Jimi Hendrix once said, ‘Music is my religion’. Recently, Lilly Roennfeldt from Hermannsburg said a similar thing, ‘Music is my faith’. Both Lilly and Jimi know that music feeds the soul and blesses others. The Central Australian Aboriginal Ladies Choir (which includes two men) has just returned from a week-long tour of Adelaide and the Barossa Valley. Their goal was to share their faith in song.
Singing and chanting of songs and stories has been done by Indigenous Australians for thousands of years. Since Pastor AH Kempe produced the first Arrarnta hymnal in 1891 at Hermannsburg, Christian hymnody has been the primary means of sharing the gospel in Central Australia. Through singing and listening to these hymns, many Indigenous people first heard the gospel and learnt about the Christian faith.
The choir sings original Arrarnta & Pitjantjatjara compositions, as well as translated hymns originally sung in English and German (some of these hymns have never been translated into English!). One of their conductors, Morris Stuart, has also taught them how to perform some African songs.
Many of the ladies live in difficult, isolated circumstances and have limited opportunities. However, through music they can share their faith to all generations and cultures and can sing with the best in the world. They have publically performed with the Grammy Award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir in 2011, and have recently been invited to sing at the German Christian Kirchentag at Stuttgart in 2015.
Choirs are vital for preserving the one faith of the church and unifying the people from all cultures of central Australia. The sincerity and joy of the ladies singing indicates that the theology of many central Australian Lutherans comes entirely from their hymns.
We would like to thank Dr.Tony & Lois Rathjen, FRM Hermannsburg Store, the LLL, Centrecorp Foundation, Dr Team Wing Yip, choir conductors Heather Doecke, David Roennfeldt and Morris Stuart, MLA Alison Anderson, those wonderful people who generously cared for members of the choir in their homes, Bethlehem, Pasadena, Glynde and Langmeil congregations, Concordia and Immanuel Colleges, Tanunda Lutheran School, and the many others who pray for us.