Bishop Paul’s letter
Rev Paul Smith
Bishop, Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand
At a General Convention of Synod at Luther College in Melbourne, I found myself sitting beside Adrienne Jericho. Not only was Adrienne serving as our church’s Executive Director of Lutheran Education Australia at the time, but in 1978 he had also been my Scripture teacher when I was a Year 11 student at St Peters Lutheran College at Indooroopilly in Queensland. So, I felt quite honoured to be sitting with him.
During a regular break in proceedings, Adrienne and I were talking about the impact of Lutheran schooling and how it had been forming our Lutheran Church, both here in Australia and in New Zealand. We wondered how many ‘green cards’ would be held up if Adrienne asked delegates to hold up their Synod voting card if they had themselves attended a Lutheran school?
In the next session of convention, Adrienne did exactly that. At the microphone for his presentation, he asked delegates, ‘Please hold up your green card if you attended a Lutheran school’. Green cards were held up everywhere across the assembly. But then Adrienne went further. He said, ‘Keep those cards up. Now, please hold up your green card if your children or grandchildren are attending or have attended a Lutheran school’. A whole host of additional voting cards were held up. Finally, he asked, ‘Would you hold up your card if you are a delegate representing a community that includes a Lutheran school?’ Even more cards went up until there was a virtual sea of green across the convention. This wonderful moment at that Synod reveals the profound presence of Lutheran schooling in forming the life of our Lutheran Church.
As a church, we establish schools and early childhood services to educate young people in the name of the Lord, bearing witness to the students, parents, teachers and friends of our schools, as we provide quality teaching and learning. While we have been forming young people through Lutheran schooling, Lutheran schooling has been forming us as a church.
As I write these words for you, Lutheran educators and the people of our Lutheran schools and early learning communities are getting ready for ‘ACLE’ in Melbourne. This is our church’s Australian Conference on Lutheran Education begun in 1999, gathering women and men in educational ministries from all parts of the Lutheran Church and from around the world. Participants at ACLE enter into robust, purposeful and creative professional development together to improve the learning experience of the young people and families involved in our school and early learning communities.
During these past years of the pandemic, we have seen extraordinary growth in our Lutheran schools. Across the church, school enrolment numbers have broadly increased despite the great difficulties of lockdown and illness. This is certainly the result of diligent planning and management by our school councils, our staff and our school communities. But we must pause and give thanks especially for the faithful witness and service of the women and men who are our Lutheran school principals.
Let us pray for God’s blessing on the ongoing work of our Lutheran schools as our gracious God continues to form young people through our schools and early learning communities, and as our gracious God continues to form our Lutheran Church through our Lutheran schools.
Personally, I thank God that I have been formed by so many of our Lutheran school communities. God gathered me into our church through the witness of a Lutheran school community; I have served as school pastor in four Lutheran schools, in three of those as the full-time college pastor; my three children attended Lutheran schools to grade 12; and my wife Heidi also attended Lutheran schools to grade 12 and is a trained Lutheran secondary school teacher.
I thank God for the blessing that is Lutheran schooling and Lutheran early childhood services.
‘Lord Jesus, we belong to you,
you live in us, we live in you;
we live and work for you –
because we bear your name’