Tongan National Conference goes online
For the first time in its history the Tongan National Conference (TNC) of the Uniting Church met online, and its Second Generation led the way.
The TNC is the largest single gathering of UCA members, usually bringing together more than 1000 UCA members in the one location over a number of days. This year, in the context of COVID-19, TNC went online.
David Fungalei from the Auburn Uniting Church Parish in Sydney was part of the young adult team that coordinated the online version of the Conference – a worship service streamed live from his Church where a small number were able to gather in person.
He reflects on the behind-the-scenes work that made it happen, the highlights, and how it went.
“COVID-19 has played a significant role in how we all operate in these times and it was no different for how we were to run this year's Tongan National Conference,” said David.
David describes the move to an online presence as a huge shift which involved many discussions and lots of planning.
Second Gen members of the TNC Executive formed a new media ministry team to bring the online gathering to life. Thanks to their digital skills, the 2021 TNC was streamed live on its Facebook and website and accessed around Australia.
David noted the key role of the Tongan National Conference Executive in empowering the Second Gen community to take a leadership role in unchartered waters.
Many doubted whether TNC could still be a transformative experience for its members, but David said goals remained the same – to share the word of God together and spread the love of Jesus.
“I truly believe that the trust of our Executive in the Second Gen community to lead from the front and test new ideas gave us confidence and helped make our online gathering a success. It made a real difference knowing we had the support of the First Gen members.”
“Thanks goes to Rev Feke Kamitoni, Rev Valamotu Palu, Rev Mosese Taufa and Valeti Moeakiola for making this unique TNC conference go ahead!”
David says one of the highlights of the Conference was the participation of Uniting Church President Dr Deidre Palmer, who preached at the gathering, and seeing so many community leaders around Australia take part.
“For me, it was having the little things such as showing the scripture on-screen and lyrics of the hymns that were so powerful as people who might not normally pick up the Bible could follow along.”
“People who watched online shared with us that they were able to receive as they always had at past conferences, which is a testimony to this new ministry. As difficult as COVID-19 has been, it has given us an opportunity to think about the skills we have to offer ministry via media.”
“It has opened doors not only to the delegates who attended this conference in Australia, but it also opens the door to people who wish to participate around the world.”
“This is a new beginning and the start of a new ministry for the Tongan National Conference. Technology now plays a vital role in how we are able to meet and do things as a whole community.”
Members of the TNC Second Gen media ministry team included Lisiate Loloma, Langi Suli, Taiosisi Sikuea, David Fungalei, Kathleen Sikuea, Joeli Halaapiapi, Linda Langi, Naki Pahulu, 'Ileini Tuipulotu, Malia Puna and Siotame Faupula.
Enjoy below some photos and a video of the gathering.