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Lorraine Mitchell

Whitley helped me on my faith journey because it gave me permission to explore alternative ways of understanding who/what God is, what the bible says, and what faith is about. Others have said ‘Whitley does not tell you what to think, but it helps you to learn how to think’. This was my experience. I remember Keith Dyer telling his class that he didn’t mind at all if he received an essay that expressed a view that he didn’t share – but if it was well thought through, using sound exegetical methods, you’d get a good grade.

Merrill Kitchen taught a unit at Whitley which was “Women in Christian Ministry” – it was 1993 and this was a hot issue in churches.

I was appointed a deacon in my church around that time, only the second female to be elected. I was also single. I remember that class at Whitley provided a safe place to express some of the challenges this presented in the church.

My name is Lorraine Mitchell. As well as being a deacon, I’ve been a worship leader and occasional preacher across two Baptist churches. I’ve been working as executive secretary to (Whitley) principal Rene Erwich since 2018.

Merrill’s understanding of the background and context of the New Testament was wonderful. A few years after that class, I did the World of the New Testament unit and travelled to the Middle East – with Merrill guiding the tour.

Her depth of knowledge transformed how I read the bible. It also gave me the travel bug and I was privileged to return to Israel/Palestine with Merrill on two more occasions. We’ve remained good friends and regularly meet for coffee.

I already had a long association with Whitley before working with René, firstly as a student and then later as a librarian at the college.

I worked as a Librarian for 15 years at the head office of the ANZ Bank. I loved that work because there was a strong research focus. I’m a researcher at heart.

Originally, I came to Whitley when I was at a bit of a loose end. A friend who was studying to be a chaplain said “I think you might really like the classes I am going to, why don’t you join me”. So I did and she was right!

I completed my Bachelor of Theology in 2002 even though I started in 1991. I was working full time at ANZ and relied on evening, weekend and intensive classes.

In 2002, I took a voluntary redundancy and spent a year as a full-time student, completing nine units. I really enjoyed that time, being able to integrate all the years of study. I wrote an essay on the Emmaus Road passage for a New Testament unit, and was able to bring in elements I’d studied in Baptist History and theology of the Lord’s supper.

I am now in my mid-60s and retirement is on the horizon. I’ve recently reduced my hours to three days-a-week. The immediate focus outside work is writing the history of Box Hill Baptist, where I am a member. COVID and family circumstances have stalled things in that regard, but it sits on my home study desk waiting for me!

My favourite memories of Whitley? I think it’s the people you meet, fellow students and teachers. Many have become good friends and valued colleagues.

My love of research is expressed in the work I’m doing about Box Hill Baptists. But I have also spent many years on my family history and really enjoy genealogy.

I would not claim to be a great gardener, but I do enjoy spending time in the garden! I also love to travel and take lots of photos when I do.