In Jesus’ parable of the tenants, he tells the story of a master praising two servants for ‘investing’ what has been entrusted to them. In the life of every congregation there are undoubtedly ‘seasons’ and ‘milestones’ in which the Lord invites his people to step out in faith and invest their time, talents and finances for the sake of his kingdom. This remains true even as the life of a congregation in a particular place comes to an end, or perhaps transitions into a new form.
The St Peter’s Frankston congregation is one inspiring example of this kind of faithful stewardship, having stepped out in faith many times over the course of its history. The congregation began formally in 1958, although there was a ‘church plant’ prior to this, with Lutheran Christians gathering for worship in homes and rented premises.
The following list (by no means exhaustive) recounts times in which St Peter’s did not bury its treasure – quite the contrary, they stepped out in faith, investing themselves in meeting many challenges and taking up opportunities. This list is, of course, by no means comprehensive!
• With fast growing suburbs all around, the congregation completed a building in 1965.
• A thriving Sunday School was one of their early programs.
• Clem Schultz’s evangelism work in Frankston (as a District lay-worker in partnership with the District and St Peter’s) in 1969.
• The call of their first resident pastor, Rev. Wayne Zweck (1972).
• Financial self-sufficiency as a congregation (1977).
• The establishment of Bethany Rosebud (1994).
• At the beginning of the 2000’s the congregation adapted to local challenges by entering into an innovative co-operative ministry partnership with the Karingal Uniting Church. This partnership was enacted locally, and also supported by the office of the Vic Tas Bishop, drawing also on the expertise of the LCA/Uniting Church national theological dialogue group. The relationship between the two congregations yielded much fruit and learning for the wider two churches.
• During this time a new ministry at Berwick with a preaching place at the Old Cheese factory premises was established.
• In 2002 the co-operating congregations called Pr. Peter Ghalayini, who would eventually assist with the establishment of a Lutheran presence through the new Pakenham Lutheran College.
• By 2012 the congregation is welcoming many Sth Sudanese sisters and brothers including SMP James Luk who would eventually be supported to complete general ministry studies at ALC, and now serves the Morely Congregation in Perth.
St Peter’s is also the story of ‘seasons’ of ministry coming to an end and this includes the Uniting / Lutheran co-operative arrangement ending in 2021. Whilst there was pain, grief, and consternation at the inability of the arrangement to continue, the closing service acknowledged and celebrated also, the joy of having served together in offering a co-operative Christian witness to the wider community over the approximately 20 years of the partnership.
2020 brought the great challenge of Covid, but with that challenge, an opportunity to continue to learn and adapt, which the congregation did by enthusiastically and competently staying connected to each other, and God’s Word, via on-line worship services.
In 2021, the painful decision was made to close due to the aging profile of the congregations and the cessation of the co-operative agreement. St Peter’s then has worked faithfully and intentionally, to leave a legacy to the wider church.
• Assets dispersed at the conclusion of the congregation included the donation of the beautiful Lemke Pipe Organ (built 1874) back to the Barossa Valley Community in S.A. where it
was originally built. The Organ is important from both an historical S.A. viewpoint and is listed in the
Australian Pipe Organ Register.
• Numerous individual items were gifted to St Matthews Lutheran congregation at Footscray.
• Other historical items were sent to LCA church archives in S.A.
The final stunningly generous bequest to the district, in financial terms, is in the order of just over $800,000 directed to the Victorian District to be used in the work of mission. The congregation’s desire is that initiatives and needs that are by their nature exercises in ‘stepping out in faith’ be particularly supported.
We give thanks to God for the example that this congregation has set in ‘giving itself away for the sake of the gospel’.
For St Peter’s ‘going and growing’ with the gospel for the sake of the mission of God has always been central.
For St Peter’s ‘faith’ has meant a commitment to innovation, experimentation, and adventure. May God inspire many others to ‘step out’ and try new things for the sake of the kingdom.
May that be the lasting legacy of St Peter’s talents.
Rev Brett Kennett, Pastor for Congregational Support