With a total weight of almost a tonne and measuring more than 30 linear metres, a precious collection of documents, books, magazines, audio-visual items and photographs that tell the story of the Lutheran Church of New Zealand across 180 years were officially ‘welcomed’ to Lutheran Archives in Adelaide on Saturday 8 July.

The 180 boxes of historical material from the New Zealand district and its congregations left Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa (the National Library of New Zealand) in Wellington earlier this year to join what is now the LCANZ’s churchwide archives.

The ceremony to officially acknowledge the arrival of records and to introduce and bless them was held in NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee) Week and Kaurna elder Uncle Mickey Kumatpi O’Brien performed the Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony. LCNZ Bishop Emeritus Mark Whitfield, a member of the fifth generation of Lutherans in Aotearoa New Zealand, gave an introduction and led a blessing of the three-pallet load of records, noting that they hold taonga (treasure in te reo Māori language), both historical and spiritual – sacred even.

‘As we commended the taonga of our history as church in Aotearoa to its safe journey to Australia, we acknowledged that our story in Aotearoa is part of God’s whole story with his creation and his people from the beginning of time’, Bishop Emeritus Mark said. ‘It is a story of grace and love, most beautifully demonstrated in Ihu Karaiti, his Son, Jesus Christ. As our archival material has been recorded and preserved over these past 180 years and now as it resides here in Kaurna land, we pray that it will serve to keep alive the memory of the church in Aotearoa and the work God has done in and through it.’

Lutheran Archives Director Rachel Kuchel and LCANZ Bishop Paul Smith committed the Lutheran church in Australia to preserve the precious stories entrusted to it.

‘Thank you to New Zealand Lutherans who have entrusted their records to Lutheran Archives’, Rachel said. ‘We will continue to preserve these records and will undertake indexing, cataloguing and digitisation on them so that they will be accessible for generations to come.

‘When we look at the records of our church, we can be encouraged that our congregations and ministries do not exist in isolation, and see all the wonderful and diverse ways that God blesses us and works through us as the LCANZ.’

Bishop Paul said the archived materials are ‘precious story from the mission of God at work amongst the Lutheran people in Aotearoa’. ‘We commit ourselves to watch over what has been handed into our custody, and we appreciate that these archival records tell a specific story – of faithfulness to God and of God’s faithfulness to us.’

The Alexander Turnbull Library (which holds non-government archival material) had been the custodian of the collection since 1976, but the LCNZ archive had always remained the property of the church. Almost four years ago, the LCNZ Synod voted to send this collection to Lutheran Archives so that the history of Lutherans in New Zealand and Australia would be able to be told side-by-side.

A Poroporoakī (sending) was held on 19 January at the National Library and the records were received at Lutheran Archives on 2 March. The welcome and blessing ceremony on 8 July also included aspects of the Poroporoakī, as well as a song of thanks in te reo Māori, German and English, and prayers and blessings in Māori and English.

In Adelaide, the New Zealand collection is being described, arranged and rehoused by Project Archivist Susan Kreymborg, with support from Collections Archivist Angela Schilling.

The collection will remain accessible to New Zealanders and other international researchers through the Alexander Turnbull Library digital catalogue.

– Lisa McIntosh and Rosie Schefe

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