Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Joyful fellowship builds community in Christ

Written by By Rev. Charissa Suli, Assembly National Consultant

More than 300 Fijian members of the UCA gathered together in joyful fellowship for the Uniting Church’s 2020 Fiji National Conference (FNC) from 6-10 February in Adelaide.

Delegates from across Australia travelled to the conference held at Brougham Place Uniting Church and Lincoln College, bringing together those who identify with Fijian culture in the Uniting Church to celebrate their culture and nourish their faith.

Over four days, participants were invited to unpack the theme, “Created in the Image of God, who am I?”

Special guests President of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma Rev. Dr Epineri Vakadewalosa and his wife Titilia attended the whole conference along with UCA President Dr Deidre Palmer.

Moderator of the SA Synod Mr Bronte Wilson also joined the conference and a number of leaders from different councils of the Church were present to support the ministry of the FNC. I was delighted to join the conference representing the Assembly Resourcing Unit.

On Day One, we were welcomed to country by Kaurna Elder Frank Wangutya Wanganeen as gathered on First Peoples’ land.

UCA President Dr Palmer officially opened the conference and affirmed the work and ministry of the UCA's Fijian Congregations across Australia.

Moderator Mr Wilson led a prayer remembering the late Sitiveni (Siti) Rogoimuri, former Covenanting and International Mission officer for the SA Synod, who was instrumental in bringing the conference to Adelaide.

Multicultural and Second Gen worker Ps. Sam Chan from SA Synod preached an inspiring sermon thanking First Generation leaders in the FNC for their sacrifice and charging the Second Generation to step up and lead as they continue to find their identity in Christ.

Both Presidents, the Moderator and Indigenous elder Mr Wangangeen were traditionally welcomed with a Kava Ceremony and the evening concluded with small group discussions on the themes around identity of God, the characteristics of God and your identity in God.

On Day Two the focus was on “Knowing who we are in Christ”.

Rev. Dr Epineri Vakadewavosa led the opening worship encouraging the FNC to endure the journey of life in Christ and to walk in partnership with Christ no matter the struggle.

A highlight of the program was a conversation led by the young people on the issues of anxiety, depression and mental health as significant issues the Second Generation face today within their communities.

There was a focus on helping young people find a way forward and the tools they need to respond. We explored a theological response for young people that will move them forward in knowing who they are in Christ.

The conference gave space for Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) SA Development and Outreach officer Ps Mark Kickett and Assembly Consultant Covenanting Stuart McMillian to speak about our covenanting relationship with First Peoples. They highlighted the significant markers in the relationship from 1982 to today. Questions and conversation ensued about sovereignty and the Preamble to the UCA Constitution.

Throughout the day there were respectful and intentionally intergenerational conversations giving life to all.

Day Three brought an array of colour, song, dance and so much laughter for the soul.

There was a break from the business program of the Conference to enjoy the Fijian Choir Competition with some amazing performances from communities across the country featuring all generations.

The final day of the Conference drew the community of Brougham Place Uniting together in a combined worship service with members of the Fijian National Conference.

Rev. Dr Epineri Vakadewalosa preached a powerful sermon and UCA’s Rev. Vinnie Ravetali led the communion service.

The generous hospitality of Revs. Jenny and John Hughes and their Brougham Place congregation did not go unnoticed as they opened their church building and worship space for the Fijian conference to use.

Throughout the conference we witnessed the generous hospitality and gracious love of God through intercultural relations.

Dr Palmer commissioned the newly elected office bearers who will lead the conference over the next two years.

We give thanks to God for giving us a foretaste of the reconciliation of all things in Christ in this important ministry of our Fiji National Conference.

May we continue to be a church that is committed to building communities of reconciliation, inclusion, justice, hope and love in the name of Christ.