What were you doing three weeks on from New Year’s Eve 2019? Can’t remember? It was staff week in schools across Queensland and grown folk in schools were scurrying in mind and body, anticipating the flood of small folk who would soon be upon them. Meanwhile… there was the business of retreating going on in Lutheran schools scattered across the countryside.
Sometimes we get so bogged down in achieving and acquiring the resources to pay for the bills (and whatever habits of fun we have!) that we don’t stop to consider the bigger questions. And… we don’t stop to listen.
And yet it is flourishing to which we have been called. God’s vision for us is that we flourish. I sometimes wonder if it is the busyness of our lives which is the most potent challenge to fully living the flourishing life to which we have been called. My question then is, how do we, in our Lutheran learning communities, make space for questions, and to see and hear again of God’s Grace and the vision of life which God has for us.
A number of our schools began the year, ‘retreating’, making space to ask questions about the nature of the life God invites us to, and giving space to listen to God, to our own hearts and to one another.
It was thrilling, challenging and deeply inspiring to work with a number of LEQ schools planning and facilitating staff retreats in the opening days of 2019. Explored within the paradigm that our Lutheran spirituality is grounded in the Grace of God, retreats gave an opportunity for Pilgrimage, Prayer and Perspective.
The word ‘retreat’ would be diversely understood amongst any group of people, but these three concepts and practices of pilgrimage, prayer & perspective which inform the design of such days connect us back to scripture and to the practices Jesus showed us.
Pilgrimage reminds us that retreat involves drawing aside from the everyday… that we will be invited to undertake a journey, possibly in the physical sense, but certainly in the personal or spiritual sense. The beauty of the natural and human environments at Women’s College UQ, Santa Teresa Spirituality Centre Ormiston, Luther Heights and Murphy’s Creek campsite, beautifully and powerfully invited participants to be fully present in a special place with their school community where new journeys were a possibility.
It is always tempting to fill such days with information, activities, experiences, talk… and the list goes on. But what is needed more than ever in our lives today are places of stillness and silence. It is in these places that we can begin to listen. The Gospel writers repeatedly tell us that Jesus got up early to pray. That Jesus retreated from the crowds to pray. Many of us ‘don’t do’ stillness and silence. And yet it is these listening opportunities which school staff describe over and again as some of the most powerful experiences of staff retreat. I was in awe of the way folk grabbed these opportunities for quiet reflection with both hands and I am reminded of Elijah’s story that God was not in the storm and the wind but in the sound of silence…Retreating is being called to prayer… especially the listening kind of prayer…
When we’re in the midst of the intensity of life, sometimes it’s difficult to find perspective. Whatever is looming large for us prevents us from seeing and hearing other perspectives. Retreat time away from the everyday provides an opportunity to privilege listening, and in so doing, we can gain new perspectives which in turn can lead to transformation and new life. It was truly a privilege to share in some of these retreat journeys where staff in our schools had time to see and imagine life in another way. A refugee’s story… a CSIRO scientist’s perspective… a nun who was on track to the Olympics, a first century religious zealot’s epiphany, an artist’s eye. These were a few of the stories which were heard by folk in our schools… I continue to wonder what perspectives were shaped by these encounters?
I know that other spiritual nurture opportunities were happening in our schools too. Thank you to those who have shared and inspired us to make space to encounter God’s grace and voice in our lives.
I invite you to share with our LEQ community your community stories of experiences which allow for spiritual reflection and learning, which affirm a spirituality of grace and which remind us that our God invites us, and the children with whom we work, to a flourishing life, nurtured by spaces for prayer, pilgrimage and perspective.
Director of Identity & Formation
Here are some of your stories…
Grace to grow through story, empathy & boundary crossing
The power of story is a truly amazing thing. It was a terrific way to open our minds and hearts to the ‘other’ while reflecting on our own story and God’s story. Story allows us to see things from another’s point of view with empathy and compassion. The retreat gently challenged us to cross boundaries and consider the power of story in our own lives and in the classroom. Jodie Hoff, LORDS test
Our school theme for 2019 is BELIEVE with the following Bible verse from Mark 5:36 to accompany it, “Don’t be afraid, just believe!”. The St Paul’s staff attended an overnight retreat at Luther Heights as a way of coming together, reflecting, growing our faith journey, collaborating and just having fun. We invited Pastor David Schmidt to lead our spiritual focus as we were quite intentional in allowing our school’s pastoral care and spiritual leaders the opportunity to be part of receiving and growing with the staff. David led a rich, interactive and reflective session with a strong focus on the Apostle’s Creed which ties in perfectly with our theme song for 2019. “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” John 1 5:16 affirmed us as a staff and our selfless calling as a learning community this year. Anton Prinsloo, St Pauls Lutheran Primary School
An Earth Care Journey…reflections on stewardship
Stewardship is: love in action; being consciously aware ; to be an advocate ; to care for those in need; to protect; Making others aware; Not using more than we need; Taking care of God’s creation ; Sustainability; Respecting our heritage ; nurturing the world God created ; Respect for the environment and the responsibility to sustain it ; Investigating the nature of God’s world and the inter connections ; Making a conscious effort to make appropriate changes; Being caretakers of God’s creation ; A Long term perspective ; Collaboratively making change… Peace Gatton Staff
Eat. Pray. Celebrate.
At St Peters, we were blessed to be able to take some time out at the start of the busy year, to retreat and set the tone for the coming year. The purpose of the retreat day was threefold: to build our connection with ourselves, with each other, and with God. The theme of “Eat, Pray, Celebrate: exploring grace spaces” allowed us to do just that, to celebrate God’s gifts to us as we ate together, worshiped together, and investigated and celebrated the various gifts of grace that God has given us: the gifts of service and community, of creation and creativity, of relationships and restoration. Groups had opportunity to investigate their chosen topic, and to reflect through activities such as walking the labyrinth, creative journaling, artwork and meditative walks. Kirstin Munchenberg, St Peters Lutheran College