Get to know Sarah Michael: Lecturer in Education

Tell us a little about yourself…
I’m married to a wonderful man and have two lovely children. After graduating with a Bachelor of Education from university in England I taught in England, India and Bangladesh before moving to Australia. I continued primary teaching alongside other roles until my first child was born. I studied for my Master in Educational Leadership and began as an adjunct lecturer with Tabor (now Eastern) while home with our two young children, and then began my current role as Professional Experience Coordinator with some lecturing in Education.

What’s your church background and involvement?
I have grown up with the church being prominent in my life and have attended a range of churches due to numerous moves. The one constant has been finding a Christian ‘home and family’ in which to participate, and have enjoyed being involved in worship groups, children’s, youth and adult group leadership. I have attended Bridge Church for as long as I have been in Australia.

What are your hobbies?
I enjoy being outdoors enjoying the country, driving, walking and camping with family and friends. I love cooking and creating opportunities for people to spend time together, preferably with something yummy to indulge in (chocolate brownie anyone?).

What are you passionate about in today’s Christian context?
That Christians have and take the opportunity to add their voice and bring a Christian perspective across all aspects of society, from the Federal level to the local community level, in order to bring God’s kingdom values into people’s daily experience. I am specifically passionate about this in relation to the schooling experiences that children and young people receive.

What is your hope for Eastern College Students?
That they will find their place to contribute to their community, taking with them a knowledge and love of God, a love of people and a love of learning.

Sarah is a Lecturer and the Professional Experience Coordinator in Education
Discover her courses here: 

Bachelor of Education (Primary)
Bachelor of Education (Secondary)

Get to know Aaron Garth: Youth Studies Coordinator

Tell us a little about yourself…
I am a husband to an awesome woman. A father to five little characters (four girls and one boy). I am a high school dropout and first in my family to go to university.  I hold a B. Soc. Sci (Youth Work) and a Master of Social Work as well as a few minor qualifications. I have worked over the past 14 years in the youth and social services field and for the past two years I have coordinated the Youth Studies discipline at Eastern College Australia.

What’s your church background and involvement?
I started going to a Baptist church in my youth and now attend an Anglican missional Community in Melbourne’s Outer Northern Suburbs

What are your hobbies?
When I get to them (I have five kids remember) I love to work on cars and play guitar.

What are you passionate about in today’s Christian context?
 As a Church we are desperately in need of people who are willing to step out of their comfort zone and meet the least, the last and the lost in their context. My passion is training those people to meet young people in their schools, their homes, on the streets etc. As a Church we currently have very little contact with the young people who really need us, I want to change that.

What is your hope for Eastern College Students?
That they will see the gap before them and work out the best way they can fill it. We need you to make Church relevant to a community that doesn’t see that any more.

Aaron is the Youth Studies Coordinator at Eastern College Australia
Discover his courses here: 
Bachelor of Arts in (Youth Work)
Graduate Diploma in Arts (Youth Work)
Youth Studies can also be taken as Bachelor studies in Theology, Ministry, Mission or Biblical studies.

‘Just’ God

Many years ago, when Eastern was still Tabor, the college campus was in the rustic surrounds of Ringwood and dinosaurs roamed the earth I had an encounter with a student that would change my spiritual life.

Levi* was a Jewish Rabbi who had experienced a miraculous encounter with Jesus and become a Messianic Jew. Even in a city the size of Melbourne he quickly became a cause célèbre among the Christian community and an object of scrutiny by the Jewish community. He decided he wanted to learn more about this new-found Jesus and enrolled in a Christology class at Tabor. He was an enquiring and thoughtful student.

One day he came to see me in my office. After the usual chitchat about family, life and study he got to the point of his visit. He explained that he wanted to understand what “just God” meant. Eager to help, I launched into a lengthy exposition of the just nature of God. I came at it from every possible angle – systematic theology, biblical theology, biblical exegesis of key verses, church history and missional perspectives. Even I was impressed by the breadth of information – no one could fail to be convinced by my presentation of the justice of God.

Sitting back, perhaps feeling ever so slightly smug at my role in educating this man, I waited for Levi to indicate his understanding and deep satisfaction with my discourse. To my shock, he smiled and informed me that I had not understood his question. Exercising some humility, I asked him to tell me exactly what his question was and decided, this time, to listen carefully to what he said.

Levi asked “Cheryl, what do Christians mean when they are praying to God and they use the word just?” Not wanting to make the same mistake twice, I probed for some more information “Give me an example”. “Well” he answered “Everyone always prays ‘Please God, just do this, just do that’”. “And” he continued in a somewhat astonished tone, “they are not little things! They pray for God to just heal cancer or just perform a miracle”. He looked at me earnestly, “Tell, me, what is the meaning of this just? Is it a special Christian word?”

Reassuring Levi that just was not a magical Christian word that guaranteed God’s action, I was able to send him away happy in the knowledge that his prayers were being heard even if he didn’t use “Christianese” to express himself.

But Levi’s ‘outsider’ insight opened my eyes and ears. When I next met with people to pray, I noticed how often prayers began with ‘Dear God, we just ask….’ And soon it seemed like every time someone prayed I heard ‘just’ scattered through the requests to God. And not only requests, we were also ‘just’ thanking him for his blessings.

Before long, I could not use that word in my prayer life – I was continually reminded of the enormity of what I was asking or who I was addressing – and ‘just’ just seemed too banal, diminishing and trite. Levi had done me a great spiritual service in alerting me to the lack of respect and awe that a little word can indicate.

This is not to condemn anyone who habitually uses ‘just’ in their prayers. I think, for almost all it is simply a speech habit and Christian colloquialism and is done without thought. But, thanks to Levi, I am very careful not to use this word. Pedantic, maybe, but it comes from a desire to never be guilty of trivializing what connection with the Almighty Creator means in prayer.

Thanks, Levi, for an innocent question that sparked spiritual change in my life.

*Not his real name.

Dr Cheryl McCallum
Principal of Eastern College Australia

Life as an Eastern Student: Lisa Grant

“Although only a short way into my part time Visual Arts Degree I have found Eastern College to be both challenging and inspiring.

I went to get an education in order to facilitate my plans for future work and have discovered that I have been challenged, stretched and grown in mind body and spirit through attending Eastern. I have grown not just in knowledge but in faith.  I have a greater belief in myself and am more confident that I can do something to make a difference.

Justice Conference painting

Looking to do a visual arts degree, with a view to branch into Art Therapy, I began looking around at various universities and colleges. In my searching, I discovered Tabor (now Eastern) not only offered an accredited Visual Arts Degree, they also integrated Christian spirituality through the curriculum and not just as individual bible or faith subjects.  This was very attractive and challenged me to consider doing my degree at Eastern.  To add even further benefits, Eastern also offered a minor in community development subjects, not something I had heard of before, it offered a perfect segue to apply what I was learning about visual arts.

While only a year or two into my part time course, I have been challenged stretched and educated in so many ways.  In the midst of my busy life of part time work, family responsibilities and other community connections I started the course thinking I would get in do the study and classes and get out, only to discover that the relationships and conversations with lecturers and fellow students challenged and blessed me beyond what I had imagined and is an invaluable part of the learning experience.

 One of the stand out benefits is the integration into the subjects of hands on projects and participation in events in the community.  This has revolutionized my idea of ‘classroom learning’ and exponentially inspired, challenged and improved my capacity to learn and understand.

Lisa Grant Painting

 I have found Eastern is a supportive and helpful environment where students develop professionalism in their thinking and learning. As a mature age student re-entering a learning environment after many years, Eastern offered me encouragement and practical support – offering classes in basic skills of essay writing. I would highly recommend Eastern College.

Thank you to Eastern for offering such a stimulating faith filled professional learning environment.”

Lisa Grant
Bachelor of Arts student

“But let God remould your minds from within…”

In every generation of the church, since the day Jesus first launched it, his followers Have been pressured to conform to the surrounding society’s dominant ways of thinking and living, ways so often utterly contrary to God’s ways.

The power of this dominant culture to impact upon our values, our behaviour, our politics, upon how we see the world, and even upon the way we understand our own faith and interpret our sacred texts, has been likened to the power of gravity.

Paul was clearly keenly aware of the danger of this, and his astounding letter to the small community of Christians embedded in the belly of the Roman Empire included at its heart an urgent challenge: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God remould your minds from within…” (12:2, Phillips translation).

Clearly we all need to be vigilant in this regard. I need to be vigilant! And the MTD provides me with some wonderful assistance in this regard. First, because the small MTD learning community is a global one we expose one another to dramatically different perspectives and different ways of reading and understanding the Scriptures. For example, students who come from strongly communal cultures are less likely to read the Bible through the individualistic lens of your average Western Christian.

Second, the cultural diversity of the MTD community, combined with the importance of ensuring that our studies are contextually relevant, means it is imperative to include non-Western authors in our reading. Inevitably, they open my eyes to dimensions of Biblical teaching, and the application of that teaching, that previously I had only seen dimly or not at all. Let me mention just one such writer:  Vinoth Ramachandra. He frequently crops up in our MTD reading. If you would like a wee taste I encourage you to visit his blog site

I can confidently predict that you will experience a disturbing blend of challenge, inspiration and discomfort!


About Steve Bradbury
Steve Bradbury is the Director of the Micah 6:8 Centre and Lecturer in Transformational Development at Eastern College Australia. Find out more about the Masters of Transformational Development

Aaron Garth: Influences in Youth Work

img970“If you really want to get at the crux of what youth work is really about, you need to understand its liberation framework.
Anti-oppressive practice is a core framework and one of the best authors in this space is the South American Educational theorist Paulo Friere.
His book ‘‘The Pedagogy of the Oppressed” is often at the top of Youth Workers must read lists. If you are genuinely interested in helping young people then you must read this work.”

Aaron Garth
MSocial Work, BSocialSc, CertIV Alcohol and Other Drugs Work
Youth Studies Coordinator at Eastern College Australia

My Year Without Clothes

Now I have your attention the title should read My Year Without New Clothes. I did not go naked for 2016!

What I did do was attempt to go a complete year (365 days) without buying any new clothes. Underwear and necessary footwear was exempt and I did allow some minor exceptions but I pretty much nailed the year and, as I write this, I only have 18 days to go.

The idea of denying yourself or doing something different for a year is very common now. I’ve met people who gave up caffeine, sugar, carbs, alcohol, and even watching sport for a year (although I’ve never met anyone who has given them all up at the same time!). Others have chosen to not buy anything new (The Compact) or to live biblically as a woman (Rachel Held Evans) or to cook a Julia Childs recipe every day for 365 days (Julie Powell). It usually makes for some hilarious reading and some great dinner party conversation (and sometimes a book or film deal).

So, what motivated me to do without clothes(buying) for the year? I would like to be able to claim a blinding flash of revelation or an angelic visitation but the truth is I fell victim to a combination of the drip-feed of knowledge and sheer weariness. Having taught a class entitled Faith, Reason and Justice four times over two years I had been continually reminded of God’s compassion for the poor and of the obscene consumerism of my western privileged context. At the end of each semester my challenge to the class was to find one new way to live the counter cultural life of the kingdom of God. In addition, as I wandered my local glitzy, over-the-top, mall during the frantic Boxing Day sales of 2015 I experienced a profound weariness of buying stuff in conflict with a none-too-subtle compulsion to snap up a bargain. In the midst of this perfect storm of elements, I succumbed and made the decision to call it quits on buying clothes for 2016.

I would like to be able to tell you that I was overwhelmed with a sense of God’s peace and basked in a glow of holiness for the next 12 months. The truth is much messier and the venture exposed some aspects of my life and character that I would much preferred to have kept hidden. Here are some things I learned in my year without clothes.

Firstly, telling friends and family is the easiest way to be held accountable. I had not realized how much people cared about me until they checked constantly and consistently to see if I was keeping my pledge. I travelled overseas twice with my sister who, fortuitously, does not like shopping and helped keep temptation at bay. Occasionally I got to share my reasons for the year with people who were interested. But mostly I stuck with it because I made the mistake/decision of telling others and would look stupid/weak if I pulled out.

Secondly, we really don’t need as many clothes as we think we do. With a wardrobe full of clothes, I had plenty to wear for the year. In fact, there are still some I have not touched at all for many reasons including changing body shape, changing fashion and in many cases the realization that I had spent my money on clothes I really didn’t like or didn’t suit me. I ended up wearing the same three pairs of black pants all year and no one noticed (shades of Karl Stefanovic). However, I ended the year with only two wearable t-shirts, the rest died as a result of stains and I shed a quiet tear as I binned them.

My third observation is that I learned I liked buying clothes. As the year progressed I recognized I got a buzz from the acquisition of new things and spending money on making myself look good was a form of self-affirmation. Consumerism thrives on making us feel inadequate and ‘missing out’ and when stripped of that feeling I had to consciously focus on other means of affirmation. Ouch! I had not expected to be confronted so starkly with my superficiality and cultural-conformity. Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:25 took on deeper meaning – so much of my time was spent worrying about the food, drink and clothing even when I had an abundance of all three! Avoiding the mall proved to be the best way for me to minimize this form of worry – out of sight, out of mind.

Lastly, I confess I did not make it through the year without blemish. My grandchildren benefitted from a greatly expanded wardrobe as occasionally I succumbed to the desire to buy clothes, any clothes. I had to buy a pair of shoes and a pair of boots to replace worn out ones. I had to buy a golf shirt to play in a fundraising event. I bought a dress for a wedding near the end of the year – it will be worn once in 2016. I thought I would save lots of money but I’m not sure I did – the mortgage benefited marginally.

How had the year changed me? It is too early to know if my year without clothes will result in permanent changes to my buying habits. I hope it will. I am planning to buy less and to consider my purchases very carefully. I am planning to simplify my dress code so I don’t have to think so much about what I will wear on a daily basis (I’m not ready to do a Steve Jobs and wear the same thing every day but you get the idea). I will be even more deliberate about ensuring my purchases are ethical (love your work, Baptist World Aid!). Mostly, the year has changed the way I view my life with regard to necessities. I am definitely planning to be very deliberate about where I spend my money, investing in kingdom work rather than what rust and moth destroy.

And, I’ve been thinking about 2017. Maybe, I should give up caffeine….?

Dr Cheryl McCallum
Principal of Eastern College Australia

Connecting With The Community Through Art

IMG_5817Last Friday night Art and Soul in conjunction with the Eastern College Art and Community Development class ran a community art project developed  by Cymone Levell to celebrate the opening of a new Community Centre in Cranbourne, Casey. The idea behind the project is that although community’s like Casey are strong, it is the people within the communities that add the colour and life. Below is the original tree before the colour and life was added by the Casey residents.

The second is the tree after the community has added colour and life.  Art and Community Development students from Eastern College Australia joined lecturer Dr Michelle Sanders, these students, Lisa Grant, Gerard Ferron and Tara Harkness assisted Cymone in leading Casey residents through creating this art piece.

 IMG_5815 copyIt was a great night with people aged between 2 & 92  participating by painting a piece of tree and adding a leaf, they then added any embellishments they wanted like flowers, butterflies, etc. They then folded the card in half attached to the inside a randomly chosen quote of thanks which hopefully spoke to them about someone in their life to which they could pass it onto. Spreading the colour and hopefully further strengthening community.

plain treeTree


Note from Angelo Cettolin, Director of Masters Programs

IMG_2146As someone involved in pastoring a new church in inner city Melbourne I know how critical it is to be integrating theology with the best sociological and organizational insights. Passion and cool latest fads are not enough to keep you going you over the long haul or to build sustainable effective organizations or projects.

While teaching at Eastern my wife Robbie and I are seeking to create a new Christian community in an inner city precinct. This place is a crazy eclectic mix of cultures, values and lifestyles. Here I regularly meet “Peter” begging a few doors down at my local supermarket and greet my neighbour four doors down who drives the latest Maserati.

IMG_1740 copy

Meeting in the local community centre is far from the safe suburban church setting but it encouraging as we see new young urban professionals finding community mixing it with more established Christ followers. It is exhilarating and frustrating at the same time.

Where do I get my fuel from? Much of it comes from rubbing shoulders with other sharp and innovative thinkers and practitioners who already have some real world experience. These are colleagues who are Spirit-empowered Jesus followers involved in professional and significant organizational settings. So what could this mean for you?


This is where my cohort of thinking practitioners can come in to play. We are seeking to create a supportive and yet stretching environment with our Masters in Practical Theology at Eastern. Our intensives- mostly run over a 5 days- are designed to enable you to study while remaining in your context whether that’s a business setting, church ministry, an NGO or mission organization.  If you are interested in graduate study and researching in a way that will be relevant to your context contact me and lets see what program can be  designed to suit your needs.

Be challenged. Be change.

Dr Angelo Cettolin
Director of Masters Programs