This year, Lutheran Students and Friends celebrates its 60th anniversary—although it hasn’t always been called that. Just like its name, the group has evolved over the years to reflect its changing aims and environment.
In 1944 a study group for tertiary students belonging to the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Australia (UELCA) had already been operating for a while. Under the leadership of Dr Siegfried Hebart and Pastor Karl Muetselfeldt, it started to adopt a more formal structure.
The two pastors wanted to gather together young Lutheran men and women studying at university in order to ‘foster among them an interest in their Lutheran church’ and inspire a sense of special responsibility as university-educated men and women within the church. These visionaries aimed also to equip the young people for lay leadership, to give them opportunity to discuss problems of university students and their bearing on Lutheran faith and to equip them to meet challenges to their faith. Finally, they wanted to provide a place for ‘fellowship’ among the students. (We all know what they really meant by that … wedding bells!)
The Lutheran Study Group met regularly, initially in the home of Dr Hebart (with delicious food provided by his wife, according to the minutes). Topics for discussion ranged from ‘The Word of God’, ‘Faith and Science’ to ‘The Modern University’ and ‘The Lutheran Church and Dancing’. Each topic was recorded in detail in the minute books—so diligently in fact, that they note, ‘the lengthy minutes were listened to with commendable patience, and received’.
In September 1953 a debate was held ‘that this House considers the Lutheran Study Group not worthwhile attending’, with the intention of thinking through the group’s purpose. The group had been in hiatus from the end of 1948, resuming again in 1952.
Speaking for the affirmative, Les Doecke and Lance Otto defeated opponents Ted Prenzler and John Sabel by demonstrating that a clear need for such a group existed, albeit in a more effective format.
The UELCA group had been holding its meetings at Immanuel Seminary in North Adelaide but it was generally felt that it could become more effective as a society within Adelaide University. So an application was made to the Student Representative Council. The study group executive was left to choose a suitable name, and Lutheran Student Fellowship (the first LSF) was born.
LSF held its first meeting—a ‘welcome evening to freshers’—at Adelaide University on 22 March 1954. Pastor Erich Renner noted that this was the first time ‘a body of Lutheran students had been organised as a group within an Australian University’. He hoped that LSF would assist students to see that they needed their church and that they also had a part to play within it. LSF was to offer a place for discussion of problems common among Lutheran students and to offer solutions to these problems.
From the beginning an array of services were provided, including opportunities for spiritual and intellectual growth and for social activities.
Christmas holiday reading lists were set for members ‘in order that [they] might gain a deeper understanding of the teachings of [their] Church and Christianity in general’. Hikes were arranged in order to ‘get rid of that intellectual stagnation produced by exams’.
By the mid-1950s there were lunch-hour meetings, evening meetings, twice-weekly morning devotions, retreats and camps. The study circle in the early 1950s was held on Saturday nights, despite it being ‘a “bad” time for those who usually set the night aside “for such engagements which are not to be treated lightly”, [there’s that sound of wedding bells again] but as “the free and independent” were in the majority those under an obligation were overruled’.
LSF groups were established in all Adelaide tertiary institutions, including Wattle Park Teachers College (opening in 1956), Adelaide Teachers College, Flinders University and Western Teachers College, before spreading rapidly across the nation. In 2011 Victoria’s LSF reached its 50-year milestone.
In the mid-1960s an LSF songbook was published, demonstrating the social and fun-loving side of the organisation. A wide range of songs was then at hand for camps, hikes, and socials. The songbook included folk, Australian and spiritual genres, all with a ‘distinctly LSF-ian flavour’.
With a burgeoning ministry, it became clear that a dedicated chaplain and a meeting point on the Adelaide University campus was required. In 1955 an office was provided in the Union building. The spiritual advisers were Dr Henry Hamann Jnr and Pastor Rolph Mayer. Unfortunately, the pressure of work forced Pastor Mayer to relinquish his duties in that same year, though not his interest.
In 1958 Dr Henry Hamann Jnr became the first official part-time chaplain. By 1966 there was a strong push for the role to be full-time. Pastor John Sabel fulfilled this role for 17 years, Pastor Peter Close for six years and Pastor Mike Pietsch for 19 years. Last year Pastor Peter Miller followed in their footsteps, taking on the role of tertiary chaplain and expanding this ministry within a changing and challenging university environment.
(LSF became known as Lutheran Students and Friends around 2004, reflecting casual usage for several years, but in its constitution the official name was changed to LSF South Australia Inc, allowing for the use of both titles.)
Rachel Kuchel is LCA Archivist.