Visionary choirmaster among the celebrated in Australia Day Honours

Morris Stuart, the visionary pastor who took the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir on a joyous and poignant journey to Germany to sing German missionary hymns, is one of the notable Christians honoured with an AM in the Australia Day Honours List.

Born in Guyana, Stuart receives the AM (Member of the Order of Australia) for significant service to the Indigenous community and to choral music.

Pastor Stuart succeeded the late John Smith, also known as God’s Biker, who planted the Truth and Liberation Concern (TLC Church) at Boronia Bayswater Community Church of Christ in Bayswater, Victoria.

TLC Church was planted during the Jesus movement – an evangelical movement that spread from the US west coast in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Affiliated with the Churches of Christ, TLC describes itself as an “an organic community responding to God’s grace and to call to love God and love one another.”

After pastoring TLC Church from 1982 to 2003, Stuart became the founder and director of the Central Australian Aboriginal Women’s Choir, which took a 12,000km trip to Germany to share some of the 53 hymns that German missionaries translated into local languages in the 19th century. The songs had all but vanished from use in Germany, but had been preserved in the Central Australian desert for 140 years. Their remarkable journey was featured in a 2017 documentary, The Song Keepers, as well as on Australian Story on ABC Television.

Also honoured with an AM is Bronwyn Pike, a significant leader in the Uniting Church in Australia and social justice advocate. Her citation is for significant service to social welfare and not-for-profit organisations, and to the Parliament of Victoria.

She headed significant welfare organisations, now known as UnitingCare in Victoria, before entering parliament for the ALP, serving 11 years in Labor governments as minister for education and health along with other portfolios. She is currently CEO of UnitingCare Victoria and Tasmania. She was also Director of Justice and Social Responsibility for Synod of Victoria, Uniting Church in Australia, 1991-1997.

An early director of Youth for Christ (YFC) Australia, Clive Stebbins, receives an OAM (Medal of the Order of Australia) for his service to the international community, and to youth. Stebbins led Youth for Christ from 1968 to 1977 – a time when the movement was reaching many young people that normal church channels were missing.

“We saw hundreds of young people commit their lives to Jesus Christ.” – Clive Stebbins

During the 1950s and 1960s, thousands attended Youth for Christ rallies, which contained music, communal singing, a gospel presentation and an invitation to respond.

“We had our very first large rally in the Melbourne Town Hall and I’ll never forget that… the place was packed to capacity,” Clive Stebbens recalled.

“We had 2500 people in the Melbourne Town Hall, another 500 down on Swanson Street and Collins Street trying to get in and as a result we saw hundreds of young people commit their lives to Jesus Christ.”

Stebbins, who is now 88, is still what his mother prayed he would become – a preacher of the gospel, serving at Pakenham Baptist Church in Victoria.

After his 36 years with YFC, he served for six years with International Needs and 15 years preaching the gospel in Sri Lanka.

As well as high profile achievers, the Honours List also recognises the achievements of many who work faithfully and steadfastly behind the scenes.

“I am grateful to have received many opportunities to serve God and others through my profession as a teacher and through the Church.” – Joy Freier

One such is Joy Freier, wife of the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, Philip Freier, who receives an OAM for her service to the Anglican Church and to education. Since her husband’s inauguration in 2007, she has served as fundraising coordinator of the Open Garden Tour of Bishopscourt House, the stunning East Melbourne residence overlooking Fitzroy Gardens which has 18 rooms in a combined Italianate and arts and crafts style.

Since 2007, she has also been Supporter of Dream Stitches Migrant and Refugee Women’s Sewing Program whose aims include supporting migrant and refugee women to develop friendships and creating opportunities to achieve high standards of dressmaking or gain other employment in the community. Joy also served as director of the Anglican Board of Mission Australia 2009-2012.

Joy says: “I am grateful to have received many opportunities to serve God and others through my profession as a teacher and through the Church. It is a lovely affirmation to receive this recognition from the wider community.”

And what would the Uniting Church in Emerald, Victoria, have done without the late Margaret Hall organising the flower roster? She also served in the choir, wrote the church monthly bulletin, organised various tasks include church readers as well as the flower rosters. She even wrote a book: A Church of their Own – 25 Years of the Uniting Church in Emerald. Margaret is honoured with an OAM for her good and faithful service over many years.

Lorraine Kinrade of Drouin, Victoria, also receives an OAM for her service as a church warden of Drouin Anglican Parish for 40 years! She has also chaired the Drouin Combined Churches Committee since 2009; and has been Anglican Representative, since 1990; Foundation Member, since 1990. Her myriad other roles have been Member, Parish Council; Past President, Women’s Fellowship; Member, Incumbency Committee and Building Committee.

Anyone can nominate any Australian for an award in the Order of Australia. If you know someone worthy, nominate them here.