Since 1892, when Lutheran worship services commenced at Witta (then known as Teutoburg), its people have weathered local epidemics of diphtheria, whooping cough, measles and influenza. In the Witta and Maleny areas, these epidemics have resulted in death, closure of schools for weeks at a time, fumigation of buildings, disruption of business, and social events cancelled or postponed. Also, it was reported in 1919 that a “second wave” of the Spanish Influenza was feared and too much caution could not be taken. It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? But, just as our early residents discovered, epidemics do pass and life slowly returns to normal.
It was a wet but happy Sunday in June when the doors to Witta’s historic Lutheran Church were reopened for worship services. Following the Queensland Government’s relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, the small congregation could meet once again in person by following all Public Health Directions. As long-time member Narelle Thamm said, “What a great feeling it was to walk back into God’s house and be in fellowship with all our members. It was a joy to see some faces I hadn’t seen much of in recent times.” Narelle is one of Witta’s talented musicians and also plays for St George’s Anglican Church, Maleny. Usually on an electronic keyboard, Narelle ended Witta’s service with the uplifting hymn “Now Thank We All Our God” on the old pump organ.
During the Government’s suspension of all church worship services, our Pastor Maurie Richter of Nambour posted weekly Facebook video messages, the congregation’s Prayer Group used phone conferencing, and Zoom was learnt for bible studies, meetings and weekly virtual afternoon teas. One real benefit of the regular use of technology is that some grandparents can now confidently connect with grandchildren living at a distance.
Our church wasn’t the only one to quickly learn new ways. Churches on the Range worked hard to share information on how to keep people connected; and combined resources to provide financial support to the chaplains of Maleny’s Primary School and High School who were best placed to know of families in need. “It’s great to see people adapting to changing circumstances and, I believe, COVID-19 has seen a resurgence of neighbour helping neighbour which can only bring good to our community. This virus isn’t over yet but I suspect that some things will not return to “normal” and that is all for the better,” said Phil Thamm, Chairman of Witta’s Lutheran Church.