Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In the Heart of Lutherdom

Tanunda has four Lutheran churches – all within walking distance of each other, in this prosperous town in the heart of the Barossa Valley, centre of antipodean Lutherdom.

The local Herald lists nineteen Lutheran parishes in the Barossa, all with multiple Sunday services in various locales.  Contrast that with the sole Catholic parish encompassing the whole Barossa Valley!

On the way out of Tanunda toward Greenock yester-day (Tuesday the 14th), I stopt to take a picture of a sample Lutheran church: Gnadenfrei (rather confusingly bearing “St Michael’s” as a middle name), adjoining the tiny locality of Marananga, right in amongst the vines, with a graveyard of former parishioners out the back.

(A quick search turned up the following link, giving interesting pictures of the interior, including a cute little altar with rails and reredos of the Good Shepherd, as well as overlong details of the church organ!  Apparently Gnadenfrei was the original name of the area, but during World War I many of the names were changed – as most famously Kaiser Stuhl was renamed Mount Kitchener.)

Just a short distance further on, up a hill overlooking Seppeltsfield, was a Greek temple approached by a steep path flanked by palm trees – the Seppelt family mausoleum, erected 1927.  Walking up around and past it, I came to the summit and looked out over the adjoining field, to be stared back at by four assorted alpacas.

I trust Lutherans will not reject my prayer for the repose of those within the mausoleum; I am told by a reputable Pastor that prayer for the dead may be tolerated “in private”.

Seppeltsfield itself, that famous winery, with its huge buildings old and new, was larger to my mind than New Norcia.  How extraordinary, that the German Lutherans who fled Prussia for the Province of South Australia, preferring perpetual exile to the impious designs of King Frederick (who amalgamated his Lutheran and Calvinist subjects into one Protestant body, to the horror of strict Lutherans), and settled down on their new farms to live humble lives in godly piety, have ended up not just prosperous but the rich possessors of world-class vineyards.

We headed up to the Clare Valley – that other celebrated wine region, but settled by Irish, not Germans – via Kapunda (mispronounced amusingly as “Kaputka”, which I fear is in Siberia instead), and enjoyed a most scenic drive through astonishingly verdant farmland, every creek and rill bursting with swift-flowing torrents after the recent heavy rain.  There is something very restorative about a pastoral landscape.  The bright yellow fields of canola were particularly eye-pleasing.

After an extremely delicious late lunch at Skillogalee Winery (I recommend their 2010 riesling), we paid a visit to the Jesuits at Sevenhill, where the good father and brothers have made Australia’s sacramental wine for a century and a half.  I took the opportunity to at last read Lauds for to-day, the Feast of the Holy Cross, in the graceful church of St Aloysius.

Did I mention that Tanunda also has a very good secondhand and antiquarian bookshop?  I found a copy of Fr Lasance’s well-known prayerbook, and Maritain’s The Peasant of the Garonne, amongst other items of interest.


Schütz said...

Ah, the happy (grape-)stomping grounds of my forefathers...

I actually assisted at the ordination of a friend of mine about eighteen years ago in the Gnadenfrei Church. The Barossa really is a beautiful setting, all those stone country germanic style churches surrounded by vineyards. I hope to be visiting there soon with my wife and children - we haven't visited the great, great, great grandparents for a while...

Michael Gormley said...

Do you follow the West Coast Eagles?

Joshua said...

No, Hawthorn: Garn the Mighty Hawks!

christl242 said...

Thanks for this, Joshua. My mom is a Prussian Lutheran as well but her family left Salzburg several generations ago to settle in East Prussia.

I didn't realize until a few years ago that there was also a settlement of Salzburger Lutherans in Georgia here in the good old USA.

My family lived in Australia in the early 50's and I'll never forget the sight of the Australian vineyards. Since I was but a small child they seemed to go on forever!