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Much loved church Fijian Methodists’ new home

In a ceremony rich with tradition and symbolism, Christchurch’s Fijian Methodist Congregation entered its new home, the former St John’s Methodist Church in Bryndwr.

The departing congregation at St John’s handed over their church on April 1st, Maundy Thursday. At the beginning of the ceremony the Fijian congregation’s presbyter Rev Peni Tikoinaka used a walking stick to knock on the door of the church three times and the Fijian congregation was then welcomed in by the St John’s congregation.

Kava featured in the ceremony that marked the turnover
of St John‚s Bryndwr to the Fijian Methodist Moraia congregation.

Peni called out: "Open to us the gates of righteousness, hat we may enter through them and give thanks to God".

The St John’s congregation was waiting in the foyer and replied: "Enter God’s gates with thanksgiving, and enter his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name, come into his presence with singing."

Because it was Easter week, children led the Fijian congregation into the church carrying fern fronds, symbolising the palms of Palm Sunday.

After the church service a Fijian style ceremony and feast took place in the church hall. Peni and other leaders of the congregation presented a whale tooth (tabua) and kava to a delegation of Methodist leaders.

The leaders were general secretary Rev David Bush, district superintendent Rev Bruce Anderson, Hornby Riccarton parish superintendent Rev Jill van de Geer, and Christchurch North superintendent Rev Saikolone Taufa.

Peni explains that to present a tabua is to demonstrate the highest form of respect in Fijian society. "Tabua are always presented to very special guests. Kava too is very important. It represents the hope relations between the people who drink kava together will never get dry and the spirit of the kava will be with them."

After the presentations the guests and hosts joined in a Fijian meal and enjoyed entertainment presented by the young people of the Fijian congregation.

Peni says he was delighted that the members of the out-going St John’s congregation stayed and participated in the evening’s events.

The new name Peni has given his congregation is the Moraia Fijian Church. Moraia (or Moriah) is the name of the mountain where Abraham was prepared to sacrifice Isaac. Last year the young people of the Fijian congregation presented a moving drama about that event, and Peni says he chose the name to reflect their commitment and enthusiasm.

Formally the Fijian congregation worshipped at the Clarence Street Methodist Church in the Hornby-Riccarton Parish. They outgrew that building though they will remain affiliated with the Hornyby-Riccarton Parish in their new home. The members of the former St John’s congregation now worship at the Papanui Methodist Church.

Peni wishes to extend his deep appreciation to Te Haahi Weteriana and to the St John’s congregation. He realises it is not easy to leave behind a place of worship that has been their home for many years.