The history of Finke River Mission (FRM) in Central Australia dates back to the mid-1870s. However, while there are regular milestones recalling significant events across more than 140 years, there are also new and exciting developments in the 40 Lutheran communities of the region.
This month marks the 70th anniversary of the dedication of the church building at Haasts Bluff, 220 kilometres west of Alice Springs, while recently a new church was dedicated at Engawala, 150 kilometres north-east of the region’s largest population centre.
Haasts Bluff was the first church built in the Pintupi-Luritja language area when it was constructed predominantly by the work of Aboriginal people in 1949. The church’s bell, which is still in use, had been donated by the Lobethal Lutheran congregation in the Adelaide Hills.
The church was built 26 years after the first tentative survey mission trip was made to the area from Hermannsburg.
It was 19 years after the start of official ongoing evangelism work at Haasts Bluff, eight years after it had been formally established as a ration depot, and only a few years after Pastor Hermann Pech and his wife Elizabeth (who passed away only this year) had arrived. Seventy years on there will be an evening singalong and a service of thanksgiving. Celebrations will be led by local Indigenous pastors Trevor Raggett and Simon Dixon.
Another reason to celebrate is the new bush church at the small community of Engawala, situated on Alcoota station.
Until recently, the congregation had gathered for monthly worship on a basketball court. Several years ago, locals decided that they wanted their own church building. Assisted by local community development workers, they have been converting an old house into a small church.
While work on the church is ongoing, FRM support pastor for the Alyawarr Region Michael Jacobsen reports that an opening service was held in June, with FRM support workers officiating, and other Aboriginal pastors and linguists, and the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir participating in the service.
Church vessels were donated by St Paul Lutheran Church Morawa in Western Australia and Pastor Michael says a plaque will be placed in front of the new church with the inscription: Aboriginal Lutheran Church of Engawala.
‘The Lord made us, and we are his; we are his people’ (Psalm 100:3).