Dunedin parish gifts church to Tongan congregation
In a move that reflects the growing ethnic diversity of the nation and the Church the Dunedin Methodist Parish has gifted its St Kilda church to the local Tongan congregation.
An official ceremony followed by a Pacific style celebration marked the hand-over on Saturday February 7th.
The next day it was standing room only in St Kilda’s for the first Tongan-language service. Those attending included members of Dunedin’s Tongan community who belong to other denominations and Tongan Methodists from Oamaru.
The new congregation will be part of Vahefonua Tonga, the Tongan synod of the Methodist Church of NZ.
Otago-Southland district superintendents Rev Uesifili Unasa and Nicola Grundy say developments such as this present new challenges for the how the Church can resource such congregations through stationing, lay preacher training, and Sunday school resources.
“This was an important occasion because we are beginning to see the diversity of the Tauiwi Church. It is not an issue just for Wellington and Auckland. Even down here in the deep south it was necessary for the district to do something practical to address our diversity,” Uesifili observes.
Nicola says the event was significant because it went against the pattern of the past 20 years in which the Otago-Southland district has become used to closing things down.
“This was our first significant opening for some time. It was also significant that there was a baptism during the first Tongan-language service. It is a sign of the new life and new energy that is present in the Tongan congregation,” Nicola says.