The Lord’s Day. This morning our Pastors and Bishop Warner each will preach at a different church’s 10 am service … more on that below … and Pastor Greg has drawn double-duty.
7 am Service: Dudley Memorial
At 7 am Isimeli drives Pastor Greg to Dudley Memorial Methodist Church (Lekima and Sekope have duties elsewhere). Dudley is the Mother Church of the Indian Division and named in honor of Hannah Dudley who founded the Methodist Mission to the Indians of Fiji. According to the church brochure
From her arrival in 1897 to her final departure in 1913 due to illness, Hannah Dudley worked tirelessly, establishing the first school for Indian children in Suva …, visiting homes, holding night classes for young men … (On) Sundays she held … services on her verandah (and) also walked three miles to the local gaol to speak to 400 prisoners and pray with condemned prisoners about to be hanged…. she began adopting orphans (and) soon the number had grown to eleven … in 1904 an orphanage (in her name) was built at Davuilevu (now the Dilkusha Girls Home).
We are greeted by Rev. William Lucas, for six years the Circuit Minister and Divisional Superintendent, and by others of the staff which totals 2 Reverends, 3 Deaconesses, 9 Pastors and 3 Stewards (and this is not a large sanctuary).
Two weeks a month the Dudley English language service is recorded and then broadcast nationwide at 10 am on FM 105 and on the web site of Radio Fiji.
There is singing led by the voices and guitars of the Praise and Worship Team. Deaconess Praveena Naidu leads the early part of the service and reads a lesson for children who will be listening on the radio. Isimeli reads from First Thessalonians 1:1-10, which Pastor Greg will use for his sermon. During the reading the many birds who congregate near the doors and large open windows to the sanctuary burst out in raucous song, the blessedly cool air of the early morning wafts around us aided by the ceiling fans and God is indeed Good.
Pastor Greg’s sermon title might be called “You called me by my name.” He recalls Tommy, a homeless, former university professor who had lost his life to a cocaine addiction and was “too tired to moan” when he found himself at the Ministry to the homeless of Pastor Greg’s church in Macon Georgia of the southern US, . When asked why he came, Tommy replied because you came to me and called me by my name, when to others I had none. Recalling that God also calls us by name, Pastor Greg then speaks on the many names of God and Jesus and the many facets of their existence to us.
10 am service at Raiwaqa Methodist Church
Our San Rafael group plus several generations of Julie’s family gather beforehand across the street for a breakfast of papaya, bananas, sweet bread and butter and hot chocolate. Over time, we are joined by various of the church officials. Needless to say, perhaps, laughter abounds, and then the time to gather in the sanctuary is announced to the neighborhood by the large wooden lali (drum) that lives under a roof in the front yard.
The baby is named for his grandfather. Pastor Liza points out that he is going to be the church’s youngest missionary, traveling even tomorrow in God’s name to Germany. Once baptized, Pastor Liza carries him slowly up and down the aisle so that people can see and send him forth.
The offering; the choir sings. Julie reads Ishea 14:1-11 on Comfort and Preparing a Way for the Lord. Alena speaks, the Choir sings a hymn and then its Anthem. The offering is dedicated. The Tuirara speaks, welcoming Pastor Liza and Chris, Alena and Julie and recalling the theme of Pastor Liza’s sermon here in July 2010. There is another reading, this one longer and one notices the gentle rumble of the 50 or so younger children. The children and youth (nearly 200!) pray and then sing! Pastor Liza reminds them to run to Jesus and that when He speaks of himself as the One he also reminds them that they are the Ones.
San Rafael First UMC has recently celebrated a blue scarves, One blue sky, One God and One Peace day, inspired by the Blue Scarves movement in Afghanistan, and she and Alena present blue scarves to congregational leaders of the youth.
Pastor Liza acknowledges the many Fijians from Raiwaqa who have shared their faith with San Rafael. She speaks of the charge given to her, to speak about things shared by the Methodists of California-Nevada and of Fiji. Jesus brought us together and as we await him we recall John Wesley. We are sanctified and called to be in the world to walk the walk of Joy with Him. She shares about San Rafael FUMC and its stories, our 9/11 march and scarves. She speaks of our Children’s sabbath service and trip afterwards to a local farm to glean the fields, the food gathered taken to a local kitchen that feeds the poor. She speaks of the peaceful demonstrations taking place in the US in protest of the cultural imbalance there that has led to gross economic imbalances and reminding us that even the prisoners should have justice. We are not called to rest quietly in our faith. Jesus said that I am the light of the world and whoever follows me will have the light of life.
And meanwhile, where is everyone else? (list corrected Oct 9)
- Bishop Warner, Mrs Brown, Lekima and Virisila to Churchward
- Rev Greg, Isimeli and Sekope to Delainavesi
- Rev Ann, Luke and Ruci to Service St.
- Rev Linda L-Z, Laitia and Virisila to Kinoya
- Rev Amy Beth and Rev Buisena Ravoka to Nabua
- Rev Schuyler, Emma and Tikiko to Vunivaivai
- Rev Michael and Lepani to Nepani
- Rev Elmar and Rev Josefa Katonibau to Veiquwawa
And everyone after their service has been fed abundantly and graciously, well into the early-mid afternoon, leaving just enough time for a short rest and wash-up, although Pastor Rhodes and Emma arrive back just in time to depart to …
3 pm Joint Service at Centenary UMC, Bishop Warner Brown preaching
Centenary is the grand old stone “cathedral” of Suva and this is the Official Welcoming Service. Located downtown, the sanctuary is large, the ceiling high, the facility well cared-for and substantial but not ostentatious.
The huge choir is stunning! Hymn follows hymn, anthem follows anthem, there are sung interludes, unison, two parts, four parts, more parts, major, minor, perfect pitch and blend, strong dynamics, every single note and word by memory, only three pieces led by a conductor. All is a cappella as in all of the traditional Fijian churches, and all is in Fijian except that the postlude is Handle’s Halleluyah Chorus.
As at Raiwaqa earlier, there is also a very different anthem: a group of mostly elderly women who are not part of the main choir, sing in a very traditional call and response style. The service includes introductions of our entire group, done one-by-one by our Pastors. Pastor Ann tells a story to the large group of children present, who then sing their own anthem. Bishop Brown gives a characteristically lively sermon, on the subject of reaching out and supporting one another and Pastor Greg does the Benediction.
A large, sumptuous “tea service” follows, in the social hall and, at about 7, we all make it back to the Peninsula Hotel. Pastor Greg chairs a debriefing and planning meeting from 7:30 to about 8:45, and it is time to REST.