In 1981, Mr Fred Styants had a young family and was encouraged by a good friend (Mr Brian Goodchild) to come along to a meeting that was to take place on a Friday night.
A group of parents from neighbouring churches were keen to set up a Christian school in Midland.
Fred sold beds for a living, he took his faith seriously after being raised in a Christian home and he was a Lutheran.
A young man at the meeting named Mr Greg Wells (who would later become a SCEA Principal and play a large role in the history of SCEA), upon hearing of Fred’s denominational standing, said to him:
“So you’re a con-substantiationist? I’ve never met one of those before!”
Today you would probably need to ‘google’ Greg’s doctrinal vocabulary to understand the terminology being used, but at that time the divides between churches were so strong that the concept of coming together to form a multi-denominational Christian school seemed like an ambitious task for the inexperienced team of parents.
So what turned this young SlumberKing sales representative into SCEA’s first Board Chair?
“It was either the Lord’s calling or Mrs Joan Grosser,” says Fred with a smile that rarely leaves his friendly face.
“I was at a Busy Bee helping to fix a fence and Joan walked over and said that they were looking for a Chairman for their Steering Committee and I was the man they were looking for.”
And that was that.
Thursday night Board Meetings would often run past midnight and this would make work on Fridays a rather coffee-fueled affair!
Fred’s polite manner and quiet determination made him a great Chairman who considered ‘facilitation’ as his contribution to the early days of the SCEA governance process.
‘There were plenty of godly men and women with ideas that would propel the school at that time. The school grew like a mushroom in those early days! My role was to listen to all of these people and see how all of these things could happen at the same time.’
‘I also found myself dealing with small denominational differences which were dividing us. My advice was always for us to be thinking of the “unsaved” rather than any personal differences that we might have between our church groups.’
Fred remembers something very special about those early Board meetings, busy bee working days and the founding years of the school in Midland.
‘You saw every part of God’s kingdom at work in the school. Patience, love, kindness, peace, a shared sense of working together for God’s glory. There was a complete sense of joy when Mr Peter Bailey would roll up with something from his salvage yard that could be utilised in the school somewhere.”
Amidst all of this joy was some of the greatest sadness that any family could ever be made to face. The passing away of Fred’s daughter at the tender age of seven from cystic fibrosis was almost unbearable for Fred’s church community. A tragedy like this was not something that their church family had experienced before and there was very little conversation or any sense of consolation for Fred’s family.
In his professional life, Fred found himself having to ‘break the ice’ with anyone he met in the workplace who knew about the tragedy.
However, the small community of Midland Christian School was the comfort that the Styants’s were needing, with families reaching out to display God’s love to the grieving family on a daily basis.
‘People would drop around with meals, pray with us, just wrap their arms around the family. In many ways, it was the worst experience that a family can go through, but it was also an immense opportunity to see how God’s love can be demonstrated through this outpouring. That part of the experience was something that I wish every Christian family could see and feel, as part of a faith community.’
Fred stepped off the Board at that time as the domestic needs were significant and SCEA seemed to have found its footing in the world of Christian education. The fledgling school was now growing past the 150-student mark and things seemed to be stable and consistent with new operational and financial staff coming on board to guide the future growth of the school.
However, after a few more years in which the high school (now Swan Christian College) began and then migrated twice before settling in its present location on Great Northern Highway, Fred was called upon again to step onto the Board. His experience and knowledge, combined with his ability to manage people from all walks of life made him invaluable for any situation that would arise.
While the focus of Fred’s contribution to the life of SCEA may seem to be dominated by governance issues, it was the gathering together of Christians, regardless of differences, that really lifted Fred’s soul during this time.
“I remember when we used to get together at Association meetings. There would be 400 parents and staff together. There were so many of us that we had to meet in Guildford Grammar’s hall. We would start the meeting with singing. There would be this huge volume of voices singing ‘How Great Thou Art’ to God in unison, and I would just let it wash over me. Even thinking about it now makes the hairs on the back of my neck stick up!”
Today, Fred can be found in the bedding department of one of the nation’s largest retailers and practising his handyman skills on the side. His impact on SCEA in its early days is significant, but Fred remains as discreet and humble as ever.
“Whatever we did to set up the school was to the glory of God. It was an incredible ministry to my family, I had wonderful helpers and I was pleased to serve in this capacity.”