Sunday, August 04, 2013

Baker Hall needs renovating

from Peceli
I read a story about Baker Hall in today's Fiji Times and it's a shame that Baker Hall has deteriorated to such an extent. It does need attention so the plan is for a soli from all over Fiji to help pay for it.  I know Baker Hall well - as a student in Davuilevu at the Bible School and Vuli Talatala  and at various other times.  It's not only Baker Hall that we have to think about, but the face of Davuilevu needs attention. There is a lot of empty land that can be developed and the road maintenance and a house for visiting talatalas and vakatawas. Is Baker Hall suitable for modern day purposes or do they need another large modern hall?  Is there a memorial building/church in the place where Rev Baker actually died in Navatusila, Navosa.  I lived up in that region as my first appointment as a talatala.  There's a song about Thomas Baker that goes 'Isa oilei o Navosa, isa oilei o Navosa.'

Prayers for Baker Hall

Solomoni Biumaiono
Sunday, August 04, 2013
Davuilevu theological student Avavira Waqa Makasiale knelt down on the second floor of the imposing tower of the Baker Hall with his elbow resting on the window ledge.
The pine trees outside singing to the strong Rewa River breeze breaking the hallowed silence of Avavira's prayerful meditation.
Above his head wasps hovered, curiously eyeing Avavira like an intruder, buzzing loudly to make their presence known.
In fact these wasps have claimed Baker Hall as their own, as the years of neglect and the ravages of time has allowed nature to reclaim parts of this building.
The hall is named after martyred missionary Reverend Thomas Baker who was killed by cannibals of Navatusila Village in 1867.
The hill where the hall sits was the site of Mr Baker's homestead and his mission home, as the Methodist Church had its headquarters in Navuloa, at the Kaba Peninsula.
Wasp nests cradle the roof overhang and they have even invaded the ceiling, making it their home.
The debilitating state of the building is clearly visible upon close inspection as the guttering now sags, window panes missing, moss carpeting parts of the roof, benches are in need of repair and the wooden floors creak.
Baker Hall officially opened in 1913. This year marks the 100 year anniversary, and the Methodist Church wants to renovate and restore this 100-year-old building which played a huge part in it's beginnings.
Church general secretary Reverend Tevita Nawadra had previously mentioned that the church had saved some funds to renovate Baker Hall but added that they were looking at raising more funds to restore the building to its former splendour.
One plan that the church had come up with was to raise the funds through a choir competition to be held alongside its annual Bose Ko Viti meeting this year, but this had to be shelved after they were denied the permit to do so.
Baker Hall, one of the church's historical buildings, needs urgent repairs and money hoped to have been raised at the conference was meant for it.
The plan to restore Baker Hall falls in neatly with the church's preparation to celebrate its golden jubilee celebration next year when it gained independence from the Australian Methodist Church.
The church is now forced to find other ways to raise money to renovate Baker Hall.
Mr Nawadra said Baker Hall was considered an historical building because it was the site of the first teaching school in Fiji and also the first technical college.
When Baker Hall was built and opened, it was the tallest building of its time.
The institution's history showed that the hall was built with concrete blocks created by students from the nearby Rewa River by the Davuilevu Theological College students.
Much of the work was done through sheer manpower as there were no machines back then and it was hard work, but the hall was completed and opened on the 14th of October 1913, at the cost of £51, 125.
According to a book, Light on the hill — To commemorate the 100 years of the church in Fiji taken from the church's records, the church's historian described the work done by the students: "They not merely carried the hod, levelled hills and dug trenches, but made the concrete brisks on which the imposing structures is built and done much of the carpentry. They walked in as proud owners and were at once, the hosts and the guests of the great institution."
An account from Light on the hill described the day Baker Hall was officially opened which depicted the scene as one of the significant events to be held in Fiji.
"From the mountains came the sons of the people who had killed and eaten the man whose name their children now delight to honour. Men from rivers and valleys seldom visited by white men. Men from proud Bau whose fathers not very long ago ruled parts of Fiji with an iron hand. Men of Tongan descent from the distant Lau Group, the men of very mixed blood from the far away isle of Rotuma, men of darker hue from Ba. Women, old and young with children in arm and others clinging to their dresses all with one purpose in view and laden with food and fruit for the feast. Chatting, laughing and frolicking, they swarmed over the place had not their sons laboured to build this brand new college, call it a Vakananumi kei Misi Peka, Baker Memorial.
"Chiefs of high degree, Roko Tuis, governors of provinces, native magistrates and police, ladies of rank, who sent their servants beforehand to instruct their hosts of how they will be lodged and entertained. A large number of leading whites, missionaries and their wives and to crown all the genial and gentlemanly representative of His Majesty King George, Sir Wickham Sweet Escott governor of Fiji and the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific.
"The Church hierarchy was also present with Rev. A.J. Small (chairman of the Fiji District); the Bishop of Polynesia; Dr Youngman (ex-president of the General Conference); Rev. B. Danks (general secretary of Missions); Hon. H. M. Scott K.C.; Hon. J.M. Hedstrom; Rev. C.O Lelean(secretary of synod); Rev. W. Deane and the then principal of Davuilevu Theological College Rev. W.E. Bennett."
The historical account provided by the church also said that the descendants of the people who killed Rev. Baker were also present at the opening of the hall.
"In the course of the afternoon three tambuas (whales' teeth) were presented to the people who had killed Mr Baker and his party. These people feel acutely the deed of their fathers, and when in 1885 Rev. A.J. Small visited their district, he administered the right of baptism to five adult male natives on the spot where Mr Baker fell, two of whom, 18 years before, had taken part in the tragedy.
"The village had long before this been abandoned and the oven in which the body was cooked was closed and never again used, and finally a house was built upon its site."
It was said with its solid appearance and its imposing tower, Baker Hall dominates the whole Davuilevu estate and as it was aptly described —"It is an imposing and spacious structure, well worthy of the name it bears, and the purpose it is intended to serve. It is the centre from which will radiate throughout Fiji that light, ever yet seen on sea or land, but which lightens and beautifies the world of thought and action, for here will future generations of Methodist ministers find full equipment


patron said...

Of all those past years of Church conferences, one would think the funds collected would be put into a interest bearing maintenance fund for church property.

Solution: Baker Hall should seek corporate sponsorships and have naming rights considered as part of the package. Either that or sell the property.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

It would be inappropriate to sell the property as it's in the middle of Davuilevu compound. It is disappointing that the building hasn't been maintained year by year.