Last Saturday in Suva, Fiji, I experienced something that felt like a taste of heaven - full of colour, joy and awe.
Joining many Anglicans from across our Three Tikanga Church, we celebrated the ordination and installation of the Most Rev Sione Uluilakepa as the 8th Bishop of Polynesia. He was also recognised as one of the Archbishops in our Church.
Hundreds of people filled the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Suva, spilling outside into a tent that livestreamed the event. I heard seven languages spoken in the service through readings, prayers and songs: Fijian, Tongan, Samoan, Hindi, Te Reo Māori, Rotuman and English!
Archbishop Don Tamihere reminded us of God’s call to be shepherds who feed the flock because of our love for Jesus. "There is something about the shepherd’s heart that allows us to see and hear God," he said.
Shepherding was more than a metaphor for Don, who grew up on a farm himself. Looking through the long lineage of Biblical shepherds, he focused on the heart and qualities of the shepherd from the earliest mention in Genesis of Abel, who gave his best to all the way through, to reflecting on Jesus as the Good Shepherd.
The combined Tongan choir sang passionately, providing music responses throughout the service and leading the hymns. I couldn’t help but join in the dance, despite the heat - over 30 degrees!
Te Pīhopatanga o Aotearoa presented gifts to the newly installed Sione, including a guitar. As they sang a waiata together, Sione brought in a moment of wonderful spontaneity, taking the guitar he had just been gifted and playing along beautifully.
After the three-hour service (it takes time to celebrate well in the Islands!), we jumped on a bus to a gymnasium nearby where we experienced the best of Tongan hospitality, rich with great food, drinks, dance, generous gift giving and heartwarming speeches. Even the newly elected President of Fiji, Ratu Wiliame Katonivere, and his wife, Filomena, dignified the occasion.
Several years ago we were graced by Sepi, the Diocesan Manager and Registrar for the Diocese of Polynesia, along with her husband Pate, as they spent a year in Nelson serving at Bishopdale College and Victory Church. It was a delight to reconnect with them at the celebration. I wonder if there’s an invitation for this kind of collaboration to continue.
We have invited these writers to share their experiences, ideas and opinions in the hope that these will provoke thought, challenge you to go deeper and inspire you to put your faith into action. These articles should not be taken as the official view of the Nelson Diocese on any particular matter.