The first FRM teaching course for the year was held on the outskirts of Papunya from 11 to 15 April. The venue was the new basketball court, which provided welcome relief from the sun. Pastor Noel Due, formerly of the LCA New and Renewing Churches Department, led studies clearly and well about the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
People came from as far afield as Kiwirrkura (450 km), Irweltye (550 km) and Docker River (600 km). Numbers fluctuated between 17 and 42, averaging around 35. Many women attended the course.
Pastor Noel stressed the fact that the Spirit is uncontrollable, like fire, wind or fast-flowing water. The Spirit is a member of the Trinity and always works together with Father and Son. He also described the Father’s creation of a new worldwide family by the Spirit, and he emphasised the Father’s heartfelt affirmation of his children. The Spirit brings unity where there was formerly division and has the important task of applying the gospel in our lives.
To explain further, he had us read Luther’s explanation of the Third Article together in the local languages. Most moving was his lengthy explanation of Romans 8, in particular, verse 26: ‘the Spirit intercedes with groans too deep for words’.
On the Wednesday morning, Pastor Noel’s impromptu question answering was outstanding. He was flexible, yet to the point, and his wide and varied experience of churchmanship was evident. He also told a story at the singalong that same evening.
FRM fieldworkers also provided some teaching. They gave devotions on the Psalms, and on how they are linked with various well-known hymns.
As well as receiving fine teaching we also enjoyed some very competent catering. Special thanks are due to ‘cookies’ Trevor Braun – cheerful, practical and alert – and Stephen Radke, a former Papunya pastor, who appreciated reconnecting with people he had known decades earlier.
Judging by the attendees’ responses, the teaching seems to have led to something of a sea-change or paradigm shift in people’s understanding of church life. I would expect many of them to show more Spirit-led initiative from here on. So I think it is fair to say that the course was a blessing to all, including to those who organised the event and led the sessions.
Pastor Paul Traeger is the FRM Support Worker for the Pintupi–Luritja language area.