Rotuman Methodists: small in number, big in heart
A quirk of British colonial rule in the South Pacific was the decision to include the island of Rotuma in Fiji’s administrative system. Culturally and linguistically the people of Rotuma are closer to those of Samoa and Tonga but their fate is now much more closely tied to Fiji.
Today about 3000 Rotumans live on Rotuma (which is about half the size of Waiheke Island) and about 10,000 live in Fiji where there are more opportunities for education and work. Not surprisingly, this close relationship has endured here and NZ’s sole Rotuman language congregation is part of the Wasewase ko Viti kei Rotuma.
Susau Strickland is the Steward of the Rotuman congregation, which worships at the Kingsland Methodist Church. Having served as vice president of the Methodist Church of NZ and president of Methodist Women’s Fellowship, Susau is well-known around the Connexion in Aotearoa.
She says while the Rotuman congregation is small in numbers, it is great in heart.
“We have been growing in numbers over the past two years. Two families joined us last year and two joined us this year. We now have more than 18 families and about 35 people join us each week for services,” Susau says.
“We want to have a relationship with our Fijian brothers and sisters in the Wasewase and we also enjoy our links with the Europeans in who worship at Kingsland. Every fifth Sunday of the month we have a combined worship with them and we are represented on in the leaders meeting, the parish council, and the property and finance committees.”
Susau says the style of worship the Kingsland congregation prefers leans toward the traditional with hymns sung in four part harmony rather than more contemporary music styles. She leads a communion service in Rotuman once a month but what she would really like to see is a Rotuman ordained to lead the congregation.
Another prominent Rotuman in the MCNZ is Susau’s grand-daughter Te Rito Peyraux. Te Rito is the youth facilitator for the Tauiwi section of the church. She also leads youth activities in the Rotuman congregation.
In addition to worship, the Rotuman community uses the Kingsland church for social events, which attract Rotumans from other denominations.