Despite a COVID-19 lockdown forcing a last-minute change of plans, Stanley Roberts was ordained in unique circumstances as a Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) at Papunya in the Northern Territory in November.
LCA/NZ Bishop John Henderson had planned to conduct the ordination on 22 November at the Indigenous community 240 kilometres west of Alice Springs, but a snap lockdown announced in South Australia a few days earlier prevented him leaving Adelaide.
However, local leaders decided to proceed and Finke River Mission (FRM) fieldworker Pastor Paul Traeger ordained and installed Stanley to his new roles. Pastor Stanley will serve as SMP for Papunya and the Pintupi-Luritja language area. It is believed to be the first time in the LCA that an SMP has ordained another SMP.
Despite temperatures above 40 degrees, more than 200 people attended the service, which Pastor Paul said reflected ‘heartfelt community approval’. There was a procession of pastors and evangelists at the beginning of the service, which was held at the school basketball court due to the church having been damaged by fire about a month earlier. Papunya Pastor Graham Poulson opened the service, conducted a baptism and preached, while Pastor Stanley led the communion liturgy after his ordination.
Pastor Paul said community participation in the joyful occasion including singing, liturgical dance and greetings.
Pastor Stanley is the son of the late Pastor Murphy Roberts, who 38 years ago became one of the first Pintupi-Luritja pastors ordained. While his father did not live to see Stanley ordained, one relative who did was a local pastor, who sadly died suddenly just four days later. Pastor Stanley said later: ‘He must have been waiting for me’.
Pastor Stanley was also presented with the late Pastor Max Stollznow’s robe. Pastor Max was serving as FRM Support Worker and pastor at Papunya when Murphy Roberts was ordained.
A former student at Yirara College in Alice Springs who later completed the FRM pastors’ curriculum, Pastor Stanley, 45, had been a community night patrol worker until 2019. He finished that role to concentrate on his ministry duties. He was prominent in leading evening singalongs at Papunya during most of 2020.
Pastor Stanley is married to Sheila and has four children, ranging in age from 9 to 24.
– Reporting by Pastor Paul Traeger