Tongan King Tupou VI and Queen Nanasipau’u thanked former missionaries from Victoria for their work in Tonga during a reception in Melbourne in June.
Their Majesties were welcomed by Synod of Victoria and Tasmania general secretary Rev Dr Mark Lawrence, who recounted the earliest connections between the Island kingdom and the British Methodist Church in the early 19th century.
This was the basis of the strong links between the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga and Methodist Church in Australia and later the Uniting Church for over 140 years.
The late missionaries, Rev Henry Greenwood, Rev Dr AH Wood, Rev George Harris, Rev AE McKay and Rev Ron Woodgate were represented by family members.
Rev Howard and Mrs Janet Secomb, (daughter of Dr Wood) were the oldest ex-missionaries present.
The occasion was opened with a Tongan hymn composed in the 19th century by the well-known missionary to Tonga, Rev James Egan Moulton.
The rousing hymn speaks of the coming of the missionaries and the conversion of the King and chiefs and finally seeks protection for His Majesty.
This was followed by a prayer by Rev Dr D’Arcy Wood, son of Rev Dr AH Wood who crowned the King at his coronation in 2015.
King Tupou VI is particularly interested in education and showed a video of the work at Tupou College for boys, where several missionaries had worked. The video showed the colleges and their up-to-date courses in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
The guests sat at tables of seven and the King and Queen spent the afternoon graciously visiting each table and speaking with the guests.
Rev John Connan moved a vote of thanks on behalf of those present.
The event was organised by the Tongan Lord Chamberlain with the help of Rev Siupeli Taliai, Helen Taliai and Rev Feke Kamitoni.
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