It has been six years since a hymn rang out in Australia’s most remote parish church. All Saints Church, located on the far-eastern edge Torres Strait Island of Erub, has been crumbling away, but contractors are restoring the building to its former glory.
Walter Lui, the church warden of All Saints and grandson of its first priest, recalled the beauty of traditional island services and lamented the loss of an active congregation.
“The hymn singing was so vibrant … it’s something you have to hear to believe,” Lui told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“Those who got married here, or christened or baptized here, they feel very emotional,” he said. “We’re all very heavy.”
Erub, or Darnley Island, is 200 kilometers east of the Torres Strait hub, Thursday Island, and home to about 400 people of Christian faith.
But the building has slowly crumbled since a restoration in 1963. Erosion, a lack of funds for maintenance, and a shortage of local construction skills through migration of young people to the mainland are all factors, and Erub no longer has a priest.
Faithful parishioners of Erub have launched a grassroots funding campaign to restore All Saints. They hope work will be complete for the heritage-listed church’s centennial next year.
So far the community has raised $40,000 that has funded asbestos removal from the roof.
Fellow church warden Dick Pilot said a community-led restoration will honor parishioners’ ancestors and empower his people: “Today we are not a dispossessed people, we are a proud people who still have our culture, language, and we live on and occupy our islands.”
Adapted from the Australian Broadcasting Corp.