In 1984 Pastor Greg Schiller moved to Papua New Guinea (PNG). It was there that he took up his call as vicar on Siassi Island, with the LCA’s partner church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea. Thirty-two years later, in 2016, he was called back to Australia; and in 2017 took up a call, just a short swim away from his beloved PNG, in Cairns.
Pastor Schiller’s congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church, currently has 25 PNG Lutheran families who attend worship. With such a large PNG percentage of worshippers, Tok Pisin (one of the official languages of PNG and the most widely spoken) is incorporated into regular Sunday services. In addition, the congregation sporadically holds fellowship purely in the Tok Pisin language.
‘PNG Christians at Trinity Lutheran are pastoral assistants, congregation secretary, lesson readers and service leaders. They provide morning tea, clean the church, arrange flowers, and are Synod delegates’, Pastor Schiller says. ‘For special occasions they decorate the church and prepare meals with that special PNG style and flavour, and sing PNG language songs. They are fully involved in the life of the congregation.’
Since the introduction of Tok Pisin into services, the entire congregation is eagerly learning to sing the traditional PNG songs incorporated into the worship services. ‘We have some familiar English songs that we sing in Tok Pisin’, Pastor Schiller continues. ‘But we also have some PNG songs that I have translated to English. We have taught the congregation these new songs. It’s great that we learn from each other and appreciate each others’ gifts and blessings.’
Having lived and worshipped with PNG Christians for over half his life, Pastor Schiller feels completely natural with the PNG worship style, ‘I feel at home when we meet together around food, song and Bible sharing’, he says. ‘They have special styles of celebrating – with processions and songs, and symbolic actions. There are special times to come together to support each other like when in mourning, and PNG people are more likely to express their grief and not hold back their tears and crying.’
He explains that Lutheran worship in PNG differs to that of Lutheran worship in Australia in that there are a great variety of languages and together with that a great variety of song and music styles, as well as new and modern songs. ‘Most can be sung without accompanied music, and often with drum beat’, he says. ‘These days tambourines are also used, but we don’t have anyone playing tambourine in our Cairns congregation.’
As the congregation strengthens, Pastor Schiller asks that members of the LCAQD pray for them. He asks especially that they pray for the PNG children growing up in Australia, away from their extended PNG family and village life. He asks that they pray for the members who are shift workers and cannot attend Sunday service, for those who live a long way from the church, and for those who are struggling as single parent families.
‘Pray for our congregation to learn with and from each other and to appreciate the gifts and blessings we have to share with each other’, he asks, ‘and pray for our witness to the whole PNG community in Cairns.’
READ MORE STORIES ABOUT PNG