By Rosie Schafe

The 2014 Australia Day Honours List recognised the achievements and community service of 638 men and women from across Australia. Three of them were lifelong Lutherans.

Announcing the recipients, Governor- General of Australia Quentin Bryce supported the ideals of the honours system. ‘They elevate the concept of giving to others’, she said. ‘They heighten our respect for one another, and they encourage Australians to think about the responsibilities of citizenship in our democracy.’

Elmer Knobel, Reg Munchenberg and Ken Semmler never went about the business of their lives looking for recognition. All three are people who when they see a need try to meet it; when they see that something needs doing, they get down to work. All three are 2014 recipients of the Medal of the Order of Australia.

And as Lutheran Christians—whether or not they were always consciously aware of it—they knew deep within that through service to others they were also bringing God’s love to life in their communities.

Elmer Knobel OAM

For service to the community of Moree

Elmer Knobel grew up near Henty in southern New South Wales, but it was on the rich black-soil plains surrounding the northern New South Wales town of Moree that he built his adult life.

He was about 25 years old and accompanied by his new wife Irene, when in 1952 he took up 810 hectares of undeveloped country at Milguy, about 50 kilometres from Moree. Clearing the scrub and building roads and dams, Elmer and Irene built a farm—and a 58-year marriage that ended five years ago with Irene’s sudden death.

For a couple raised in established churches, the early situation was a shock: there was no church or congregation, just a couple of Lutheran families scattered across the region.

These later Lutheran pioneers gathered regularly for worship in each others’ homes, while occasional visits by pastors (often relatives) ensured that the sacraments could be received. The first Lutheran church to be built in the region was St John’s, Milguy, constructed from timber donated by the Knobels and milled at their property. By the early 1960s the number of Lutheran families in the region had grown, and Grace Lutheran Church.

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