Three years ago, a new bush church was dedicated at the small community of Engawala, 150 kilometres northeast of Alice Springs. Now, on 29 May, another bush church was opened, at a family outstation on Utopia freehold lease Ngkwelay (Ingkwelay), also known as Kurrajong Bore.
Kurrajong Bore belongs to one of the 16 outstations of Urapuntja Council Aboriginal Corporation. This is the administrative body responsible for service delivery to the Anmatyerre- and Alyawarr-speaking people who live on this land. To reach Ngkwelay one has to drive 10 kilometres north from Arlparra and cross the riverbed of the Sandover on dirt road. In dry conditions, the trip from Alice Springs to Ngkwelay (270 kilometres) takes approximately 3.5 hours.
In the small community of Ngkwelay, Aboriginal families live in nine houses provided and maintained by the government. The residents speak mostly Alyawarr and Anmatyerr. They are deeply rooted in Christian faith and the Lutheran Church.
With financial support and building materials from the Regional Council, the residents built their new bush church by themselves. Children, along with young adult men and women worked together to complete the simple place of worship within a few months. Only the side of the altar is protected from the wind with corrugated iron; otherwise the bush church is open on the sides.
The celebrations on the opening day started off well. Fully loaded cars, which had travelled to the festival from surrounding areas, drove into the community one after another. In quiet reverence, we marched three times around the area. Then the church plaque, covered with a bright blue cloth, was unveiled. The text Acts 2:42 is written on the signboard in Alyawarr, and the sermon was based on this verse.
Clayton Hunter, who seeks to become a Christian leader and eventually a minister, assisted me with readings and holy communion. Since Clayton speaks both Alyawarr and Anmatyerr, he translated with David Moore, who travelled from Alice Springs for the special occasion.
In the way that Alyawarr Aboriginal people do, Clayton introduced two committed men who are willing to lead their community spiritually from now on and continue their training.
This day was a blessing to everyone who was able to attend.
Michael Jacobsen is FRM Support Pastor in the Alyawarr/Eastern Arrernte Language Area.