Alice Springs in the Northern Territory is a tourist town—the gateway to Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Australia’s Red Centre. The attendance at the Adventist church each week reflects this as travellers from across Australia and further afield join in worship.
The church has seen a lot of changes over the past few years, with a flood of African migrants arriving in town for work. The church was already very multicultural, with Aboriginal, Filipino, Fijian, Chinese, Lithuanian and Anglo-Australian members. Now, more than half the 60 regulars are of African origin—many of them professionals in various fields from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and South Sudan.
We need to focus less on being right and more on being righteous. Less on being good and more on being godly.
Social worker Munyaradzi Timire, or “Tim” to his friends, is the church’s music director and has helped spawn two new vocal groups, rigorously training singers using the traditional “do re mi” technique still used in his native Zimbabwe. He hopes to bring them up to public performance level.
Sabbath morning in the Red Centre with Tim Timire (left) and Chris Mukangaya.
While Tim is enthusiastic about his role at the church, he’s also conscious of how the African influence has changed the character of the congregation—he knows it’s been a difficult transition for some.
Like many African migrants, Tim says his church background was very strict. It’s taken a while for him to adjust to the more informal worship practices in Australia. He’s aware of his tendency to be judgemental but he has a motto to live by: “We need to focus less on being right and more on being righteous,” he says. “Less on being good and more on being godly.”
Tim says the African migrants in town turn to one another for support. They cross religious and ethnic lines they might not have if they were back home. This has created friendships. Chris Mukangaya’s church denomination doesn’t have a congregation in Alice Springs, but he has always felt welcome at the Adventist church. A university student, he’s a keen debater of the finer points of doctrine and has been convinced of the truth of the Sabbath. He says the next time there’s an appeal for decisions he’ll come forward.