Greetings sent to the Jake’s Book Launch
Jake’s Book Launch by the Revd Martin Rosenberg, retired Uniting Church in Australia Pastor
We will be launching the book in a little while, but first let me tell you a few things about Jakes. As you may know—and the book gives much more detail on this—during those 10 years, Jakes morphed through a number of different stages and many people seemed to come for a time and then leave.
It all began with the efforts and passion of a small group who had a vision for the coffee shop and they found a suitable place at 102 Gawler Place in the city. It was a group who were called the Dorian Society who worked with the Lutheran Youth of SA (especially the Metro South Zone) and they were the ones who got it up and running—all the details are in the book. There are some people here today who were a part of that chapter of Jakes.
Some were the organisers behind the scenes, others worked in the coffee lounge, others were happy just making the ham and cheese toasted sandwiches. This period from 1970-73, developed a solid foundation on which the remaining history of Jakes was built. If you like, the members of the Dorian Society were the founding fathers and mothers of Jakes. Amanda and Geoff Strelan and Monica and Ivan Christian are here today.
Then it took the faith of a particular established church group, who had the resources to help, to take it to the next level—that was St Stephens Lutheran Church in Wakefield St. They were the ones who called a pastor to come and give it some leadership.
That culminated in Doug and Erna Kuhl coming to Jakes as its pastor and leader. Doug was installed in January 1974.
Two months later Kairos 74 happened and this one single event changed everything. Kairos, in the 70’s, was a national Jesus People movement and in 1974, it was held in Adelaide to coincide with the Adelaide Festival of Arts. Christian groups from all around the country came to Adelaide to share the message of Jesus all over the city, in a hundred different ways.
Some of those who came were (and these names might be familiar to you): John Smith (God Squad), Athol Gill (house of the Gentle Bunyip in Melbourne), John Hirt (House of the New World in Sydney), Teen Challenge in Brisbane, The Glebe Zoo in Sydney, the House of Freedom, Agape House and Theos Coffee Shops—to name just some of them.
- Rallies & concerts in high schools and universities, in the city, and on the beaches.
- People were handing out leaflets on street corners.
- Street Marches through the centre of Adelaide.
- Lots of coffee shops and drop-in centres where street workers would take people who wanted to know more or just talk.
- Evangelism or Mission was the focus.
To quote a bit from Steen’s introduction to the book:
The Jesus Movement was in full swing, the Devil had no right to all the good music, and we constantly saw God at work in the lives of kids who came off the street, from outlaw bikie gangs and from among those dabbling in drugs and Eastern Religions and philosophies.
Kairos ‘74 used Jakes as its base, the message of Jesus was shared and the Holy Spirit came and caused the place to explode and it continued to grow in ways that no one expected. The problem we faced at that time was what do we do with all these new converts.
Many of them did not feel comfortable in the established churches because culturally they were a million miles from it, although some did fit there. St Stephens was hosting a Sunday evening service with Kindekrist trying to bridge that gap and that went some way towards bridging that gap. However, there were still lots who couldn’t handle even walking into a church building.
So there were all these new members to the body of Christ that needed to be fed spiritually and steered away from their old influences and supported in their Christian growth. What do you do with all of that?
You will have to read the book to find out all the details.
The one thing that was constant throughout the life of Jakes was that it continued to change the lives of those who came in contact with it (again, a lot to do with the Holy Spirit). That included the workers as well as those who went there to find out more of what these Jesus People were all about.
Somehow, despite our naivety, despite all our inexperience and our lack of professionalism, somehow despite ourselves Jesus was able to use us to make a significant difference in many lives.
Not everyone was impacted positively. We know that. To those people we give our heartfelt apologies for the things that shouldn’t have been.
There were a number of parallel stories that overlapped with Jakes. Things like the relationship of Jakes with the Lutheran Church, the Charismatic Renewal, Manoah and a few others. We don’t have time to talk about them all here today, but again, these are all dealt with in the book.
I want to thank Steen for all the effort he put in to bring this book to this stage. It was really written on our behalf to record a significant chapter in many of our lives and I know some of us are getting copies for our families and friends so we can say to them: “This is the story of what happened to me back in the 70’s that has influenced my life to this day. Please read it because then you might understand me bit better.”
I know that after Jakes disbanded, many people went all around Australia and some overseas and had an impact there in the work they did. So now—with this book—what happened back then in the 70’s has the potential to influence another generation of people in the 21st century all around the world.
Who would have thought?
We are also here to launch this book – and I invite Steve Haar up to the front to officially launch the book, “Jacobs Ladder, Missional Church in the 1970s”.
Book Launch Speech by the Revd Dr Stephen Haar:
Dean and Vice Principal of Australian Lutheran College, of the University of Divinity and an LCA Pastor
Jacobs Ladder: Missional Church in the 1970s by Steen Olsen
Thanks to Steen for asking me to launch this book today—Jacobs Ladder: Missional Church in the 1970s. Considering the calibre of people who might have been asked—from within the orbit of Steen’s connections to global partnerships for missional church—I feel honoured and privileged to do this task.
My task is to launch a book that I haven’t actually read from cover to cover, but that’s okay because the story it tells lives in me and you who have gathered in this place today. Even though, over the past 40-50 years, members of Jake’s Community all went on to other things, the formative impact of Jakes remains in our DNA; as witnessed to by the many individual stories recorded in the last section of the book.
The powerful testimony and teaching of this book, however, is not about us, but about the power of God at work through individuals and the community of Jakes as they encountered central questions of faith, the call to Christian community, and the power of God’s Spirit—life changing challenges that still face the missional church today.
So, this is not our glory story, yet nonetheless it is moving, inspiring, and edifying; and in that sense it is a glorious story that deserves to be told. Perhaps even, as suggested by Pat Kiefert, it deserves to be a “text book for a missional church course.”
The story of Jakes was collated and written with the benefit of hindsight. From the beginning we understood ourselves to be sent by God out into our community with the good news that is a person, Jesus Christ. Now, more clearly, we understand it wasn’t just that we were focused on mission, but that our community was shaped by the mission of God, and therefore, in that sense, was missional.
At first, the vision was to serve as an outreach arm of existing congregations, but that soon changed as we faced the demands of nurturing new Christians. We saw the need to form ‘church’, in the full sense of the word, among the people God had sent us to, and not attempt to bring them back into existing congregations where they simply didn’t fit. Our approach needed to be incarnational, not just attractional. We recognise now this was a journey of discovery to understand ‘The church doesn’t have a mission; God’s mission has a church.’
This book acknowledges how much has been learnt and written about missional church in the last forty years. Steen, by way of introduction, notes that the Jakes Community didn’t have the benefit of that knowledge, but the Spirit led us into many of the key concepts. God was at work; he was acting in and through us. By way of summary reflection, Steen notes “In spite of our youthful naivety, and at times arrogance, God was able to work with our broken vessels.”
Let me read a further excerpt from the Introduction:
In researching this story, I have heard from many who were blessed, often beyond their wildest expectations. I have also discovered that some were deeply hurt and, of those, some carry significant scars to this day. It is easier to tell the story of blessings, but I acknowledge that at times, some acted contrary to what Jesus taught, trust was betrayed and as a result, people suffered. In telling the story, I have tried to be real, without pretending that everything was a success and there were never any problems. However, neither have I turned the book into an exposé of the failures. For those who were blessed in those days, I trust that reading this book may lead you to relive and continue to enjoy that sense of blessing. For those who carry wounds, I pray that perhaps even now, this book may be a further step towards healing and reconciliation.
The main sections of this book are helpfully organised and presented between an Introduction that highlights the writer’s reasons for telling the story of Jakes, and an Epilogue that presents rich reflections on lessons learned at Jakes. It includes a reflection by Marty Rosenberg, who initiated the project of writing this book:
There were numerous individuals who lived in the community houses that came to faith in Christ and there were many who never found that faith but were helped during a difficult time in their lives. Each of them joined in with the household community and experienced an alternative lifestyle to the way they had been living. Not everyone had a positive experience. Some can only remember the difficulties and cannot speak positively of their time in community. This was always going to happen (so we have realised in hindsight). All of them were exposed to God’s Word in one form or other, be it through discussions, Bible studies, acts of kindness, music or preaching, and only God knows how many lives were impacted positively from those experiences.
Today, the façade of 102 Gawler Place remains, as does the OpenBook sign. There’s a Vape and Juice Emporium and Barber Shop on the ground floor, even a Tea Shop next door; but Jacobs Ladder Coffee Lounge is long gone. Yet every day, when travelling to work along Grenfell Street, I take a brief look left and remember with thanks.
This afternoon, I look around this room and see people who lived the story of Jakes. Some of you I’ve known closely since the early 70s and some of you only by name and reputation. But in our hearts today we are one in memory and thanks to God.
Now you also have the opportunity to show thanks and appreciation to Steen Olsen, the writer of this book Jacobs Ladder: Missional Church in the 1970s — as I invite him to come forward and to speak.
Greetings from those who could not attend
Greetings and apologies were received from Bishop John Henderson of the Lutheran Church of Australia and Bishop David Altus of the LCA SA-NT District.
From Kon Michailidis in Sydney
I was looking forward to coming to Adelaide and meeting up with a lot of old friends, especially since I have not been to Adelaide since 2002, but it looks like I will not be able to get away just yet.
I pray that your book launch will go super well. Please send my greetings to all who remember me.
Thanks for all you have done to organise this. It is very special.
Please give my email and mobile number to anyone who wants it, I would love to hear from them.
From Ian and Helen Wade in Byawatha, near Wangaratta in Victoria
Many blessings for the opening. This is a fascinating renewal of contacts. We will discuss with our whole family over here as to attending the gathering next year when you have a date. We haven't caught up with our SA families for quite a while. Many thanks for completing such a huge task so well.
From Marie & David Skeat in Burnie, Tasmania
Please pass on our greetings to all and sundry. What an accomplishment well done. We look forward to reading your hard work.
From Lyn & Malcolm Pech who are normally in Prospect SA
We are away in Sydney visiting our youngest son, so, sadly we are an apology for the book launch. Please tender our apologies. Please pass on in the greeting that our 3 years at Jakes were a big influence on our Christian life/faith walk, our attitude to sharing the Gospel, our relationships with unbelievers, and my (‘our’) subsequent call into ordained ministry. We wish you every blessing on Saturday. So sorry that we are missing out.
From Marcia & Kevin Lieschke in Niagara, north of Gosford NSW
We are disappointed that we could not make it for the book launch and celebration of all the hard work that has gone into telling the story of those brief and heady days in the 70s. The impact of our time in Jakes has been foundational to the journey we have been on in the years that have followed. We thank you all for the strong relationships that were formed, many of which have continued to this day. We celebrate with you today the release of the book. Our prayer is that the impact of our lives, the seeds that were sown, and the capture of this in the book, will continue to bear good fruit for this and the coming generations. The little seed that fell into the ground and died, has not remained alone! [More on the Website]
From Tim Oestmann in Adelaide
Every blessing with the book launch, unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend; though I look forward to hearing and seeing more about it, as I was involved in the community as an older child in the 1970’s.
From Doug Kuhl in Sydney
I apologise that I cannot make it back to Adelaide this Saturday. Congratulations to all of the members of Jacob's Ladder for this book achievement. Jesus, redeemer, and Jesus precious continue to be the star of our restoration into God's amazing life for all our futures, bringing each one of us safely home.
From Anne Sellers in the United States
Greetings to all. We live in Oregon in the US and are unable to attend today. I will be sharing this book with friends and family in Adelaide and also in the US. I believe that Missional Church is a key to reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and am involved with this type of ministry in the city where we live now. I want to thank everyone who walked on this journey called Jacobs Ladder and Servants of Christ with me.
Dear friends and family (in Christ)
We are disappointed that we could not make it for the book launch and celebration of all the hard work that has gone into telling the story of those brief and heady days in the 70s.
The impact of our time in Jakes has been foundational to the journey we have been on in the years that have followed.
We thank you all for the strong relationships that were formed, many of which have continued to this day. We celebrate with you today the release of the book. Our prayer is that the impact of our lives, the seeds that were sown, and the capture of this in the book, will continue to bear good fruit for this and the coming generations. The little seed that fell into the ground and died, has not remained alone!
And in the words of a song from the era that remains relevant today:
“May God bless and keep you always ....
May you grow up to be righteous,
May you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth,
And see the lights surrounding you.
May you always be courageous,
Stand upright and be strong.
May you stay forever young”
[Bob Dylan 1973]
Kevin and Marcia (Schutz) Lieschke
From the blog of Steen Olsen 11/9/2020 www.lca.org.au/enews
Fifty years ago, something changed my life, and I wasn't even there!
Last Saturday evening Ruth and I drank a toast: “To the Holy Spirit for stirring up the ministry and mission that came to be known as Jacob’s Ladder, and to the people who listened, believed God’s promises, and made it a reality.” You see, last Saturday was the 50th anniversary of Saturday 5th September 1970, the night that Jacob’s Ladder Coffee Lounge at 102 Gawler Place, Adelaide, first opened its doors.
Neither of us was there that night, nor did we meet at Jakes. We met at St Stephens Lutheran Church in Wakefield Street, where Ruth was working as a deaconess and I was assigned for fieldwork as a Seminary student. However, our lives would not have been the same if Jacob’s Ladder had not happened. For that, we are eternally grateful. Jakes had a profound influence on shaping who we are today. The Spirit was at work, and he is still at work shaping our lives now.
I can’t tell you the story here, but I have just done so in a book, Jacob’s Ladder: Missional Church in the 1970s. It will be published in the next month or so. I will let you know when and where you can get a copy.
Meanwhile, let me tell you a little about why it was such a significant time for us. The Jesus Movement was in full swing. No way was the devil going to have all the good music! The Spirit touched the lives of many, mostly young people, around the world. It was all about Jesus and bringing him to those who did not yet know him. It wasn’t a burden or a drudge. It was exciting. We knew we were on the cutting edge of something God was doing in his world. Even here in little old Adelaide. We prayed. We talked about Jesus with anyone who would listen. We studied and shared. Miracles happened. People’s lives were changed. Many others, like Ruth and me, look back on those days as a time when God used us and prepared us for the service of the rest of our lives.
It began as a coffee lounge and grew into a community that brought Jesus to young people on the streets, in the pubs, and anywhere that people gathered. Many of those who came to faith were involved in drugs, outlaw bikie gangs, crime, and eastern religions. The focus was not on feeding the poor and hungry, but people were fed and given a place to stay. The focus was not on justice, but the oppressed were set free. The focus was not on human rights, but God-given dignity and freedom were proclaimed. It was unapologetically evangelistic: bringing Jesus to those who did not yet know him.
What can we learn for today?
If the church is going to bring Jesus to those who do not know him today, it also needs to form a Christian community in ways that are different from most established congregations. The old attractional models where we run worship, programs, and events that we hope our non-Christian friends will find attractive simply don’t work in Australia and New Zealand today. Years ago there may have been a societal pressure that saw non-worshipping parents want to send their children to Sunday School. Even that is long gone.
Jakes went out into the street culture of the time and sought to form a Christian community with those we met. The clear expectation of the Church at the time was that we would bring them back into existing churches. That was also the hope of many when the LCA expanded its network of schools. It didn’t happen then either. I hope that expectation has finally changed. The Jakes's story clearly illustrates why that doesn’t work. The reason is cultural.
Jakes set out to form ‘Church’ with and among those it was led to. We did our best to bridge the cultural gap rather than expecting them to do so. That is being a missional church. The kids on the street were not ‘seekers’; they were not looking for a church to join, nor did they generally have an interest in spiritual things. Many were aware that their lives could be better but most were too busy dealing with their daily problems in their family, housing, and relational issues and did not have any idea about getting their lives on track. While we set up a Coffee Lounge/House/Drop-in Centre it was really still an ‘evangelism first’ not a ‘service first’ or ‘worship first’ approach. The Centre gave us a base and became important when it came to follow-up, but the real work was done by teams that went out onto the streets, pubs, and other venues, and we listened to and talked with people.
That makes biblical sense. After all, Jesus didn’t say, “Sit in your churches and wait for them to come.” He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations….” GO! And, “As the Father sent me, so I send you…” SENT! into the world. God is missional. The Father sent Jesus, Jesus and the Father sent the Spirit, and Father, Son, and Holy Spirit send us into the world with good news.
God was at work
We had a theology of the incarnation but this was not only about being a Christian presence. We weren’t just trying to improve people’s lives a bit, but to bring them to the cross of Jesus Christ. We, therefore, did not focus on being a ‘presence’ of Jesus, but rather on bringing Jesus in both law and promise. The sense of guilt and shame in street kids often indicated that the law was already doing its work. The promise, on the other hand, was good news, but it couldn’t just be a head-trip or a doctrine or philosophy. Christians often seem to believe in their theology, rather than in God; and bring a product called ‘the forgiveness of sins' rather than Jesus. Forgiveness is essential, but there is more to God’s mission than that. It is not about teaching a doctrine but helping people to meet Jesus. God is doing so much more than getting a few individuals into heaven.
For us, Jakes's was a lasting lesson in God being at work. He is doing things all the time. God has ‘agency’ as some people like to say today. He is a player, not a spectator. We learned that we were working with God, not for him. We learned that if God didn’t ‘show up’ we had nothing to offer anyone. Sure, there were many failures, and our sin and weakness ruined much, but in spite of that, God worked in and through us imperfect, young, at times arrogant human beings. God is good. All the time. And when we fell on our faces, when there was pain and disappointment, we learned that this, too, was part of the Christian walk. We needed to trust God and hang on to his promises.
During our time with Jakes, we learned that evangelism was not a naughty word. Today talking about evangelism seems to make many Christians cringe. They immediately picture someone brow-beating another or manipulating people with emotional blackmail. They think of canned programs with set questions and presentations. They imagine it involves a ‘bait and switch’ methodology that approaches others with some pretense, only to switch the focus to making a gospel presentation. Jakes taught us that evangelism was not like that at all. We didn’t feel any superiority nor that we had things to give, but nothing to learn. By God’s grace, we had met Jesus, and that was worth sharing. That was good news. Too often today, so-called ‘outreach’ has become a gospel-free zone. We do many good things but never clearly say why we are doing them. Sometimes it even gets to the point where Jesus is no longer necessary. Evangelism is not a dirty word. It is just one beggar showing another beggar where to find bread, as Luther reportedly said.
Structures and Policies
Jakes has been a lifelong reminder to me that we need to hold structures, processes, and their associated rules, lightly. They are our servants, not our masters. That is difficult for those of us with a Germanic/northern European mindset. A friend recently suggested to me that we Lutherans should have much more freedom than we do. He said that it went right back to the Reformation. When none of the German bishops came over to the Lutheran side, the princes stepped in and filled the void. A secular authority oversaw the church. It was made up of individuals who were Christians, but it was secular nevertheless. The princes ruled and bureaucracy won out. The legacy of that today is a focus on management and control, and not on creativity. We should not use our constitutions and policies to take away what we give in our theology. That is not to say that we don’t need some of that to keep us functioning in a safe and responsible way and to meet modern legal requirements. However, it has become stifling and more importantly tends to quench the Spirit, not set him free. Jakes, with all its problems and weaknesses, showed us another way.
We needed leaders from outside the community who would walk alongside us, pray with us and help us talk things over. Instead, we generally got controlling boards and committees, mostly made up of people who were not involved in the ministry. Our thanks to the late Dr. Daniel Overduin, who was one of the notable exceptions. There were others. However, sadly, for many of our older brothers and sisters, we were the ‘problem child’ or the ‘designated patient’ that needed to be fixed. Good order can easily become an idol, rather than a means to an end. The Holy Spirit seems to have a habit of disrupting our good order. Jakes operated with a ‘centered set’ not a ‘bounded set’ approach. The Church mostly wanted to guard the boundary, rather than elevating the center. We focused on the center, which was and is Jesus, and were a fuzzy-edged community. Conflict, I guess, was inevitable.
As one who went on to have wider leadership responsibilities in the Church, that is a lesson I needed, as well as being one that too often, I failed to heed. To the extent it got through my thick skull, I tried to raise an umbrella when a person was ‘raining on someone else’s parade’, and to create space for those whose approach and understanding were less than perfect. I discovered that, if your eyes and ears were open, the surprises of the Spirit were often there to be discerned. My ‘office’—in the sense of my role and responsibility— was not to control God’s church, but to try to stay out of the Spirit’s way, and to support others as a fellow traveler on the journey, while still being free to step in on occasion, and say, “I don’t think so!” It was a great privilege and I thank the Jakes community for preparing me for further service.
|For the rest, I guess you will need to read the book!|
Therefore, Ruth and I are grateful for that day fifty years ago, when Jacob’s Ladder opened its doors. Thanks to all those whose hard work made it happen. And to the Spirit for inspiring them to do it!