It is no secret that Victor Harbor Lutheran Church is an ‘ageing’ congregation, but that hasn’t stopped its members from connecting with the local school community at Encounter Lutheran College.
In May and June, 10 members from the church accompanied the school on a journey to Central Australia, joining more than a dozen students and staff members.
For a week and a half, congregational members used their skills to support the school group, cooking daily meals and even taking the students on a 4WD adventure to Palm Valley.
The church members’ involvement was a result of conversations between Encounter Lutheran College Principal Kelvin Grivell and Pastor Andrew Vanderwal from Victor Harbor. Both are passionate about growing the partnership between the church and the school.
“There’s been a long-standing relationship with the school since it was formed. In fact, the church was very actively involved in forming the school,” Pastor Andrew said.
“Now, we are looking for real and relevant ways of church and school coming together and this seemed to be one.
“We (the church) went in with a general approach, not proselytising. We were just seeking to serve the kids and be there for them and the staff as best we could.”
Judy Tscharke was one church member who travelled with the group. She said it was an opportunity to break down perceptions.
“It was a great way for us to show that we’re just normal people,” Judy said. “We didn’t really get the opportunity to talk for very long (with the students) because we were busy, but they were a great bunch of kids, they really were.”
Another church member, Vic Walter, was able to connect with some of the students during the drive to Palm Valley, where the students camped by a fire in swags.
“Driving out to Palm Valley was actually the best time for me and interacting with the kids,” Vic said. “I even had a kick of the footy with them at some point.”
The trip was Encounter College’s first to Central Australia and was open to students from years 9, 10 and 11. Its aim was to give students the opportunity to connect with the Arrernte people at Hermannsburg and grow in their life experiences. As well as Palm Valley, students also visited Alice Springs, Uluru and Coober Pedy.
A highlight for many of the students was the Sunday church service at Hermannsburg and learning about the history of the Lutheran mission.
“We went to the church and saw the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir and that was pretty good,” year 11 student Harrison Grenfell said. “A couple of us had done our assignments on them in stage one Aboriginal Studies.”
Year 10 student Sam Tummel said he enjoyed watching the service in both English and the local language, admitting he didn’t know much about Hermannsburg before going on the trip.
“When the opportunity came up, mum asked me if I wanted to go and I thought it would be a good experience,” Sam said.
Encounter Lutheran College is hoping to return to Central Australia every two years, while Victor Harbor Lutheran Church is continuing to explore other ways of serving and connecting with the school.