The theme of this year’s TNC was the “Power of God’s Love”. The whole program of worship services, Bible studies, youth and young adults’ program, Choir festival, cultural night, skits and items all reflected that theme.
Among several guests of the TNC were the President of the Free Wesleyan Church in Tonga, Rev. Dr 'Ahio and his wife Mrs Loukinikini 'Ahio, National Consultant on Theology and Discipleship Rev. Dr Chris Walker, UnitingWorld National Director Rev. Dr Kerry Enright, and Assembly General Secretary Rev Terence Corkin. Dr and Mrs ‘Ahio brought greetings from Tonga's King Tupou VI and Queen Nanasipau’u, and the Conference of The Free Wesleyan Church. Queen Nanasipauʻu sent her apology to the TNC. Both the King and Queen were active members of the UCA while they lived in Canberra, and consider themselves to be so whenever they visit Australia. They are also active supporters of the UCA in Tonga and very encouraging of Tongan members of the UCA here.
“Over this long weekend we have truly witnessed the power of God’s love in the strength of our faith and our Tongan culture in the Uniting Church in Australia,” said TNC Chairperson Rev. Jason Kioa.
“For the very first time a congregation of the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga attended the TNC along with their local UCA Tongan speaking community in Adelaide. The two ministers and their communities are committed to learning and working together. This is very significant for the Church in Tonga and the UCA.
“In Sydney’s Sutherland Shire in which the Jannali Uniting Church is placed these two Tongan ministers are providing a wonderful lead as they work and minister together in a genuine team. With God’s blessing, our fellowship of believers continues to grow and our ministry is flourishing.”
The Opening Service on Friday 7 July was led by TNC Deputy Chair, Rev. Alimoni Taumoepeau of Blaxland Uniting Church and included performances by no less than 15 Tongan youth choirs from around the country. Dr ‘Ahio preached on Sunday and the chairperson Rev Jason Kioa on Monday when recently ordained UCA ministers Rev. Salesi Faupula of Jannali Uniting Church and Rev. Fa Ngaluafe of Chermside-Kedron Community Church in Brisbane led the Communion Service. Both services included major contributions by more than 10 choirs with Monday’s concluding with the Hallelujah Chorus, sung in Tongan.
The Conference over the June long weekend also saw many joyful expressions of culture, particularly on the traditional ‘cultural night’ song and dance performances on Saturday, when more than $25,000 was raised for TNC projects.
A number of prominent UCA Tongan leaders and elders were also honoured at a Po Lotu (speeches and choirs) event for their contributions to the faith life and leadership in ministry in Tonga and in Australia, and in the Uniting Church in Australia:
- Mrs Sioana Faupula, member of Toe Talatalanoa congregation at Canberra City UC, mother of Salesi, a prominent leader among Tongan women, and leader of the Children’s ministry team at the TNC;
- Rev. Sione Alo Fakahua, a retired FWCT and UCA minister, whose daughter Rev Mele Fakahua-Ratcliffe is the minister at Auburn Uniting Church in Sydney;
- Rev. Supeli Taliai, the former Principal of Tupou College, Tonga’s oldest secondary school.
The UCA’s National Director of Multicultural and Cross Cultural Ministry, Rev. Dr Tony Floyd, said “the TNC continues to go from strength to strength supported by so many of all ages for this 26th time.” He also hailed “the extraordinary work, respect, gifts and faithfulness of the 2nd Gen youth and young adults’ team who are strongly supported and encouraged by the TNC National Executive Committee members and others. They brought the theme – the Power of God’s love - to life.”
“When congregations from all over Australia come together like this the fellowship is overpowering,” said Rev. Dr Floyd.
“Seeing the Spirit at work in the communities present this weekend, and the growing number of young families attending TNC, makes me proud that we in the Uniting Church continue to journey on the way to fulfilling God’s mission for us to be a church for all God’s people.”
Organisers say they anticipate the Conference will attract even more people next year because of the enthusiasm and spiritual nourishment offered and the positive experience of those who attended this year.