September 2019 marked the 70th anniversary of the dedication of the church building at Haasts Bluff, 220 kilometres west of Alice Springs.
Around 75 locals and visitors attended the anniversary celebrations, which included an evening singalong on 21 September and a service of thanksgiving on 22 September.
Pastor Simon Dixon led the service in the Pintupi–Luritja language, assisted by Pastor Paul Traeger from Papunya. A children’s choir from the Haasts Bluff school sang during the service, accompanied by Pastor Simon on guitar.
Olga Radke, of the Old Lutheran Church Alice Springs living history team, together with other local historians Anne Scherer and David Hewitt, organised a sign for the church that was unveiled at the service. They also created four posters about the history of the building, which were displayed during the celebrations.
Olga said, ‘It was a glorious day. In contrast to the visitors who attended the dedication 70 years ago on the back of trucks from Hermannsburg, jolting over winding outback tracks, our journey from Alice Springs in air-conditioned vehicles was a breeze!’
The church building was formally dedicated on 25 September 1949.
It was the first church built in the Pintupi–Luritja language area when it was constructed predominantly by the work of Aboriginal people in 1946. Money was raised for the construction by showing films of Central Australia made by Lou Borgelt to Lutheran congregations in South Australia and Victoria.
The church’s bell, which is still in use, was donated in 1947 by the Lobethal Lutheran congregation in the Adelaide Hills who had used it for 80 years. Many of the other church furnishings were donated by church members in South Australia.
Pastor Hermann Pech and his wife Elizabeth (who passed away only this year) arrived one year after the church was built and were the first full-time missionaries at Haasts Bluff. They established a vegetable garden, which provided food for the whole settlement, and kept a herd of goats.
The church was also occasionally used as a hospital, particularly during a measles epidemic in 1948.
In 1930, before there was a church building or resident missionaries, Aboriginal evangelists from Hermannsburg (Ntaria) made a camp in the Haasts Bluff area. Meetings took place wherever people gathered, and they came together just by talking with each other.
Elise Mattiske is an editorial assistant with LCA Communications.