Laos less than a hundred years ago. She remembers when each day was ruled by what the spirit doctor allowed and demanded.

As Khun Daw rides her motorbike through the valley, she recalls when she first found hope – the moment that led to her freedom from fear. Even at 13 years old she knew her family was falling apart. Her father escaped the harsh reality of his life through heavy drinking, which led to constant fighting between her parents at that time.

Khun Daw’s head and stomach often ached with pain, needing regular hospital visits. The control of daily life by the village spirit doctor felt like a vice.

As she turns her bike off the main road and begins the climb up a dirt track, she remembers the moment she asked for help, not from her mother or the spirit doctor, but from an evangelist who visited their home. ‘Who is Jesus and what is the Bible?’, she had asked.

On her climb up the mountain road, she passes a marked field. It is marked to show that the spirit doctor had once forbidden crops to be planted there. It is another reminder of the fear that once controlled them. At the top of the rutted track, she stops next to a simple building that has become the heart of this community. Only three local families now don’t have a relationship with Jesus, but even they will attend the church service she is about to lead.

As Khun Daw begins to lead the worship service, she does so as part of a team of 11 evangelists. All of them know what it is to be freed from fear. Each one serves with a desire to share with their communities that there is only one God and that he gave his life for them. Fear is fading and God’s love has produced joy, trust and hope.

Nevin Nitschke is an LCA International Mission Program Officer.

For more inspiring articles about how God is changing lives of people throughout PNG and South-East Asia, go to www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories

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Former LCA President Rev Dr Lance Steicke died last month, aged 88. Dr Steicke served in the role now known as LCANZ Bishop from 1987 to 2000.

LCANZ Bishop John Henderson said Dr Steicke was ‘a respected and admired church leader’ among Lutherans in Australia, as well as in New Zealand, where he spent a significant part of his ministry. ‘We knew him not only as an inspirational leader but also as a “real person” and a caring pastor’, Bishop Henderson said. ‘He exuded the grace that is a hallmark of authentic Christian living. We are hugely indebted to him for his leadership of the LCA and his place among us as a brother in the Lord.

‘His influence spread beyond the LCA and Lutheranism. He was instrumental in the LCA’s membership of the National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) and became the first Lutheran president of the NCCA. He is well remembered as a significant participant in Australia’s ecumenical journey in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

‘On 23 July 2000, Lance joined Aboriginal Pastor George Rosendale in a public rite of reconciliation before the Convention of General Synod. This was well before the Prime Minister’s national apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008. The LCA’s current Reconciliation Action Plan follows on from, and builds upon, the work done in that period. We are thankful to Dr Steicke for his trailblazing leadership leading up to that event.’

There were further legacies of Dr Steicke’s presidency in the areas of ecumenical relations and Aboriginal reconciliation, too. He signed the Australian Lutheran – Catholic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999 and established a fund for the training of Aboriginal pastors, earmarking the offering from his farewell service towards the fund.

Lance Steicke was born in Murray Bridge, South Australia, on 19 February 1933, the son of Ewald and Olga Steicke. Baptised on 16 April 1933 and confirmed in December 1946, he attended Concordia College in Adelaide and then Concordia Seminary, graduating on 4 December 1955. He was married to Leah nee Briese on 13 December 1955 at Jindera New South Wales, and the couple had four children.

Ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia, Pastor Steicke was installed on 18 December 1955 at Loxton, South Australia, where he served until 1959. For the next 20 years, he served in New Zealand, including parishes and field missions at Hamilton, Bay of Plenty, Manawatu and Hawke’s Bay, and was president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of New Zealand for 15 years, after serving as secretary and vice-president. From 1971 to 1979 he combined district presidential duties with the role of director of New Zealand Lutheran Radio and TV. He became director of Lutheran Radio and TV in Australia in 1979, a role he served in until 1987.

In 1990, he was made an honorary Doctor of Divinity by Concordia Seminary St Louis in the USA.

After he retired from the LCA presidency, Dr Steicke served as NCCA President from 2000 to 2003, having been a foundation member of NCCA in 1994. He was honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in 2003, being made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to ecumenism through the NCCA, and to the Lutheran Church.

Dr Steicke, who died on 10 September, is survived by his children Janet, Peter, Michael and Liisa. Leah died in 2020.

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By Helen Beringen

Be careful of barbecue conversations, because you never know where they might lead! Especially if you are newly retired and have an open mind about where God might be leading you.

This was certainly true for retired Openbook Publishers (formerly Lutheran Publishing House) General Manager Warren Schirmer, 73, and his wife Marianne, 69, when they met an interesting guest at a friend’s barbecue in Adelaide back in 2010.

The guest? Lutheran Church in Singapore mission director Rev Dr William Chang, who was visiting Adelaide. And the friend hosting the barbecue was Glenice Hartwich, from LCA International Mission.

Warren says he had no plans for his future in retirement but had been convinced by friend Mal Hyde that it needed to have ‘purpose’. ‘You’ve got to have purpose in retirement’, Mal, a former Commissioner of South Australia Police, had told him. ‘After you retire it doesn’t stop there, and it’s about what you do in retirement.’

So, when Dr Chang started talking about the need for a new church plant in Cambodia, which was supported by the Singaporean church, Warren got to thinking about how he could help. Before the snags were cold, Warren had agreed to lend a helping hand. This was despite knowing little about the mission challenges in the South-East Asian country formerly ruled by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, who carried out the Cambodian genocide from 1975 to 1979.

‘Cambodia was right out of our comfort zone, but we did say yes’, Warren recalls. ‘How does the Holy Spirit work? I have been totally driven by the gospel. My family has always been involved in the church … and here was part of the church family desperately needing volunteers to support the local Lutheran church.’

The couple, married since 1979 and 40-year members of St Johns Lutheran Church at Unley in suburban Adelaide, then went on their first reconnaissance trip to Cambodia and were hooked.

‘Both of us got busy working with the Lutheran Church in Singapore’s mission and we became very closely linked personally with the Cambodians’, Warren says.

The Lutheran Church in Singapore had started a hostel for about 60 students from the provinces who wanted to go to university, providing them with a safe place to live, assistance with their university fees and ministry support.

For Warren and Marianne, a retired educator, it was all about working with the locals to provide a helping hand, while sharing the gospel. ‘Living closely to people who are first-generation Christians and seeing the excitement in their faces, it was amazing the way God works through that’, he says. ‘Despite the leadership challenges of being a young church and the need for self-determination, God is at work there.

‘With the Pol Pot regime, a whole generation was wiped out, and one of the biggest assets that Australia has is an older generation with their wisdom and time. If we are called there, why wouldn’t we do that?’

Marianne says she has a sense that we are so blessed living in Australia, that we can use the blessings that we have in any way that God might direct us. A survivor of breast cancer for 26 years, she believes that when you are given a second chance, there is a reason you’re still here, so use it.

‘Instead of asking why this happened to me, it’s “Why not me?”’, she says. ‘Why has God left me here? That is what has driven me. God’s got me here for a purpose.’

After the Schirmers reported back to the LCA Assistant to the Bishop – International Mission, Pastor Matt Anker, on 10 years of support to Cambodia, he then asked them to help with Papua New Guinea (PNG) mission work in 2019.

But their task of helping to refurbish the Gaubin Mission hospital on Karkar Island off the coast of Madang in PNG was stalled by COVID-19.

So, this year, instead of going to Cambodia or PNG, the Schirmers have bought a small caravan and are hitting the road over the next few months. And they are looking forward to using the opportunities God will show them.

‘Maybe during COVID God is calling us to be more active in the streets we live in, with our neighbours’, says Warren. ‘We are very blessed. We have our health, and we are able, so let’s just let God use us somewhere.’

If you would like to consider serving as a volunteer in mission, please phone Nevin on 08 8267 7300 or email him at lcaim@lca.org.au

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by Lisa McIntosh

Each year in The Lutheran, we introduce the wider church to the newest pastors of the LCANZ, including sharing a bit about their work and family backgrounds and their call to the ordained ministry. It is both amazing and encouraging to learn of the many different paths our shepherds have taken to get where they are today. No two are exactly alike. And God uses their experiences for his kingdom as they serve in our congregations, schools, care settings, or district or churchwide ministries.

Among the ranks of serving pastors in the LCANZ are former funeral directors and footy umpires, fast-food outlet managers and farmers, taxi (and bus) drivers and teachers, economists and engineers, scientists, business bankers, finance and IT industry specialists, medical doctors and defence force personnel, cleaners, counsellors and copywriters, retail managers and sales staff, and even a prize-winning livestock photographer. And the list goes on.

But what do these ‘former lives’ mean for present-day ministries? Do any of the skills learnt behind a fast-food or shop counter, or on a tractor, in a laboratory, factory or classroom really translate into a parish setting?

Rev Dr Dan Mueller, who has served the Walla Walla Lutheran Parish in New South Wales since 2017, thinks so. A former software engineer and research scientist who worked in the Netherlands for several years, Pastor Dan believes there are two aspects from his ‘previous life’ that God continues to use in his ministry. ‘Firstly, I always had a desire to help and heal people. This is why I specialised in medical computing’, he says. ‘In particular, I designed algorithms and wrote software used by doctors in hospitals to diagnose and treat various medical conditions including cancer. This desire to help remains in my pastoral ministry. Now I help by speaking God’s gospel word of comfort; now I heal with water, bread and wine.

‘Secondly, my time living abroad and travelling, has shown me the diversity of God’s wonderful creation. It was a thrill to meet people with vastly different stories from my own. Each culture, each person, each story, enables us as individuals and as a church collective to hear, see, know, experience God more fully.’

Pastor Matt Bishop’s own experience backs up the idea that God can use any work or vocational journey to grow his kingdom. Pastor Matt, who currently serves at Blair Athol in South Australia and was ordained in 2015, was an Economic Policy Advisor with the Commonwealth Treasury, worked in the Australian Government’s Department of Finance, was deployed to the Papua New Guinea Treasury, and managed a McDonald’s franchise and served as a kitchen hand with the fast-food giant.

‘I don’t think too much is wasted, right down to being able to use my previous “Maccas” experience to place 24 pancakes expertly on a barbecue hotplate at the local high school breakfast club our (former) congregation ran in Morley Western Australia’, he said. ‘My research and policy development skills, and my God-given inquiring mind, continue to find all sorts of applications.’

With Pastor Peter Klemm’s call to the ministry taking more than 20 years to come to fruition, he also had plenty of time to explore different occupations. Pastor Peter, who serves at Cummins on SA’s Eyre Peninsula, was a farmhand on his family’s farm after leaving school, next headed to Central Australia to work at the Finke River Mission store at Hermannsburg/Ntaria, then worked in roles including tyre-fitter, delivery driver and selling batteries, stockfeed, petrol, hardware and paint, as well as quoting jobs for tradesmen for HR Sanders in Clare in SA’s Mid-North.

Pastor Peter believes that his previous roles have helped him to be able to relate to people from all walks of life and ‘to always lean on God in all things’.

‘I believe God has placed me into ministry after moulding me over a number of years’, he says. ‘God has given me a pastoral heart, a thirst to know more about him, a willingness to listen to other people and a yearning to visit people, whether on the tractor or header, in aged-care facilities, or their homes.’

Pastor Peter Heintze also comes from a rural background and says he spent 34 years ‘wandering in the wilderness’ before studying for the ministry and being ordained in 2017.

‘God was preparing me for something that I did not think I was capable of, or even worthy’, says Pastor Peter, who serves at Coonalpyn in SA’s South-East. ‘What amazes me is how God uses our journeys through someone like me, who did not like school, left as soon as I could to work on the family farm for 20 years, which I did not like, but I did learn a lot.’

As well as having been a primary producer for two decades, Pastor Peter worked as a cleaner, a school handyman and tutor, a Community Development Employment Projects supervisor, a mining laboratory soil sampler, a Big W warehouse employee, a Centrelink work supervisor, a painter/renovator and in water compliance.

‘The different occupations, the diverse range of people I worked with, the people skills I acquired, the life experiences gained, the myriad of role models, and the power of the Holy Spirit helped to prepare me for the ordained ministry’, he says.

Another pastor who spent many years of his pre-ministry life in his family’s business is Darryl Shoesmith, who serves at Christchurch in New Zealand.

Pastor Darryl, who previously studied at Queensland Agricultural College in Gatton, worked at the college as a vet’s assistant for a year while undertaking an honours endorsement in wildlife management. The following year though, he was employed at the family firearms shop as a retail assistant.

A love of the craftsmanship of firearms and their history led to study in gunsmithing in the US in 1982 and, after returning to Australia and Shoesmith Firearms, he worked as an employee for several years and then managed the business until 2008 when he retired early.

While Pastor Darryl had given thought to studying for the ministry earlier, it was only in his fourth year of retirement, after discussions with the pastor taking his father’s funeral, that he pursued his new vocation.

And he believes his customer-service background has helped prepare him for serving a parish. ‘Dealing with, speaking with, getting to know, so many different types of people on a day-to-day basis is a good grounding because it is not just about them, but is good for knowing yourself’, he says.

Pastor Joseph Theodorsen also had customer or client-focused roles before studying for the ministry and being installed to serve Top End Lutheran Parish Northern Territory earlier this year. After attending school in Western Australia, he was a service station attendant then manager, a clerk, a recruitment consultant, a Bachelor of Education student and taxi driver who had explored the option of becoming a Specific Ministry Pastor at his home church of Geraldton before moving to Adelaide to attend Australian Lutheran College to study to become a General Ministry Pastor.

‘There are many ways God had planned for me to grow as his servant through the various roles I had before the ordained ministry’, he says. ‘Many of them were customer or client-focused, and a desire to help people was always very strong for me. Also, the wide range of people that I would interact with through these roles, particularly as a taxi driver and at the service station, was great preparation for the ministry. To have had such a large amount of experience with people from all walks of life helps in many ways.’

Like the other pastors who’ve shared their reflections here, South African-born Roelof Buitendag didn’t start out wanting to be a pastor. After a move to Australia and studies in psychology and science, his main role was as a sleep scientist, but he had also worked in casual jobs as a shop hand at a convenience store in West End, Queensland, in a bagel shop, as a bartender, hotel cleaner, sales attendant and paint mixer with Dulux Paints, bricky’s labourer, and a youth coordinator.

Pastor Roelof, who serves at Ipspwich Queensland, believes God’s will for our lives is often only ‘revealed as we walk on that journey’. ‘Everything beforehand has helped me relate to people and hopefully helped me communicate the reality and truth of the God of the Bible into the utmost needs of people’, he says.

 

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Jamie Davies, Executive Director of Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS), says it has been a privilege to shepherd the organisation through some exciting changes for more than three years. She will be leaving ALWS early next year.

The six-month transition period will allow her to complete some critical projects with the team, including re-accreditation and operational planning in line with the organisation’s new strategic directions. The lead time will also smooth the path for Jamie’s successor.

In making the announcement in late July, ALWS Board chair, Jodie Hoff, paid tribute to Jamie’s leadership, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘(Jamie’s) passion for ALWS, our church and the most marginalised and forgotten people in the world has been a blessing, building on the strong foundations laid by her predecessors, and starting with her contributions as an ALWS Board Advisor from 2012’, she said.

Born and educated in the USA, Jamie has worked in the aid and development sector for much of her adult life, including in some of the world’s most challenging countries.

‘Although my heart breaks when I see the poverty and injustice suffered by the people we reach together, I am humbled to see the Aussie and Kiwi Lutheran family bringing love to life in places and times of great challenge’, she says. ‘You’ve made my heart for ALWS grow bigger and bigger with your outpourings of love for all those doing it tough, especially during the pandemic. And I am so proud of the talented ALWS team.’

While there is much work to be done before she leaves, Jamie is looking forward to spending time with her elderly father in the USA, once borders re-open, ‘and seeing where God leads me next’.

 

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By Helen Beringen

Joy Mules was about three years old when she caught the music bug. In around 1938, the brass bands parading through the streets of Tanunda, in South Australia’s Barossa Valley, drew her away from her mother’s side to march off with one of them.

And just like the German heritage of that annual brass band competition, her rich music heritage was founded in the Lutheran Church.

The eldest of five children, Joy began learning to play the piano at eight years old and by 14 she was playing for Sunday school at the Berri-Renmark Parish in South Australia’s Riverland.

Her pastor, Ern Stolz, encouraged her to take a turn to play for the worship service, a gift she has continued to share for the past 70 years.

Now turning 86 this month, Joy is still on the organ roster at St John’s congregation Unley, where she has worshipped since moving to Adelaide from the Riverland two years ago.

Whether it’s organ music for worship services, piano accompaniment for choirs, or singing, music continues to be the lifeblood flowing through Joy’s veins.

Born in Berri in 1935, Joy grew up Glossop and was cutting apricots on the family property by the age of five.

Her interest in music was also a family affair, as the wider family had lovely singing voices and would gather monthly on a Sunday night for singsongs, she recalls.

Joy even met her husband Jim through music, at a local fundraising dance where she was making sandwiches in the kitchen for supper, as her father thought that, at 16, she was too young to attend. Jim ended up dancing her down the aisle in 1958.

‘We moved to Barmera to a fruit property where we raised our son Peter, and our two daughters Jenny and Angela, all of whom have done us proud’, Joy says. The family has now grown to include five grandchildren.

Music sustained Joy through the tough years of bringing up a family and fruit picking and pruning on the property with Jim.

Joy continued to share her musical talents in her church and community until retiring from the farm at age 70, after her husband’s passing.

‘I had to keep serving the Lord no matter what stage of life I was in’, she says. ‘I need to continue doing what I can while I can, that’s keeping me going.’

Joy has volunteered for most of her life, influenced by Christian parents. She was even her congregational delegate at the LCA’s General Synod in 1976 – four years before women received the right to vote at Synod, so she was only granted observer status.

Her church life has been full, with commitments including Sunday school teaching, church council membership and serving as chairperson. Her volunteer efforts in the broader Riverland community, which spanned sport and the arts, were recognised by an Australia Day honour in 2018 when she was named ‘Citizen of the Year’ by the Berri Barmera Council, which she describes as a ‘humbling privilege’.

That same philosophy led Joy to volunteer to raise funds to support refugee children to go to school through the Australian Lutheran World Service Walk My Way fundraiser through the town and countryside of SA’s Barossa Valley on 1 May this year.

Walking from Nuriootpa to Tanunda, Joy was the oldest registered participant, raising enough money to send almost seven refugee children to school.

Despite not being a regular walker, Joy covered just over nine kilometres, not including her training sessions with daughter Angela, who accompanied her on the walk.

‘I was halfway, and I suddenly thought, “God, please give me strength”, and he did’, Joy recalls.

That same strength still sees her on the church roster for readings, flowers and organ at St John’s Unley, as well as volunteering her time to play the piano for residents at the nearby Fullarton Lutheran Homes fortnightly and hymns in the chapel once a month.

Her husband once asked her when she was going to retire from playing the organ. Her response: ‘I’m not going to retire, why would I? God has given me this talent.’

‘I have had a few challenges throughout my journey through life and have only managed them because of my faith in my Lord and Saviour’, she says. ‘Faith is my second name.’

How fitting then, that her favourite Psalm 23 is one she’s sung at many special occasions including weddings and funerals. It is an ongoing reminder of his guidance throughout her life.

‘I always ask God to guide my fingers to play for his glory.’

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By Libby Jewson

Change is not easy and can bring fear, uncertainty and insecurity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to our home, work and worship lives, including some that we would have thought unimaginable just 18 months ago.

It has put further pressure on our faith communities, too, through church closures, ongoing but ever-changing restrictions, increasing compliance requirements and the need to re-think and adapt how we conduct and take part in worship and how we engage with and serve the communities around us.

I believe this has left many people weary – especially in my home state of Victoria – and, in some cases, they are disheartened about life and church.

Even before COVID, some people within the LCANZ expressed fears that change in the world around us would threaten the very survival of our church as we have known it. Others believe a viable future for the church comes down to whether or not we are prepared to change to connect with and minister to that ‘world’. Coupled with already-dwindling attendances in many mainstream churches, including ours prior to 2020, we may feel that we face the multi-pronged attacks of hostility from without and division within.

But it’s not all doom and gloom – far from it. We are all God’s children, and his unfathomable love is the one constant, unchanging reality for the world. Also, our Father, Son and Spirit have promised to be with us, walk alongside us and hold us in loving arms as we face the trials of life, including unexpected and unwanted changes.

And many great things are happening across the Lutheran community in Australia and New Zealand. There are indeed differences in thinking across the church about how and whether we need to change to not just survive, but thrive as we seek to further God’s kingdom. But I believe we can work together to address these differences. And I am hopeful we can do this collaboratively in a spirit of trust and respect.

From my experience in both church and professional life, I believe that managing change well and coming through the other side stronger is all about working in respectful partnerships with others, including – and even especially – those we may disagree with.

One image used to describe this partnership of ‘opposites’, is that of the place where the river meets the sea – fresh water and saltwater mingling into one body, but each still existing in its own right. It’s an image evoked in the Archie Roach song Liyarn Ngarn which, translated from the Yawuru First Nations language, literally means ‘a coming together of spirits’. It is a place of richness and vitality. It is also the metaphor used for the theme of the LCA’s Reconciliation Action Plan website (www.rap.lca.org.au).

Such collaborations of disparate partners suggest that, when we are open to and respectful in working with people of different viewpoints, each can learn from and be enriched and blessed by the other.

We also may come to humbly recognise that each person is individually gifted by God and has a role to play in bringing the good news of Christ’s saving sacrifice and love to the world, as we read in 1 Peter 4:10 (‘Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace’), 1 Corinthians 12:14 (‘For the body is not one member, but many’) and elsewhere. I am an accredited partnership broker and partnerships and system change have been passions of mine for more than two decades. Perhaps more helpfully described as a change-maker, bridge-builder or servant leader, a partnership broker is an active ‘go-between’ who supports partners in navigating their journey together by helping them to create a map, plan their route, choose their ‘mode of transport’ and change direction when necessary.

Partnerships can be reactive, adaptive or transformative. Reactive partnerships are formed as a strategy to deliver outcomes within the framework of the existing status quo – in other words, without significant change. Adaptive partnerships are designed to deliver development that occurs somewhat separate from, but alongside, the mainstream – so it will involve some change, though not likely fast or revolutionary. Transformative partnerships are intentionally created to challenge and change mainstream systems and mindsets.

The world’s longest-established organisation dedicated to multi-stakeholder partnering, The Partnering Initiative (https://thepartneringinitiative.org/), outlines the ‘partnering cycle’ in The Partnering Toolbook. This cycle goes through the phases of scoping needs and building relationships, managing and maintaining such elements as governance arrangements and partner capacities, reviewing and revising the partnership effectiveness and collaboration agreement and, finally, sustaining outcomes within partnerships. The cycle can then continue as the partnership matures and develops.

Many things can threaten productive partnerships, according to the Partnership Brokers Association (PBA), the international professional body for those managing and developing collaboration processes.

Challenges that partnerships commonly face include anxiety about differences between the partners, power imbalances, hidden agendas, competitiveness and uncertainty. In each case though, the PBA says there are core principles the partnership can adopt to address these, and benefits that result from them.

Some relationships don’t reflect partnership behaviour – there may be an imbalance in communication between the members or the intent of partnership principles may not be understood. These are simply about exchanging information or are more operational.

A genuine partnership features mutual accountability and shared risk between the partners. The partners are equal and develop goals and strategies together, paving the way for exciting and often unimaginable outcomes at the start of the partnership journey.

Of course, there are many benefits and blessings that can flow from working together in genuine partnerships, including in our church. We gain knowledge, capabilities and resilience in the face of change. Partnerships can also help each member to develop a healthy curiosity about the other member/s and a willingness to understand and learn as they work together. This helps to get rid of rushing to judgement about other ministries. And this is not a new concept; there are many examples of this happening already.

In a simple example, when congregations and families team up, aided by resources and support from district and churchwide child and youth ministries, the faith of our youngest members is nurtured. For many years, congregations have established and partnered with Lutheran schools, and work with them in mission. Partnerships can also exist between churches located in the same region, as through this collaboration they discover opportunities for projects and ministry that haven’t even been thought of yet!

So how do we use the same strategy of working in genuine, equitable partnerships when we face far more complex questions, uncertainties and change together as a church? The development of a partnership agreement derived using a collaborative process and the framework as outlined allows for this. Once the partners begin to follow the principles and work together, there is no end to the projects that could develop and exciting opportunities that may arise.

The key is to recognise that it is only through God’s grace that we can hope to put aside our will and prayerfully seek to follow his leading together, especially when circumstances change. Then we can explore ways in which partnerships could provide opportunities for the unforced rhythms of grace (Matthew 11:28–30) – continually coming in to Jesus’ rest and going out in his grace. Working together is always more effective than working in silos.

We will hear God’s voice through the partnership as we put aside our differences to work together and seek to do his will. Are there more opportunities that we have not yet taken up as a church where we can adopt a partnership approach?

A member at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church North Geelong, Victoria, Libby Jewson has worked in organisation and systems design, agency partnerships, leadership and management and, most recently, leadership in the family violence sector. She also has extensive experience in multi-sector and multi-organisational partnerships. She is the chair of the Greater Geelong Lutheran Forum, which brings together the leaders and pastors of three Lutheran parishes, Geelong Lutheran College and Araluen Lutheran Camp, to explore opportunities to do things better together that they can’t do alone.

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On 6 July, in a first for the LCANZ’s General Pastors Conference (GPC), participants met online for the triennial meeting with a slimmed-down agenda. The conference leaders and IT support team broadcast the conference from the boardroom in the Churchwide office in North Adelaide, with 202 pastors logged on from their homes or offices. Some pastors gathered in regional hubs.

Pastors voted using the OpaVote platform, which will also be used for the online session of Convention of General Synod in October. Once the IT support team had assisted some pastors with a variety of issues, all pastors were able to fully participate in the voting process.

The 151 pastors who have been appointed as General Synod delegates elected nominees for the positions of LCANZ Bishop and Assistant Bishop. Pastors Matt Anker and Paul Smith each received the prescribed minimum of 25 per cent of the votes to become nominees for bishop. Pastors Neville Otto and Stephen Pietsch were nominated by the pastor delegates for the role of assistant bishop. The incumbents, Bishop John Henderson and Assistant Bishop Andrew Pfeiffer, did not make themselves available for nomination for re-election. All General Synod delegates, lay and ordained, will vote for the bishop and assistant at the first session of Convention, to be held online in October.

Dr Andrew Pfeiffer, Chair of GPC, based his opening message to pastors on 2 Timothy 4:5: ‘But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all your duties of your ministry.’

Speaking of the demands and challenges of contemporary pastoral ministry and the potential flow-on effects of fear, anxiety and discouragement, Dr Pfeiffer said: ‘We endure in the difficult time because Christ is at work, both in us and in the lives of others through our ministry. There is no pastoral theology of glory here. Pastors live and work as theologians of the cross, and the pastoral ministry can be marked by hardship, difficulty and even persecution.’

Four hours of Continuous Education for Pastors (CEP) was offered through an exegetical paper by ALC lecturer Dr Stephen Hultgren, as well as two pastor panels covering the topics: ‘Pastoral Responses to COVID Challenges’, and ‘Reflections on Pastoral Supervision’.

Pastor Mathew Ker, GPC Secretary, noted that the experience of an online conference demonstrated both the successes and limitations of this format.

‘We were able to complete work that didn’t rely on open and complex dialogue, such as the elections’, he said, but added that ‘such a one-way event would make more comprehensive dialogue difficult.’

The decision to go online for Synod was made only weeks prior to GPC, due to the increasing risk of COVID restrictions, and GPC likewise went online. Dr Pfeiffer thanked the team of almost 20 people, including the LCA IT team, who ‘made it happen’.

Pastors have been asked to provide feedback on the online GPC in order to assist LCANZ event planning teams, including the General Synod planning team, to create the best possible online conference experiences.

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by Helen Beringen

It’s hard to go past a friendly smile greeting you at the door before Sunday worship, or that warm cup of tea or coffee after service.

Isn’t that what makes our faith communities welcoming? Whether new faces or regulars, being made to feel welcome is how we connect as a community.

And, if welcomers are the bricks, then the post-worship conversation and coffee is the mortar.

Every week around Australia and New Zealand, parishioners young and old are rostered on to ensure worshippers are welcomed into God’s house.

Morning tea rituals may have had to adapt in light of health precautions in the current COVID climate, but despite the challenges of sharing food under a pandemic-safe regime, the invitation to talk over a beverage is an important sign of a welcoming community.

Enter the hundreds of folks who, on any given Sunday, have put their hands up to help out.

Our worship life would be the poorer without every person who puts their name on a congregational roster.

In many cases, the same faces have been saying ‘g’day’ or pouring the drinks for decades.

One such couple is Grace and Les Dodt, who celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on July 14 this year. In their current parish of St Pauls Townsville, in north Queensland, the pair had spent most of their 20 years there on the greeting and morning tea rosters until COVID-19 restrictions interrupted worship services in 2020.

Baking for morning tea was Grace’s forte and she is still baking for family members. ‘All my life I have loved cooking and baking, and I still love cooking’, Grace says. ‘We have a cooked breakfast and a hot lunch every day.’

Even though home-cooked goodies are off morning tea menus at some churches for the moment, that doesn’t stop Grace from baking at home, especially for her family.

‘I just love my six grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren’, she says. They have a daughter, Kaylene, in Townsville and their son, Russell, lives in Tasmania.

When The Lutheran caught up with Grace, 90, and husband Les, 96, there was an apricot jam slice in the oven ready to share at a family lunch with Kaylene and her family.

Family was the reason for their move to Townsville 20 years ago.

Before that, they ushered, baked and boiled kettles at another St Pauls congregation, this time in Toowoomba on Queensland’s Darling Downs.

As a couple who were brought up and married in the Lutheran church, the Dodts have always been active in church life.

Both grew up in Queensland’s Lockyer Valley, with Grace raised at Minden, mid-way between Brisbane and Toowoomba, and Les in nearby Gatton.

It was a church synod that brought them together when they were introduced by Les’s cousin Ron, who was a synod delegate billeting with Grace’s family in 1948. The pair married after a three-year courtship, settling first on Les’s family farm near Ropeley before moving to Toowoomba, where Les worked for 36 years in the Northern Australia Breweries’ malt factory. He even received a gold watch for his efforts!

Grace loved volunteering with The Good Samaritan op shop run by the local Toowoomba and Darling Downs ladies guild, where different congregational members were rostered on to assist in the bargain shop, and where she made many friends.

Then there was ladies guild, choir, flowers, baking and the cradle roll. Like volunteers in church communities around Australia and New Zealand, Grace and Les have been on the church roster almost all of their married life.

‘I love serving God and my fellow man’, Grace shares. She loves music too, choir singing and playing the organ and piano. But nerves and age have kept her from playing in church. Greeting and ushering have been Les’s favourite volunteer jobs. ‘I’ve liked welcoming strangers especially’, he says.

While the pair are now starting to slow down, they remain in good health and are still both able to drive themselves to church each Sunday.

While no longer on the roster, they remain welcoming to all at St Pauls – being part of the worship community is an important part of their lives.

‘It is very important, as it makes people feel at home’, says Les.

So together, after 70 years of marriage, they remain fruitful, just as Psalm 92:14 reminds us that, ‘in old age they still produce fruit’.

 

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