Dancing and singing are popular expressions of faith in the Pacific Islander community. Rev Sylvia Akauola-Tongotongo (pictured, left) from Burwood Heights Uniting Church and Rev Setaita Kinahoi Veikune (right) from the Methodist Church New Zealand celebrated their Tongan heritage with a performance at the South Pacific seminar in Brisbane last year.
The seminar was organised by the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women (WFMUCW), a global network of Methodist, United and Uniting Church women.
The Federation encourages women to play an active role in the Church. It recognises the contributions they bring to their faith community and facilitates leadership training for women.
More than 200 women from seven South Pacific countries attended the 2014 seminar in July for four days of sharing and learning. Emmanuel College at the University of Queensland provided the backdrop for the gathering.
The seminar theme was ‘A Challenge to Live with Risk, Compassion and Celebration’.
Rev Dr Elizabeth Nolan was the keynote speaker. She guided participants on a bible study on prominent women in scripture, such as Ruth, Naomi and Martha.
Rev Amel Manyon, the Uniting Church’s first South Sudanese female minister, shared her faith journey from war-torn Sudan to Australia. Rosemary Young spoke to the audience about her work at Frontier Services working with remote Indigenous communities.
Each country (or ‘units’ as they are referred to in the Federation) gave a regional report on their unit’s activities before entertaining the audience with a cultural presentation.
In addition to providing a space for knowledge sharing, the seminar celebrated the diversity of spiritual expression throughout the region.
The Pacific Islander units were especially enthusiastic and led the participants in a lively musical celebration. Participants took part in musical workshops conducted by Rev Amelia Koe-Butler and wrote songs to represent the South Pacific region.
The event marked 75 years since the Federation was established. Attendees celebrated the milestone with a celebratory dinner and a ferry ride down the Brisbane River.