Tikanga Polynesia opened General Synod’s worship with a moving and beautiful Eucharist this morning.
Around 600 people gathered in a worship tent in front of St Christopher’s Church, Nadi.
The first voice in the liturgy belonged to Seini Tawa, and her song set the tone for a liturgy that centred on youth and their mission.
It was the first hymn “God who sets us on a journey” that touched the Rev Dr Rangi Nicholson, new head of the Pihopatanga’s Whare Wananga (ministry education colleges).
“The theme of journeying together was so moving in the context of our life together as a three-tikanga Church, both personally and corporately," he said. "It touched on some of the real difficulties we face, both within tikanga and in our life together.
“We travel as brothers and sisters in Christ, but also recognising our history and where our church is now, as we go together into the future.”
Diocese of Polynesia youth and their mentors steered the worship throughout.
Viti Levu West youth coordinator John Dansey led as liturgist, while readings from Ezekiel (in Hindi) and 2 Corinthians (in Samoan) were read by Alvina Prasad and Rosa Filoi. The gospel was shared by Archdeacon Taimalelagi Tuatagaloa.
Led by the Suva-Ovalau combined choir, the singing was swelled by 200 young singers from Tikanga Polynesia who had travelled into Fiji from across the Pacific. St Andrew’s High School brass band from Tonga undergirded the sound.
Early in the service, lines of white-clad young people encircled the congregation, surrounding them in song.
Worshippers found themselves surprised by a wall of energy as the singers cried out God’s words uttered at creation, “Let there be light.”
For Christine Bryant (Wellington), the young people’s presence was a powerful gift,
“Their vibrancy and their excitement was so affecting," she said. "Their sheer pleasure at being able to share their culture and their talents to the glory of God – and to the delight of their guests – was so evident.”
In fact, in that moment it was hard to resist the feeling that something wonderful might just happen for this church as we meet over the next few days.
Polynesia youth coordinator Sepiuta Hala’api’api’s sermon drew on symbols from the day’s gospel, Mark 6:1-13.
She talked of how each person there had made a journey towards this moment, and reminded her listeners of the lists travellers make to prepare for the unexpected.
“Sometimes our checklists can be quite lengthy” she said. “It’s almost as if we are travelling from one comfort zone to another.
“But Jesus’ list is very short... and very challenging.
“What to take: a staff, sandals.
"What not to take: a beggar’s bag, money, extra clothes.
"Because Jesus wanted his disciples to travel light so that they have to exercise their faith and trust in him as their provider and sustainer throughout his mission.”
That idea was news for Waiapu Youth intern Saachi Kepa.
“Sepi opened up my mind. I didn’t realize how important it was what you take, or don’t take, with you on the journey. Instead of taking all those material things, you have to keep God in mind; you can’t forget that God goes with you.”
A group of youths illustrated the uses of the staff that Jesus calls his followers to take – to protect, to guide, to help reach out to the stray sheep, or to support the weak.
Today, she said, it’s the Bible that can offer all those things. The Holy Scriptures protect from danger, guide, retrieve and support.
Sandals became symbols for the multiple identities brought to the event.
“Yesterday we wore our Fijian sandals, Indo-Fijian sandals, Tongan sandals, Samoan sandals, Rotuman sandals, Melanesian sandals, our Chinese sandals, our Maori sandals, our Pakeha sandals.
But those aren’t the only ones we should be wearing, she said.
For Christians, another identity was more important.
“Christ requires us to boldly show our Christ-like identity – through our words, our thoughts and especially our actions,” she said.
Sepi concluded with a word on the setbacks and persecutions God’s mission will face.
“God has called our young people away from within our broken world, our fast-changing context, away from the challenges of today’s world.
“Some of our young people here today come from broken homes, lost backgrounds.
“But God hasn’t excluded us from the mission. He has brought us together to use our talents to proclaim his light and love, to join you all in celebrating his unconditional love upon our church.”
Her words remained as the General Synod/Hinota Whanui blessed the launch of the Lotu Youth Mission Community for the Diocese of Polynesia.