What is the church? Where can we find it? Who is part of it? This is what 40 women gathered to consider on the banks of the Areyonga (Utju) Creek.
They came from all around central Australia to share in a weekend of Bible study, worship and fellowship. They travelled from seven different communities. They drove over bumpy roads, packed into a variety of vehicles, bringing their bedding, hymnbooks and their willingness to learn.
Friday night was settling-in time. Saturday began with an after-breakfast walk, followed by Bible study and singing. Harvesting the famous Utju pitjuri was the chief preoccupation of any spare moments.
In the late afternoon, many women sat down to capture their learning and their faith on posters. Sharing their artwork around the campfire in the evening was a special time. Our studies (led by Deb Myers) taught us that the church is where Christ is present in word and sacrament. We find it wherever the important truths of Scripture are proclaimed. We recognise it when Christ is worshipped as truly God and truly human, who died and was raised for our salvation. This is the rock we hang on to, the solid ground on which we can make a safe camp – and the test by which we decide whether any particular group is Christian or not.
So we need to know very clearly what the Bible teaches about Jesus and why God sent him. The Lutheran Church has some strong teaching which helps us to understand this well.
One of the women remarked: ‘We really like studying the Bible in our own language, and dividing into different language groups, so we can hear and share God’s word more deeply’.
Sunday morning we worshipped with the Good Shepherd congregation in Areyonga – appropriately, as it was Good Shepherd Sunday. After we celebrated Holy Communion, everyone sang table grace in the churchyard. To cap off the morning (pardon the pun!) we shared a huge bag crammed full of colourful beanies, sent as gifts of love from the Lutheran Women of South Australia. They were really appreciated. Much laughter was heard as people tried on various beanies to see which one suited them best. We encouraged everyone to pray for the women who had knitted them.
Thanks to all those who helped over the weekend, and to Lutheran Women of Australia and South Australia for their generous support.