At Hermannsburg on Sunday July 20th the traditional song ‘Kumbayah’ was sung in fifteen different languages at the same time. Eleven of those languages came from the hearts of the multi-Grammy award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir, who took time out of their busy Australian tour to worship with Indigenous choirs from Alice Springs, Titjikala, Docker River, Mutitjulu, Areyonga and Hermannsburg, all harmonised together in a service of praise.
Pastor David Kuss began the service with a question: ‘What is the most used book among Central Australian Indigenous Lutherans?’ Clearly, the answer was the hymn book. Readers may be disappointed that the answer was not the bible. But, we must understand that Indigenous people have a strong oral tradition that has mainly been chanted or sung. So, when the first missionaries came to Hermannsburg, God’s word was received as song far more naturally than being read in the pages of a bible. The Soweto people also have a great singing tradition, and there was an obvious overwhelming spiritual bond as the choirs came together.
Later in the day, the Soweto Choir was invited to sing in the ‘old church’ in the Hermannsburg Historical Precinct. The old church walls were once again blessed with harmonies of praise. After delicious soup and apple strudel, the whole contingent, including a very sensitive entourage of media people, were taken to some special sites along the Finke River including ‘Jesus’ Footprint’ formed in the bedrock.
The day ended with hugs and the bestowing of skin names. These things normally would happen after many years of trust and friendship. It seemed the common history of hardship, story, and song created a deep kindred spirit. It was a day of blessing for the Indigenous Lutherans and especially for our choirs who are, in many ways, the backbone of Lutheran spirituality in Central Australia. We are very thankful to the Soweto Gospel Choir for blessing our people with their presence.
In Alice Springs on July 19, the Combined Central Australian Indigenous Choir performed as a support act to the Soweto Gospel Choir at the Araluen Arts Centre to two packed audiences. On August 24, they did it all again at the Darwin Amphitheatre for the closing of the Darwin Festival before a crowd of 5000 people. A retiring offering for the Choir’s trip to Germany in 2015 raised almost $7000.
For more reports and photos see: ABC’s veteran religious commentator John Cleary was at Hermannsburg: http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/news/ audio/am/201407/20140721-am-fullprogram.mp3
See the Soweto Gospel Choir Facebook page for excellent photos of the day: https://www.facebook. com/pages/Asante-Sana-choir/206866396020070
The following is a link to a short film of the choir singing at the Araluen Centre in Alice Springs. https://vimeo.com/109431867