After a two-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Conference on Lutheran Education (ACLE) was held in Melbourne earlier this month, drawing 450 in-person attendees and a further 120 people online.
The hybrid conference at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre offered an opportunity for connection and re-connection for a Lutheran education community that has faced significant challenges in the past couple of years.
The ACLE theme for 2022 was ‘One voice, many paths’. With more than 40 presenters leading sessions across the three-day event from 6 July, participants were able to hear from those currently serving in Lutheran education, as well as national and international keynote speakers.
Opening the conference, Lutheran Education Australia (LEA) Executive Director Lisa Schmidt thanked participants for their ‘passionate and dedicated service over the past few years’. ‘This is our long-awaited chance to gather as a whole again’, she said. ‘Communities need connection and nurturing – the next few days is a dedicated time for doing that.’
International speakers included Rev Dr Chad Rimmer, a Lutheran pastor who serves as the program executive for Identity, Communion and Formation at the Lutheran World Federation in Geneva, Switzerland.
Neuroscience trainer Nathan Wallis travelled from New Zealand to present a three-part series entitled ‘Engage your brain and the first 1000 days’, which was of particular interest for early childhood educators.
Attendees were asked, ‘What’s your vision for the learner and learning in 2022 and beyond in Lutheran education?’, during a collaborative session designed to inform the national initiative exploring our vision for learners and learning.
Given the experience schools have had in recent times, it was no surprise that the session ‘Me, We, Us, Wellbeing in the Workplace’, led by ‘wellbeing architect’ Natasha Rae, was in high demand and required a last-minute change to seating configuration to allow more people to attend. Natasha works at Geelong Lutheran College and, with such a positive response to her session, it is anticipated further workshops will be arranged so more people can hear her message.
On the final day, Dave Faulkner and Maddie Scott-Jones from professional learning organisation Education Changemakers prompted participants to work together in school groups to develop a plan for action and impact to take back to their schools.
Addressing conference attendees, LCANZ Bishop Paul Smith described Lutheran schooling as an integral part of the ongoing life and mission of the church. ‘While the Lutheran Church has been forming young people through its schools, Lutheran schooling has been forming the church’, he said. ‘Therefore, that makes ACLE a significant event in the Lutheran Church calendar’.
During the conference, more than 160 current staff members were honoured for having served Lutheran education for 30 or more years.
The recognition covers all staff of Lutheran schools and early learning centres who have served for three decades or more. Recipients had their photos shown on a digital kiosk in the ACLE exhibition hall, seen by attendees during conference break times, and have been sent a handwritten thank-you note by Lutheran Education Australia.
One teacher whose service was highlighted said, ‘being recognised for 30 years’ service is quite an honour but we teach and serve because we love to and not for the kudos’.
‘We work in partnership with each other and the parents who entrust their children to us’, the teacher said. ‘If we look at this milestone as a way of recognising the many years of God’s blessings and guidance, and the many wonderful colleagues, students, parents and congregational members we have met along the way, I am okay with it!’
At the conclusion of the conference, the ACLE candle was extinguished and handed to Lutheran Education Queensland, which will host the next triennial event in 2025.
Kate Bourne is LEA Administration Assistant.