So far this year I have ran various modules of Pathways with over 200 staff. That’s quite a few conversations about what it means to be a Lutheran learning community in our current context. When I ask staff to reflect on what they think is so special about their community, I hear numerous responses but the same three always seem to dominate:
- A real sense of community. Staff regularly reflect on the genuine care and support they have received personally as new members of staff, on the support they see being offered to other staff, and in particular, the extent of care and support offered to students.
- Openness and freedom. So many staff, especially those who have worked in other independent sectors, comment that although we are clearly Lutheran, we are very open to listening to and discussing other thoughts and ideas. Whether it be including someone of a different religion, curriculum content (e.g. evolution), worship, or how we respond to social issues, staff regularly comment on the openness of their community leaders to discuss such matters, which in turn provides them the freedom to engage with such matters without the fear of being judged.
- Staff get so excited sharing the special opportunities offered to students by them personally, or by their community generally. I have seen pictures of and heard about music and drama performances, outdoor education camps, acts of service, complicated creations of technology, chapel services, science experiments, published story books, wine making, student councils, works of art, animal husbandry, outdoor play spaces, just to name a few.
In his book, The gift and task of Lutheran higher education, Tom Christenson describes education shaped by the Lutheran tradition as, ‘neither closed, parochial, nor antirational, but open, free, fearless, respectful of other views and faiths, and thoroughly devoted to the whole truth.’
When staff return to your communities after a Pathways session, hopefully they return with a deeper knowledge of Lutheran theology, how it informs Lutheran education and shapes our ethos. But as Christenson points out, may they return to your communities liberated rather than constrained, that they may continue to provide the wonderful learning opportunities for our students.
Spiritual & Cultural Leader