Representatives of the Methodist Church of NZ were warmly greeted and f?ted when they attended the annual conference of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga (FWCT) last month.
Vice president Dr Barbara Peddie and MCNZ Conference chaplain Rev Setaita Kinahoi Veikune attended the first week of the FWCT Conference, which was held at the Centenary Church in Nuku’alofa. Members of the MCNZ’s Tongan synod (Vahefonua Tonga O’ Aotearoa) also attended the Conference.
A presentation of tapa cloth and mats at the conference of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga.
The first week of Conference included the election of FWCT’s president and general secretary, committees of detail, and a number of ceremonial events. They included the induction, ordination and other worship services.
Conference re-elected the sitting president Rev Dr ‘Alifaleti Mone and general secretary Rev Dr ‘Ahio.
Barbara says the Tongan royal family was well represented during the Conference. King Siaosi Tupou V inducted President Mone, who in turn inducted the general secretary. The queen mother, crown prince, princess royal, and other royal figures took part in other ceremonies.
"I was asked to speak on behalf of the Methodist Church of New Zealand and Setaita also spoke on the Sunday evening. There was a huge amount of celebration and some very impressive choral sessions.
"All the catering was provided by local churches. Families were responsible to provide the food for four or five tables at different sessions of Conference. One night the family we stayed with was up all night preparing food.
"There was a very open sense of hospitality. The food was there for anyone who wanted to share in it, not only for members of Conference."
president of the Australian Uniting Church Rev Gregor Henderson and representatives of other Australian churches, also accepted the FWCT’s invitation to attend the Conference.
Setaita says Tongan culture was very much to fore at Conference.
"As representatives of the Methodist Church of NZ we were embraced with love and friendship, and we were honoured throughout the Conference.
"I believe there have been some misunderstandings between the two churches in the past. I think we can improve the lines of communication between our churches and that will create greater transparency in future."