The Dandenong Trinity Uniting Church minister, Rev Dr Graeme Sutton has taken a great interest in the Fijians and Fiji Indians in the suburbs of Melbourne and he went to Fiji for a special meeting two years ago. The report by Graeme is given here, as it may not be known by blog readers in distant parts of the world. This is taken from a link at the Dandenong Uniting Church website. There will be another consultation later on this year, this time in Melbourne.
A Report of the 9th International Consultation held at Dilkusha, Nausouri, Fiji, held on 13-15th July, 2007
to Church Council, Trinity Uniting Church Dandenong and to the Dandenong Hindi Fellowship,
Participants from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and from various parts of Fiji began arriving at 4pm on Friday 13th July at the newly erected Assembly Hall at the Dilkusha Girls School. As we registered we were issued with Handbook, a welcoming necklace of shells and a warm greeting. The Consultation theme was Together we can make a difference. During dinner, a typical Fijian spread of Fijian, Rotuman and Indian cuisine, a group of Sunday School children from the Dilkusha circuit provided entertainment.
The welcome service commenced at 7pm in the Dilkusha Church and this featured the welcome of guests, especially all the overseas people, the presentation of the Consultation Banner: a woven mat featuring a Diya, the preaching of a fiery evangelist, David Maclauren from Vancouver and the singing of Methodist hymns and Indian bhajan led by Rev Anil Reuben, the Dilkusha minister.
Following the group photo taken on Saturday morning the day commenced with devotions led by the Canadian contingent and a Bible Study led by Dr Deo Narayan. The focus was on the Scriptural imperative to care for our bodies. We will meet Deo when he comes to Trinity to preach in September. Deo is a retired Dental Health professional now based in Canberra and is the International Co-ordinator of the Consultations.
Rev Bill Lucas, the Divisional Superintendant of the Indian Division of the Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma presented the Indian Division report concerning the goals and aspirations of the Division, and matters of ministry, membership, ministerial formation and training of lay and ordained. Reports were printed and circulated from Fellowships in Vancouver, Canada; Granville and Ermington in Sydney, Brisbane, Dandenong (see the attached report) and Blackburn in Melbourne, and from Auckland, New Zealand.
Rev Dhirendra Narayan on the Sunday prior to the Consultation indicated that he was now unable to attend and he asked whether I would take his place in presenting the ½ hour Bible Study after lunch. This I did and used Psalm 137 and Lamentations 1 as the theme - “Nostalgia takes away hope for the future.” In this I reflected upon how easy it is for the Church to see itself as a remnant group, shadows of a once glorious church which needs to look forward through the cross to the future of hope and prosperity which is God’s promise.
Following afternoon tea, the Consultation visited Dilkusha Girls Home which is adjacent to the School where we were meeting, and Simon Charan and I presented the cheque of F$3,500 to Deaconeess Olivia, the Matron of the Home.
The founder of the Consultation of Hindi Fellowships is Rev. Daniel Mustapha, now based in Sydney who, together with Rev. Edward Caleb (Canada), were then honoured for their work within Fiji and beyond for Christ and his mission. Again, the dinner was a feast of food provided by the Dilkusha people and music and dance provided by the young people. On a personal note, I was able to be re-acquainted with many of the people, across the age groups whom I had first met when at Dilkusha 15 years ago as part of a Work party.
On Sunday morning we were transported by bus for an hour and a half drive to Navua, the other side of Suva where we participated in a service of worship which marked the formation of a new circuit as well as the opening of a new hall. This service was full of hope as the congregation, which had been meeting for many decades has finally grown to be able to stand on its own resources.
After lunch, we returned to the Davuilevu Theological College where we were greeted by the College Principal and where the Mustapha Niwas was dedicated. This is a house now provided specifically to accommodate a married Indian theological student in training for full time ministry. It is hoped that the Division may be able to provide further such resources to a church that continues to struggle with the Indian component in a dominantly Fijian Church.
On return to the Assembly Hall, Dr. Deo Narayan was again elected as International Co-ordinator for a further term and two presentations were made concerning the venue of the next Consultation - one from a joint proposal by Blackburn and Dandenong for the Consultation to be held in 2009 in Melbourne and the other that it be held at Dudley (Suva) as it is the 10th Consultation and in recogition of the difficulty both finanically and politically of Fijian people being able to come out of the country to attend. However, the decision was that the 2009 Consultation be held in Melbourne and at Dudley (Suva) in 2011.
Following a summary and closing remarks, the Consultation closed with worship, the 60 or so delegates being augmented by about 300 people of the Dilkusha Congregations and the sharing of the Eucharist and a final feast.
There were many needs raised at various times in the Consultation - computers for the Deaconess Training College, a bus to transport them from their base in Suva out to the Theological College, books for Lay Training Centre library and for the B.D. course at Davuilevu College Library. Each of the Congregations had needs and it is a policy of the Consultation that overseas Fellowships adopt a Fijian Congregation as a partner.
In discussion with Simon, it is my belief that we recommend to the Dandenong Fellowship that we could be assistance to the Indian Congregation at Ba. There were a number of reasons for this, both emotional as well as practical:
there is an immediate need for accommodation for the Deaconess placed there who at present with her teenage son is having to live with the Manse family, and arrangement that stretches resources - there is however the old Matron’s home across the road which, with work on it would be more than admirable.
Ba is also the home of Veilomani, the Methodist Boy’s Home and Rehabilitation Centre which attracts less attention and support than the more “glamorous” Girls’ Home and they have practical needs of wood working and garden tools.
there is also a need for assistance in Ba to support of aged care community support.
Ba is also Simon’s home area and a place where others of our Fellowship have connections.
On the Monday morning following the Consultation, Simon took me to Ba and later in the day we met with Rev. Grace Reuben, the Minister of the Indian Congregation there who spoke of their needs and gave me a copy of the submission prepared for the Divisional Superintendent. Simon and I examined the house and could see some potential and identified work that could be immediately undertaken in order to make it habitable for the Deaconess. I gave some money from my own resources to be used for the purchase of fly-wire for windows, and Simon also made a contribution. On Tuesday morning we visited Veilomani Boys Home and were able to arrange for them to assist with some of the labour for this first part of the work - cleaning and washing of walls (internal and external), roof etc. There may be some possibility of the Dandenong Hindi Fellowship making available some funds to ensure that this work is able to commenced. Veilomani has needs for power tools and wood-working tools, garden tools as well as a program for annual sponsorship of a boy ($300 annually)
It has been a privelege to be part of the Consultation and to re-visit places I had seen before, but now see in a different light. We look forward to taking an active role in the preparation for the Consultation which we suggest be held in Melbourne in probably October 2009. May we continue to follow Christ, loving God and neighbour in word and action as we pray for all these needs and find practical ways of helping and thus respond to the mission of Christ that burns within each one of us. To him be all the praise and glory. Amen.
Rev. Graeme Sutton
The following is a distillation from the report of the Indian Division presented by Rev. Bill Lucas:
It is 15 years since the Indian Division celebrated the Centenary of work in Fiji - and the report reflected on how far it has come in that time. Statistics concerning Church growth show an increase of 400 members in the 15 year period, an increase of 4 in the number of churches and a reduction of 2 preaching points. There has been an increase in the nuk,mber of ordained ministers but a reduction in probationary ministers and deaconesses, pastors but an increase in lay preachers. There has been continued training and equipping of church workers but more work needs to be done in the provision of professional development opportunities. There are continued challenges in education, whilst goals in cross-cultural exposure are still to be achieved. However, all circuits are now financially independent with all paying appropriate levies.
There is a marked emigration from Fiji of Indian families which is affecting circuits and congregations. New goals have had to be set based on a vision statement for the next 10 years: Living and Gossiping the Gospel, All over Fiji. and, in a multi-faith, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society accepts the challenge to elad people to Christ, calling on them to submit to the will of God and Oneness in Christ, thuis rbeaking down the barriers of excuses for differences, discrimination and disunity and enabling spiritual transformation among communities and the healing of the nation.
There has begun an expansion to the program of church planting particularly on Vanua Levu. A program for the developing of new circuits, preaching points, lay preachers and membership has been established with goals and timelines set. Of particular interest is Theological training with a steaduily growing number of Indian people in formal ministerial training programs as Ministers and Deaconesses with attempts to raise the standard of academic formation. Over the next 10 years is a goal to explore the possibility of housing for Indian Division students at Theological College. A Divisional Theological Library is planned to be operational by the end of 2009. Rev James Bhagwan has been appointed by the Conference as Librarian and Assistant Lecturer at Davuilevu Theological College, the first full time Indo-Fijian staff member.
The Consultation agreed on a number of suggestions that would be put to the Indian Division Annual meeting for consideration:
that all ministers working in the Indian Division learn to be trilingual
that the study of Indian-Fijian Church History be undertaken in order to learn from the past.
that the a study of other religions such as Buddhism, Islam and Hindu be encouraged
that a suitable Hindi speaking minister from India be recruited to work for a term in Fiji
that an Indo-Fijian minister be made available to do advanced training in India and that scholarships be sought in order to fulfil this goal
that it is wonderful that all congregations in the Indian Division are multi-racial, but that the 10am service continue to be a Hindi speaking service
Out of this presentation, I believe that Dandenong is in a position to provide some support, especially in the area of the multi-cultural and inter-faith activity as Trinity is very involved in the Dandenong Interfaith Network which has developed materials in the form of a DVD and has published a number of printed material summarising the undergirding aspects of each of the faith communities and a detailed history of the work of the Interfaith Network over the last 20 years. These materials will be sent to the Librarian at Davuilevu Theological College for their use.
Various reports were given and you can see them on the Dandenong Uniting Church website.