One of the most striking images of the new look of the Methodist Church in Fiji are the elaborate stoles unveiled as part of the church’s first national gathering for seven years in August.
Designed and made by Uniting Church ministers Rev Chris and Rev Eseta Meneilly, the stoles were unveiled at the national conference’s induction service and will be worn by the President Dr Tuikilakila Waqairatu, Vice President Ratu Eroni Volavola, General Secretary Rev Tevita Banivanua and Assistant General Secretary Rev Dr Epineri Vakadewavosa.
Each stole is unique in design and the project took about four months to complete. The Meneillys have been designing stoles for several years including having some displayed in the Immigration Museum in Melbourne. They also have a long association with Fiji which is Eseta’s homeland and where Chris studied and was ordained as a minister of the Methodist Church in Fiji.
Both are currently in full-time ministry in Bendigo, about 150 km north of Melbourne.
During a visit to Australia earlier this year, Dr Waqairatu and Mr Banivanua were made aware of Eseta’s work and commissioned her to make the stoles for the office bearers.
The stoles incorporate a new logo as well as Christian and Fijian symbols in an artistic design and include a Fijian traditional tapa design which identifies with water, mountain, the sea, the ‘vanua’.
Coconut fibre sinnet (magimagi) encircles and binds everything together and also forms a Trinitarian representation. The red or blue yoke is a sign of office and the call to ‘carry the load’ of leadership. Symbols of Christian identity are balanced throughout the design with dove, cross, and Bible.
For Eseta, making liturgical stoles depicting Fijian and Christian symbols is the story of her faith journey.
It has been a journey formed primarily in the Methodist Church in Fiji then encouraged into ordained ministry in the Uniting Church.
The highlight of this work for Eseta is the recognition that the stoles are unique and now worn with appreciation by the leaders of the Methodist Church in Fiji.
Reconciliation was a key part of the Fijian conference as the Methodist Church seeks to forge a new direction in the country.