Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Woven together in culture and faith

Written by Bill Soliola, Lidcombe Samoan Uniting Church

The annual Samoan National Conference (SNC) leaders gathering took place from 18-21 October in Sydney.

For the first time this year, the Conference set apart a special space for the youth to convene on a Thursday before the main Conference officially opened on Friday.

We are grateful for the help of Chairperson Rev. Kiliona Mafaufau (NSW/ACT Synod), Secretary Rev. Siaosi Semaia (QLD Synod) and Treasurer Teaga Leota (VIC/TAS Synod) in making this possible.

Two great UCA Samoan Ministers, Rev. Feiloaiga Talatonu (Faye) from QLD Synod and Rev. Aigofie Marino (Fie) from NSW/ACT Synod guided this special youth space.

Youth representatives from QLD, VIC/TAS and NSW/ACT came together at the Uniting Church Theological College in Parramatta.

 Rev. Faye and Rev. Fie opened the session using the concept of the traditional "mat" weaving as an analogy for the youth to think about their church and family life. Many woven bands bind together to form a strong mat.

 The youth heard encouraging words from the Director of Uniting Learning Network Duncan McLeod, Candidate to the Ministry of Deacon Taualofa Anga'aelangi (Tongan Background), and Samoan Christian Congregational NSW South Sub District Youth Regional minister Rev. Tama Iese. It was a great time spent.

 Evening devotion took place at the Samoan Uniting Church Lidcombe led by Rev. Mafaufau and Rev. Semaia. The young people spent time sharing ideas to help and encourage each other.

 On Friday, the rest of the SNC church representatives began arriving at the church hall.

After the Opening devotion, the youth gave a presentation to the full conference. Encouraging speeches were shared by youth to elders and vice versa elders to youth.

The idea was raised to have a space set apart for youth at the full SNC which takes place every three years, similar to the program for Second Generation at Tongan National Conference.

The Conference was blessed to have Assembly National Consultants present, Rev. Charissa Suli and Rev. Lindsay Cullen.

SNC members were really blessed to hear from Rev. Charissa about the TNC and other Pacific Conferences.

 Rev.. Mafaufau concluded the day encouraging the youth to continue to work hard in achieving their goals and also the elders to keep supporting and praying for the youth.

On Saturday morning, the conference moved to a new destination, thanks to Rev. Mosese Taufa at the Tongan Auburn Uniting Church.

Morning devotion was led by the combined national youth delegates.

Rev. Fie interviewed both Tau'alofa Aanga'aelangi (Candidate, awaiting ordination),Tim Peterson (studying in ministry) and shared about his experience as recently ordained.

It gave an illustration of the three different stages in becoming a Uniting Church Minister.

Next was a presentation by our National Consultants. Rev. Lindsay on the structure, procedures, regulations updates and Rev. Charissa on the importance of the climate change debate.

Charissa took us through what we can do as a family, community and church to make a difference. Fantastic work by both Rev. Charissa and Rev. Lindsay.

Reports were shared from individual church congregations and official business was discussed.

We took time to acknowledged SNC delegates who are in the process of beginning ministry in the Uniting Church and we prayed over those present for the holy spirit to continue to work in them.

A session on "Family Violence" was presented by Chaplain at the University of Western Sydney Parramatta Campus Rev. Dr Amelia Koh-Butler.

Together with youth skits, Amelia drew the SNC into conversations on how to better prevent and counter family violence. A fantastic presentation and a real important one for our Pacific Island Community.

The SNC presented Charissa, Lindsay and Amelia with traditional gifts of Hymn books.

Our closing devotion and Holy Communion was led by Chairperson Rev. Mafaufau and Secretary Rev. Semaia leading praise and worship songs.

Finally, the traditional exchange of Orator and Chiefly speeches was held.

Levaopolo Viliamu Saunoa (WA Synod) spoke on behalf of the SNC and Alaimalo Reupena Feata, spoke on behalf of the Lidcombe Samoan Uniting church (hosts of the conference).

Our Sunday service was held at the Lidcombe Samoan Uniting church followed by a big lunch at the manse and farewells were done. What a wonderful conference.

This is the first time I've ever attended a Conference, usually I am in the back cooking. I have spent 30 plus years at Lidcombe Samoan Uniting Church and I’m still loving it.

Read Rev. Charissa Suli's reflection on the SNC

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