By Olga Radke, Tony Collins and Chris & Karl Benz
Sunday 9 August, 2013: a glorious central Australian day with the sun shining, guest preacher Rev Dr Steen Olsen (Mission Director SA/NT District) preaching and choirs from numerous communities and Alice Springs Mission Block raising the roof, for the dedication of a large interpretive sign celebrating mission work of our church.
The Mission Block is the name of the large area (6 acres) surrounding the current location of the Alice Springs Lutheran Church building bounded by Gap Rd, Strehlow St & South Tce, Alice Springs
Since the late 1930s the Mission Block has provided a location for not only the spiritual ministry of our Church, with services by the Big Gum Tree and in the Old Church, the Mission Block was also, and still is, the location for the physical and human support of thousands of local people and those from the many communities and cattle stations served by Finke River Mission (FRM).
[pullquote_right ]Since the late 1930s the Mission Block has provided a location for not only the spiritual ministry of our Church but also the physical and human support of thousands of local people.[/pullquote_right]
The Mission Block, as well as comprising Church and Sunday School buildings, is and has included houses for pastors, evangelists and FRM workers; long term accommodation in pensioner and children cottages plus temporary accommodation for Aboriginal visitors to town and to FRM workers on their way to and from outlying communities; plus a training centre, Aboriginal clubrooms and recreation hall; maintenance workshops, cash store and administration offices. The Mission Block is a little community by itself. It even had a small oval lawn area on which many games were played and it was also the site of outdoor movie screenings!
The past and continuing ministry of all of these aspects of the Mission Block was celebrated by the unveiling and dedication of an interpretive sign created by the Old Lutheran Church Living History Team comprising Olga Radke, Tony Collins plus Chris and Karl Benz. The sign is based on a walking tour around the Mission Block, displaying the many aspects of the Mission Block being the Alice Springs base for the work of the Lutheran Church in Central Australia.
It will be permanently placed on the exterior entrance wall of the FRM office and will be part of the traditional procession from Big Gum Tree to Old Church at an upcoming Thanksgiving service later in the year.
As part of the Mission Day services, members of the local congregation connected with the Mission Block – Mona Cramer, Judy Eckermann, Derek and Stanley Swan, Stephanie Pietsch and Fay Day unveiled the sign, followed by dedication and thanksgiving prayers for God’s work on the Mission Block led by Pastors Rob Borgas and Ken Schultz.
As a 17 year old Mona Cramer (nee Kennedy) came up to Hermannsburg in February 1947 from Light Pass SA where she supervised Correspondence School lessons for the children staff (including Gross, Albrecht and Gehling families) operating the battery radio amongst many other duties. When she and family came to live in Alice Springs in July 1957 Mona worked in the Old Cash Store with Mr Art Latz and Pastor Cyril Motna. She remembers most her last day of work in the Cash Store, 15 November 1960… the day her daughter Judy was born. Mona also taught Sunday School and played the organ in both the Old Church and new Church for over 20 years. Mona and family are icons of the Mission Block.
Derek Swan, with his twin brother Garry, came into Alice Springs from Henbury Station to live in the children cottages for three or so years to go to Hartley St and Traegar Park schools. He remembers Mary Bertelsmeier, Enid Stengert and Margaret Tischler as cottage parents. Both Stephanie Pietsch and Fay Day (nee Niejalke) were cottage parents in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with many children still remembering them as ‘Miss Stephanie & Miss Fay’. For over two decades the children’s cottages over 30 ‘parents’ provided in-town accommodation support for in excess of 100 Aboriginal children as they continued their schooling in Alice Springs.
A great celebration of God’s ongoing work – past & continuing.