Over the long weekend, together with other family members, I travelled to the small town of Walla Walla in the southern Riverina of NSW to participate in the 150th anniversary celebrations of this community. This township was the birthplace of my mother and also the place where I commenced my journey as a teacher in Lutheran schools at St Paul’s College.
The weekend comprised of rekindling friendships and storytelling. The rich history of the beginnings of the township stem back to 56 people who made the trek 150 years ago from Ebenezer in the Barossa Valley to start a new life in this region. The story comprised of stoicism, strong unswerving faith in God’s guidance and provision, joys, tribulations, despair and hope.
In every culture and every religion, stories have played critical roles in constituting meaning, constructing identity, and prescribing behaviour. Story telling is the oldest form of education. People around the world throughout history have told stories as a way of passing down their cultural beliefs, traditions and history to future generations. Why?
Stories are at the core of all that makes us human. We dream, remember, anticipate, reflect, hope, doubt, despair, believe, plan, critique, construct, learn and love in narrative.
Narratives can be very powerful as they can trap and ensnare, but they may also be used as a vehicle to heal. We can reshape our ever-after ending by changing the tone of our story.
Growing deep – (Leadership and formation framework for all staff in Lutheran learning communities) has as one of its vocational practices: Strengthening Lutheran identity
Lutheran schools and early childhood services, as agencies of the Lutheran Church of Australia, share a recognisable Lutheran identity in which the gospel of Jesus Christ informs all learning and teaching, all human relationships, and all activities in the school. The rituals, symbols, visual displays and practices convey its Christ-centred identity. The school/ early childhood service community is regularly involved in Christian worship which includes daily devotions. Christian Studies is an essential and distinctive part of the formal curriculum. Lutheran schools and early childhood services deliberately and intentionally share and live the good news of Jesus Christ with students, families, staff and the broader community. Opportunities for faith nurture are actively promoted and maintained.
An often-understated aspect of leadership (for all staff) is about storytelling. Each learning community shares a story; a story that frames the mission and Lutheran identity of the learning community and explains why people commit to it. This story is immersed in Jesus unconditional love, grace and forgiveness. Do you know your community’s story? Do you protect the story and bring others into the story?
Since my return from the 150 celebrations at Walla Walla, I have a deeper knowledge and appreciation of the story of the people that have comprised this special community over 150 years. I now am a custodian of this story. This is indeed a special privilege.
As you embark on a new school year and look forward in hopeful anticipation to all that will unfold throughout the journey ahead, I encourage you to embrace your community’s story and become a custodian of, and share this story.