Semisi of Florin UMC has joined us and we are sad to learn that Rev Wison will not arrive until tomorrow due to a canceled flight.
Emma and Rev Amy Beth are on a separate mission this morning, having been invited to participate in Youth Day at Nabua (“Nambua”) Division.
830 am – Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Suva
At the Roman Catholic Cathedral in downtown Suva we meet with Archbishop Petero Mataca, who describes the history of the Church in Fiji. We all introduce ourselves. Pastor Greg points out that Santa Rosa is in the wine country of California and Archbishop Mataca recalls an Italian proverb, from the four years he lived in Rome, as translated “The water makes you sick, but the wine makes you sin.”
Bishop Brown tells the Archbishop about the purposes of our trip and asks for any advice that can be offered. The Archbishop speaks of the importance of listening and sharing with honesty and sincerity. Other ideas and impressions are discussed, including his concern for the status of the broader culture in Fiji in the wake of rural to urban migration.
10 am – The Anglican Diocese of Polynesia
We are welcomed by the Most Revd Dr Winston Halapua and other leaders of the Anglican Church in the Diocese, including the Dean of the Cathedral and his wife the Revd Halapua. There is brief sevu sevu, for which Luke responds, then there is a short Lotu with readings, prayers and blessing done by Bishop Brown. Revd Halapua stresses welcome, warmth and the special nature of this visit, the first of its type. The Order of Worship includes thanks to Jesus for the lives of John and Charles Wesley, “who prayed and preached and sang with people whom their Church ignored.” The Gospel reading is March 6:30-34 on Compassion for the Crowd. There is prayer and a hymn. Most Revd Halapua gives everyone a copy of the book “Vanua: Towards a Fijian Theology of Place” by L.S. Tuwere, which he had a role in helping to publish in 2002. Bishop Brown offers Blessings and closure of Lotu.
Rev Te then speaks about the purpose of our visit, to make connections and find out how we can share avenues and requests the opportunity for introduction and dialog given, in the words of the Most Revd, “a sense of keenness to know one-another.” We have been joined by a number of Methodist Church officials and employees from here in Suva and by a number of folk from the Anglican Diocese and so introductions are extensive.
Bishop Brown leads a dialog of questions and answers. How to be better Pastors to our Polynesian congregants and especially with our Fijian friends, needing to understand the situation in Fiji of the Methodist Church and and how we might assist in offering advice and counsel yet without interfering. The Most Revd notes that many have been invited to this gathering with the purpose of getting a variety of perspectives. Comments from the Anglican side emphasize that all processes need to start internally and with a sense of Mission, dialog and prayer. The answers are abundant in resources that are already present. The Holy Spirit is available and cannot be assigned elsewhere. One visit, also, is not enough.
We are blessed with a half hour rest at the hotel, then on to …
1 pm – Lunch at Nabua Division
Samabula East Methodist Church is where Rev Amy Beth and Emma have been all morning. Rev Amy Beth describes arriving and being asked by the Division Superintendent to preach and then lead a discussion about sex education (!), no holds barred, with 25 youth aged 17 to 24 and mostly male. Starting with the passage from Luke about casting one’s net wide and deep, as an analogy to committed relationships, she reports having done this with gusto and much participation from the youth.
Class finished, the rest of us arrive. A block-long grass-covered yard across the street is loaded with running, spinning and laughing children. There is sevu sevu with kava and a copious and delicious buffet lunch capped by trifle and ice cream as well as a traditional banana pudding with coconut milk. During the meal a woman and two girls perform a polynesian-style dance and the women sing traditional hymns against a regular beat of metal knife and spoon. Gift-giving follows, donations of cash and of cloth brought from the US, along with giving and receiving of a tambua. A closing hymn is then sung, with the men and women on different parts and also seated in different parts of the room. Those of us in the middle are treated to the ultimate stereo of amazing grace.
3 pm – The American Embassy
This visit is open only to Bishop Brown and the Clergy. Some of the rest of us stay late at Nabua. Those going to the Embassy may not carry any sort of electronics whatsoever (phones, cameras included), so the van must stop at the hotel and others of those excluded catch a ride there. Those returning say that the Embassy staff, including the Ambassador herself (now on the job for a total of 5 days) were quite knowledgable, well informed and thoughtful, engaging those present in serious discussion.
Our evening is free for rest and visits with friends. Your blogger catches up a bit and falls to bed happy and knowing that we all are being graced with love and care.