Rev Sherryl Smith
It was a weekend to remember when Lorne Anglican-Uniting Church hosted six Tongan ministers and their partners late last month.
Lorne, on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, is a haven nestled between the beach and the Otway forest.
Some might call it the quintessential ‘God’s Waiting Room’ with the Lorne Anglican-Uniting Church congregation mirroring the demographic of the many retirees living here.
All in all, it’s a beautifully, quiet existence– that is, until 12 Tongans arrived.
The ministers and their partners journeyed from across Victoria and Tasmania for a weekend away – and generously shared their time and sublime singing with us.
Billeting the couples with congregation members gave the opportunity for one-on-one sharing of lives, faith journeys, experiences and a lot of laughter.
We took over a little water’s edge restaurant on Saturday night and were treated to a fantastic program of traditional and spiritual songs with some dancing – laced together by a Tongan cultural commentary.
Sunday worship was a true blend of cultures as the six Tongan ministers took aspects of the service and hymns were sung simultaneously in English and Tongan.
The congregation was uplifted by the extraordinary singing and inspired by stories and prayer.
A number of congregation members commented that the Tongans visit was like a reverse mission – we took the gospel to them and now they’re bringing it back to us in new, vibrant and unexpected ways.
They certainly lifted our spirits, and our hope is this will be one of many visits.
The Lorne Anglican-Uniting Church congregation has plans to renovate and extend our hall at St Cuthbert’s.
We plan to increase the size of the hall and add a meeting room plus accommodation for 50 people, to create a Centre for Mission.
This will cater for groups such as our Tongan visitors, together with Scripture Union’s Family Mission, Theos and other regular groups coming to Lorne.
Apart from invigorating our congregation, it will be an ideal venue to bring church youth groups, school groups, conduct retreats and training, plus hold family events such as weddings.
Don’t think about coming to Lorne – just do it.
Rev Sherryl Smith is supply minister at Lorne Anglican-Uniting Church.