Fruits of the Spirit
Written by Rebecca Beisler, Assembly Resourcing Unit
Giving a modern twist on an old Tongan tradition, young leaders at Canterbury Uniting Church in Melbourne hosted a Week of Prayer this month to uplift and connect people in worship amid the ongoing impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
People across the nation gathered virtually in worship for services streamed live from the CUC Facebook page every day at 7am and 7pm from Monday 19 October to Saturday 25 October.
The Week of Prayer followed a Tongan tradition known as Uike Lotu, usually held in the lead up to New Year. Uike Lotu is a time to thank God for guidance throughout the year past and ask for blessings in the year to come.
One of the young organisers Tilisi Faupula said "by combining an old tradition with a new approach, we aimed to create a space of intentional prayer, inviting the Holy Spirit to gather us all in, in virtual community."
The organisers called on the gifts and talents of emerging leaders from within the networks of the Tongan National Conference (TNC). Speakers including ordained and lay leaders, local Church workers and Second Gen leaders who all spoke to the theme ‘Fruits of the Spirit’ in reference to the gifts referred to in Galatians 5.
Tilisi said they set out hoping to engage with God and build relationships beyond their own immediate context.
“What we have encountered has been nothing short of a blessing as each speaker has brought forth their own experience and insight," said Tilisi.
"For me personally it’s has been an uplifting experience, journeying through the planning stages to now seeing it all come to fruition. And what was going on behind the scenes has been my favourite part of all.
“Watching my brother and father collaborate to bring across the visions of the participants included: sleepless nights, rushed mornings, technical difficulties and colourful discussions. In these times of feeling flustered the silver lining of 'The Fruits of the Spirit' was ever present.
"There have been moments to practice self-control and give gentleness, opportunities to have patience and give kindness. Knowing that God's goodness grants us with the joy and peace that is founded is his love."
Another leader, Seini 'Ofa Palu said she was thankful to Canterbury UC Minister Rev. Salesi Faupula for entrusting the young leaders to undertake the project.
“I can honestly say this Week of Prayer is one of the main highlights of 2020 for me. I was a lost sheep in the first seven months of COVID-19, being in lockdown here in Melbourne," said Seini.
“As I hosted the evening service for the first day of our Week of Prayer, I was greeted by familiar faces awaiting with such big smiles. As I walked on stage with Tame giving me the count down and Tilisi getting herself ready to put up the “ON LIVE” sign, and Rev. Salesi Faupula with a huge grin in excitement, it was only then that I realised how long it has been since I’ve come to the Church building that I call home.
“With the picture in my head of a full church, knowing exactly where each person would be seated, I praised and thanked God that even in the midst of being separated, we are one together in Christ.”
Teresa Taufa added: “This Week of Prayer has been full of blessings. Going from the rough drafts and program planning to finally come to fruition.”
“Beginning and ending our days with spiritual feeding has been so encouraging. In a sense it feels like a new year, a new beginning!”
“Despite these unprecedented times, I’m glad we have God on our side to keep us united under his protection. A big thank you to Salesi for entrusting us with this week of prayer and the congregation for their ongoing support towards the youth,” said Teresa.
Picture: Young Tongan leaders at Canterbury UC in Melbourne leading online worship. Tilisi Faupulua on vocals, George Walter on keyboard and Sione Hehepoto on guitar.