Lutheran churches unite to form one Murray Valley community
Murray Bridge’s Christ Church and Holy Cross, and Monarto’s Zion Lutheran Church, have been joined into one congregation.
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A new season has begun for Murray Bridge and Monarto’s Lutherans.
The three congregations of Holy Cross, Christ Church and Zion were joined together as one Murray Valley Lutheran Community at a special service on Sunday.
All three church buildings will continue to host regular services and other activities, but members of the newly united congregation will work together to become more welcoming and to serve the wider community’s needs.
Leaders from each of the churches brought historical items to symbolise their coming together: engraved trowels used to lay the foundation stones at Zion and Holy Cross, a week apart in February of 1925; and a chalice used for eucharist at Christ Church.
Two pastors will oversee the united community: previous Holy Cross pastor Paul Calnan and David Kuss, newly arrived from Birdwood.
Sunday’s service was held outside at the Monarto Sporting Complex, its symbolism mirrored by the tractor and seeder which circled a paddock across the road.
It doubled as a blessing of the season, an annual affair for many churches, with an altar made of hay bales and a display of local agricultural produce.
About 150 people heard Bible readings, prayed, sang and received the eucharist together between the mallee trees.
Afterwards they shared a lunch prepared by young people from the Lutheran church’s Blueprint Ministries, while children took hay rides and played games on the oval.
A few of the grown-ups took home commemorative bottles of wine and port.
Lutherans including the Hartmann family were prominent among the first settlers of Monarto and Murray Bridge.
As many as 300 people attended services at Holy Cross in its heyday.
In recent decades, like most other Christian denominations, the local Lutheran churches’ membership has aged and dwindled somewhat.
The idea of the three congregations coming together was envisioned about 20 years ago by the late Neville Grieger, then the principal of Murray Bridge’s Unity College.
The congregations’ leaders spent the past two or more years working towards that goal.
Though Mr Grieger did not live to see the vision become a reality – he died only a fortnight ago – Mr Calnan guessed that he would have been looking down from heaven with a smile.