In the September-October term holidays, I was privileged to undertake an indigenous immersion experience in Central Australia with twenty-six senior secondary students. This immersion program was instigated and coordinated by a dedicated staff member at St Peters and used an outside provider Red Earth that specialises in these school trips for logistical support and staff. For nine nights we slept in swags under a spectacularly shining Centralian sky. Our group spent time in two homelands with traditional owners (TOs) who shared their knowledge, culture, language, food and land. Our students appreciated the generous hospitality of the TOs, the time they spent teaching something of their culture, their warm-heartedness and their openness to respond to questions.
Since coming back to the rush of school, some of the students have reflected on their immersion experience in chapels, assembly and with their parents at a debrief evening and presentation. An immersion experience like this is one of the most powerful formation experiences we can give students or staff. Immersing ourselves in the culture, people, land and struggles of other peoples can make this sort of learning deep, lifelong and transformational. The trip including an encounter with the police and a visit to a police station in the APY lands gave students a small taste of the complexities facing indigenous people in this part of our country.
A highlight for me was catching up with a friend from seminary days in Adelaide who has spent all of his ministry in Central Australia or the Top End, Basil Schild. Basil is currently a chaplain at Yirara College and kindly on short notice spoke to our immersion students while we had a slither of time in our itinerary in Alice Springs. From Basil students heard a positive story of the Lutheran mission to Aboriginal people in Central Australia. Like the master storyteller he is, Basil engagingly told the history of the Hermmansburg missionaries Kempe, Schwartz and Schultz, how they arrived at Ntaria. And how Carl Strehlow recorded the language and customs of the Arrernte people like no one else at the time or ever since has.
What does formation look like for a staff member in a Lutheran school? By that, I mean what does a spiritual-theological experience of formation looks like that helps shape a person's understanding of why we do what we do in a Lutheran school? Does a formation experience in a Lutheran school look like staff undertaking the official LEA Connect program? Is it about their induction into a new school setting? Or what about a staff member's engagement in a school's worship life, be that a chapel service or staff or class devotion? These situations can indeed be formational experiences for staff new to a Lutheran school, but they are not what I would argue is deep intentional formation.
A truly intentional formation experience for staff in a Lutheran school involves transformation. Transformation by the gospel as a person's heart is shaped by God. Formation in a Lutheran school is not just about being informed by the gospel, but it is being reformed and transformed, personally, professionally and vocationally.
Over the last year, I have undertaken postgraduate research into the formation of staff in Lutheran schools. Part of my human research involved a case study of a Lutheran school where I interviewed two teachers and the principal and pastor. In these interviews, one formation story of transformation stood out to me. This formation story involved a complete change of mindset for one of the teachers regarding their attitude to the weekly compulsory staff devotion. When this teacher first arrived at the school, they were frustrated that prime time at the start of the school day was used for staff devotions. However, gradually God broke through this person’s attitude and heart as they came to a change of mind. This teacher learnt to deeply value this time with fellow staff members listening to God's word, praying, reflecting and being still together before the rush of the school day.
Formation experiences in Lutheran schools like this one involve much more than information. They involve a transformation of the heart as people engage with the gospel and are changed by the Holy Spirit.
About this site
"Meditations & Musings" is my humble attempt to share what I have found useful in ministry in an Australian Lutheran School setting. It contains chapels, devotions and other resources I have written, used and adapted in my K-12 school context. If you would like to also share your ideas, resources or start a conversation about mission and ministry in your church- school location, feel free to contact me.
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