Zion Lutheran Church Gnadenberg, in South Australia, is a little church with a big heart and a passion for seeing the gospel preached throughout the LCA.
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Zion Lutheran Church Gnadenberg in South Australia’s Barossa Valley has never had an LCA pastor from its ranks. So, about 20 years ago, Zion members decided to support a pastoral ministry student during his studies.
Since that time, the congregation of 32 has supported four Australian Lutheran College (ALC) – formerly Luther Seminary – students. With a little help from their friends at Zion, pastors Keith McNicol, Greg Fowler, Tim Ebbs and Geoff Schefe have graduated, been ordained and begun serving the church in parish ministry.
Gnadenberg is now backing second-year student Chris Johnson.
Zion chairperson Andrew Koch says the congregation particularly aims to help students from ‘further afield’, without family support nearby. The project has contributed around $12,500 in monetary gifts toward student expenses over the years.
‘It’s not only financial support – it’s also prayer support and we try to have them up a few times a year engaging with different members of the congregation, so that by the end of their course they feel at home with the congregation’, he says. ‘It’s also about friendship, mentorship and all of those sorts of things.’
And Chris Johnson is from about as far ‘further afield’ as you could get, hailing from Walla Walla, Washington, in the United States. His Lutheran origins are solely within the LCA, since moving to Australia in 2005.
Gnadenberg raises funds through an annual auction following a winery church service and lunch at Henschke Cellars in nearby Keyneton. Each family from Gnadenberg is asked to donate an item, with visitors often contributing, too.
Chris says Gnadenberg’s gesture of support is incredibly moving.
‘Seeing a community come together and act in God’s stead fills me with hope for the future’, Chris says. ‘People talk about the LCA getting smaller and ageing but the people that we have are just amazing. I hear talk about “What do we need to change to become relevant?” I just feel that’s the wrong question. It’s “What do we need to celebrate?”’
While Andrew believes Gnadenberg was the first congregation to support an individual pastoral ministry student, there have been others since. Hobart Lutheran Church chairperson Juergen Evers says his congregation regards its backing of students as ‘part of its outreach program’.
To find out how you or your congregation can support pastoral ministry students, contact ALC Business Manager Barclay Watson at email@example.com or on 08 7120 8250.
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