It was an experience of camaraderie and ‘Sisterhood’, when the AWSC Pasefika Tikanga met in the Kingdom of Tonga from Thursday 7th to Saturday 9th November 2019. Revd Sonja Hunter writes…
There were seventeen (17) representatives from the Island Nations of Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa and the Kingdom of Tonga. The flexible, yet dynamic programme focused on lively conversations on women clergy development issues, and the promotion of the AWSC Book Project of ‘Telling our Stories: 40 Years of Women’s Ordination’.
The separate Hui of the three Tikanga in 2019 was a decision by the AWSC Council ‘to strengthen the Tikanga base as we move ahead together in the strength of our own identities’ as reported in the September & October 2019 AWSC Newsletter.
The Hui was appropriately convened in the Capital, Nuku’alofa, which, when translated, means the village or place of love. The delegates loved the coordination of the programme by the AWSC Tonga Hui Councillor Reverend Evelini Langi and the AWSC Tonga Link Mrs. Akanesi Folau with sponsorship from the AWSC through the wonderful assistance of the vibrant Reverend Val Riches and Ms. Ceridwyn Parr.
Camaraderie and Sisterhood enabled the conversations around the experiences of the women on various topics that were presented by guest speakers with the underlying theme of love and understanding setting the acceptance of allowing the programme to be conducted according to the group’s convenience and creativeness.
The Hui exemplified the Scriptures in 1st Corinthians 13:13 ‘And now these three remain; faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is Love.’
It was love that made all things possible and allowed 17 ladies from different cultural backgrounds and walks of life to engage in conversation, sharing the wonderful Love of God and the varieties, versions and colour of individual experiences.
Love is always the common element that breeds understanding and acceptance of all stories that are shared irrespective of the differences in culture, creed or race. The Hui therefore presented many lessons and laughter for all the lady-delegates in the Pasefika way.
Nuku’alofa was the perfect setting, with visits to the four parishes and island sightseeing, group and individual activities with family and friends in Tonga. After all Tonga is widely known as the Friendly Islands.
In the Pacific, everything and every occasion begins with Prayer to thank God for each day and to acknowledge the work of the risen Christ through whom our sins have been forgiven and to plead with supplication those things which our hearts desire and are in accordance with the Will of God.
The Hui therefore opened with a Special Service and the Celebration of the Eucharist led by Reverend Hepi Tohi of the Saint Paul’s Anglican Cathedral with a wonderful sermon and reflection by Dr. Mele’ana Puloka, the President of the Weslyan Church Schools, on the Journeys from the Past This highlighted some of the life lessons preached through the life of Queen Salote. She was the renowned Queen of Tonga who attended the Coronation of the young Queen Elizabeth I1,and , who during the parade, became a renowned Monarch through her act of humility in riding her assigned open carriage in the rain, waving at the multitude of people who had gathered in the streets of London to witness the Coronation Parade. Dr. Mele’ana had also reflected on the lives of the women of Tonga and their motherly roles and the importance of their great influence and teaching of the children who are the future developers of the Kingdom. She went on to say that the work and services of the ladies who had assisted and served in bringing up Queen Salote as a young Princess were also crucial in contributing to the building of her character. Dr. Mele’ana shared her strong faith in her work and highlighted some of the key development strategies in the Wesleyan Educational system and frameworks.
In our Christian work to progress the work of Christ in our communities and countries, we acknowledge that it is with hope that we pin our faith in Christian principles and values for greater things to come. It is through Jesus Christ that we trust the manifestations of what we hope for.
Throughout the Hui, key presenters informed us about motivational processes that will ensure goal setting and achievement for the improvement and the establishing of good leaders , who are sought by the worshipping communities and countries.
Leadership Development was a key topic presented by Mrs. Katrina Ma’u sharing her own experiences and lessons that were acquired through the tutelage of Inspirational Leader John Calvin Maxwell. Mrs. Eleni Levin-Tevi of the European Union Tonga Office enlightened the Group on the work carried out by the Youth of the All Saints Church, on Healthy Living, cleaning of their community environs and promoting awareness on the effects of Climate Change and caring for God’s creation, to name a few topics.
The Secretary General of the Tonga National Council of Churches, Reverend Ikani Tolu, spoke about the Ecumenical Movement in the Pacific and the goals established by the Pacific Council of Churches to lead the nations into a strong platform of unity whilst acknowledging the diversity of cultures and beliefs. Reverend Ikani Tolu further elaborated on the TNCC Strategic Direction in the Formation of good Governance, Capacity Building for Mission, Enhancing Gender Voices for Dignity and a Programme that has the Youth reframing their Stories. The Principal and Sister Mele of St. Andrews College provided an educational presentation of the college and its recent achievements, and also hosted a luncheon for the AWSC Group.
The Presentations by the Guest Speakers gave much hope to the AWSC Tikanga Pasefika Hui that we are indeed moving in the right direction and that in Christ we continue to move together.
The presentations, conversations and knowledge sharing during the Tikanga Pasefika Hui was enjoyable and enlightening in every part of the programme, as the women built the programme together with seriousness and focus on important topics, yet with light conversations and laughter making the lessons memorable for making the necessary improvements to one’s life and those of the communities that we serve through the strength that Jesus gives us and through the daily renewal of our minds, and acknowledging that God had indeed given us a spirit of Power, Love and a Sound Mind.
We went to the Hui as people of specific characters and returned to our Homes very different and more enhanced spiritual people with aims to further improve on areas of better stewardship on God’s creation, healthy living and striving for excellent leadership, and therefore being more consultative on church issues and developing improved frameworks that would ensure better governance structures to guide the church.
Conclusion and Acknowledgement
The success of the Hui was due to the vision of the AWSC Council, the coordination by the Tikanga Pasefika Councillors and the Links, the Anglican Churches and the Women Organisations and especially the AAW in Tonga and not forgetting the vibrant and energetic Reverend Val Riches from the AWSC Tikanga Pakeha. We also acknowledge the contribution of Reverend Eseta Mateiviti-Tuilavu of the St. Johns Theological College, the Hui guest speakers and participants who were acknowledged at the Hui Farewell and Gift Exchange Session, as well as in this paper for the record.
We of course, give all thanks to our Heavenly Father for His unconditional Love, and the Grace of Jesus Christ through Whom we are saved and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit, without Whom nothing would have been possible.
The Hui exemplified God’s Word in 1st Corinthians 13:13 ‘And now these three remain; faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is Love.’