The sweet sound of soft song enfolds us from behind honored as we always are with the first row. We await the start of morning service back at Centenary. This “Lotu” is for the office staff and nearby ministers. The men and women now sing in call and response. It will be another full day. A breakfast after Lotu, the Prime Minister’s office at 10 am, the Official Methodist Church Welcome Ceremony with lunch, and a 2:30 briefing.
8 am – Service of Holy Communion – Epworth Hall, Centenary Church
Worship Leader and Preacher is Rev. Tuikilakila K. Waqairatu, General Secretary. Members of the Drodrolagi Tehila (Beautiful/Peaceful Rainbow) Choir (an inter-church organization in Suva) have come to participate, and they have kindly provided with a booklet of the Fijian words to the eight hymns of the hour-long service. (The rest of this service is in English.) Tikiko reads from 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Paul’s reflection on the parts that make up the whole, and the sermon of Rev. Tuikilakila is on this theme of gifts, family, community, partnership in Mission, the transformation of togetherness. Bishop Brown leads communion and the service closes with prayer, benediction and a postlude by the Choir.
10 am – 4th Floor Conference Room of the Prime Minister’s Office, Suva
The Prime Minister is traveling to Geneva and 16 of us are met by Permanent Secretary Pio Tikoduadua. His words of welcome are gracious and detailed. Suva Suva is performed by Lekima, Bishop Brown converses formally with the PS and more casual conversation follows. The PS is curious about who we are. At his request each Pastor introduces him/herself and he notes that in 2004 he studied in Monterrey for 6 months, getting his Master’s Degree, and he attended services at San Rafael and elsewhere plus the Fiji Day celebrations.
11:30 am – Epworth Hall at Centenary Church – Welcoming Ceremony
Church President Rev. Ame Tugaue attending, this is the Ceremony of Ceremonies, including a very traditional and lively suva suva (the kava ceremony) done in traditional dress, followed by vakamalolo (the women’s version is sea sea) in which a line of men seated on the floor performs rapid arm and hand dances accompanied by singing and percussion on a wood drum. Clearly the faster and more energetic the better, with women (and a few male Pastors from offshore) placing donated bills under decorations and on laps, to hugely raucous hilarity throughout the large and very full room. Everyone in our group is graced with an elaborate, colorful lei (salu salu). There is a period of rest in an adjacent conference room, and then …
1 pm – Lunch in Epworth Hall
Rev. Linda Caldwell joins us, having just arrived by air from ten days in South Korea. This is the banquet of banquets and a photo or two should suffice. After the meal, Pastor Greg presents a gift from the United Methodist Women of California to the women of the Methodist Church of Fiji, and Pastor Liza presents a gift from the Fijian congregation to the Church of Fiji. These gifts are followed by a whale’s tooth presentation to Pastor Liza and a response from Tikiko.
2:30 pm – Debriefing in Conference Room
Bishop Brown leads an informal conversation between our group and some Church leaders, about everyone’s experiences and impressions thus far and what we all have learned, what people’s questions are, what is upcoming. Much of the discussion is related to actual and potential agreements between our two Churches, to understanding and developing protocols and defining needs.
5:30 pm – Evening Rest
Nothing is scheduled for the rest of the day and instead some rest, some go out to visit or eat with Fijian friends and families. All are grateful for the abundance experienced today, the great love, the understandings developed and developing.