Staff, students and supporters of Australian Lutheran College (ALC) from around Australia were able to participate in ALC’s 2020 commencement event last week, thanks to modern technology.
Branded as the Opening Conversation, the innovative interactive presentation explored the topic: ‘ALC exists in partnership to serve with the LCA/NZ’. It replaced the traditional opening lecture by a college staff member as the official start to the new academic year.
The Opening Conversation featured addresses given by LCA/NZ leaders, followed by a question and answer session. Those attending ALC’s North Adelaide campus and those watching the livestreamed event via the internet could pose questions to the panellists, the latter via Twitter.
Introduced by ALC Principal James Winderlich and facilitated by LCA Secretary of the Church Dr Nigel Long, the Opening Conversation featured Lutheran Education Australia Director Associate Professor Lisa Schmidt, NSW District Bishop Robert Bartholomaeus, Church Worker Support Department Manager Dr Chris Materne and Executive Officer – Local Mission Dr Tania Nelson.
Pastor Winderlich said the driving motivation behind the Opening Conversation was for the college and the church to be ‘learning together’.
‘This is an … opportunity for us to hear, to reflect and then to shape our own actions around the church’s learning, service and witness’, he said. ‘Under the church’s direction, our college exists to provide, advance, promote and celebrate Lutheran theological learning for diverse vocational development, leading to service in the LCA/NZ and among its national and international partners.’
Pastor Bartholomaeus spoke of the need for ‘mission pastors’ to come out of ALC, describing these as pastors with ‘a different attitude’, who are ‘learners’, ‘listeners’ and who are ‘flexible’.
‘In NSW we estimate 17 of our 53 churches are at risk of closure if some miraculous intervention does not occur in the very near future’, he said. ‘Meanwhile, we have churches which are making the turnaround, thanks to mentoring from the New and Renewing Churches department, and the creative power of God. In NSW we need mission pastors to continue to nurture what has grown. We need church leaders to give the churches at risk the possibility of renewal and regeneration.’
Dr Nelson spoke about the elements of partnership between ALC and the LCA’s five local mission departments – Cross-Cultural Ministry, Grow Ministries, Ministry with the Ageing, New and Renewing Churches and Lutheran Media – both in terms of what has happened in the past and future possibilities.
Associate Professor Schmidt said Lutheran schools and early childhood services valued learning as ‘God’s gift to people for their wonder, growth, and to inspire them to respond to the needs of the world’.
Regarding what Lutheran Education Australia looks for from ALC, she said: ‘Ongoing learning for all – leaders, teachers, pastors, chaplains, support workers, governors – leading to critical, analytical, creative, ethical and loving decision-making in new and emerging complex environments … underpinned by a deep understanding of what we believe.’
Dr Materne also emphasised the need for lifelong learning for all who serve the church, whether as pastors, lay workers, other employees or volunteers. ‘Continual learning fuels individual and community growth which helps equip us to share the promise in the message of the gospel that never changes’, she said.
ALC is inviting project submissions from anyone who wishes to extend and advance the inquiry begun by the Opening Conversation. A bursary of $AU1500 each will be provided for a maximum of three inquiry projects of a publishable standard. For further information including project criteria, go to www.alc.edu.au and click on 2020 Opening Conversation under News on the homepage, email email@example.com or phone 1800 625 193. A recording of the Opening Conversation is also available via the ALC website.
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