Monday, December 1, 2014

Methodists to Reconcile during Jubilee

As the Methodist Church in Fiji prepares to hold its national Golden Jubilee celebrations from the 17th to 23rd of August, commemorating the formation of an independent church after 129 years of being a mission of the Wesleyan Mission of Great Britain and then Methodist Church of Australasia, the theological understanding of the word “Jubilee” as referring to reconciliation is a strong motif.
Since May this year, the 56 divisions (districts) or wasewase of the Methodist Church in Fiji have been holding their local celebrations. Acts of reconciliation have been part of celebration at local church and also divisional level. Last week the Lami and Nausori Divisions of the Church held their local reconciliation services as part of their Golden Jubilee celebrations.

In Lami the washing of the feet ritual, was used as a form of reconciliation. This has been used by a number of Divisions this year due to the cathartic effect on both the person washing and the person having their feet washed. Catharsis is a “purifying or figurative cleansing of the emotions.” As a non-verbal form of communication, the washing and allowing someone to wash one’s feet is an form of asking and receiving forgiveness and an opportunity to renew a right relationship.  During this act, catharsis occurs in the act of expressing, or more accurately, experiencing the deep emotions often associated with events in the individual's past which had originally been repressed or ignored, and had never been adequately addressed or experienced.”

Other divisions have preferred a more culturally contextual form of reconciliation in the form of confession and the offering of tabua in the church, as took place in Nausori last Sunday.
“While we give thanks to God for the last 50 years and we celebrate whatever good we have been able to, we want the Methodist Church to look back and realise where we have gone astray, “ said Rev. Tevita Nawadra Banivanua, Methodist Church General Secretary.

“As a church, the act of reconciliation is a must. We must confess and put before God, the difficulties we have faced and problems we have had. “

At the special reconciliation service, scheduled for 18th August at Furnival Park, representatives of all ministers, deaconesses and lay members will “voice their confessions to God and to each other.”
The reconciliation programme will begin with a time of worship. Following the worship, the Acting President will stand on behalf of the leaders and members of the church to seek the forgiveness of those who serve in the various ministries of the Church.

This will be followed by various representatives of the ordained ministry – clergy and deaconesses who will also seek the pardon of the church leadership and Methodist community.

The lay members represented firstly by the Lay Vice President of the Church and then by other lay leaders will also seek forgiveness.

“We are led to do this by Jesus instruction in His ‘Sermon on the Mount’ where in the Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 5, verses 23 and 24 He says:

‘Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.’”

Significantly, the process will end with a celebration of the Holy Communion or Eucharist. “
“When Jesus instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion at the Last Supper, the night before His death, he did so knowing that all his disciples, all those sharing in this meal, would desert Him,” said Rev. Banivanua.

“Even so, he gave them this sacrament and made a covenant with them.”

“When we share in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, all – those who have done wrong and those who have been wronged, the confessed and the unconfessed – will come and eat together and drink together at the Lord’s table seeking God’s forgiveness and healing. As they share this sacred meal, they will commit to sharing the journey forward together.”

The mass celebration of the Lord’s Supper is a reminder that Jesus did not turn anyone who came to him whether they were sinners or righteous people.

“We have decided to have this reconciliation first before the celebration because we believe that as we come to give thanks to God for the last 50 years and seek God’s blessings for the future we must remember that “God hears a contrite heart and a heart that is open to receive others, receive their difficulties and forgive them.”

While this reconciliation process is focussed within the Methodist community, the Church’s reconciliation with the larger community of Fiji will be through the Agape (Unconditional Love) Feast which will be held at the FMF Gymnasium on Friday 22nd August.

In this Agape Feast, representatives of all parts of the community from those who live on the street to those at the higher end of the social ladder will sit together and eat together.

“We will all share in a common meal regardless of who we are, how different we are as a sign of our desire to reconcile and share our common humanity as children of God.”

The Programme for the Golden Jubilee is as follows:

17th August – 10am: Opening Worship and Launching of the 50th Anniversary Celebration.
Preacher Rev. Laisiasa Ratabacaca (Acting President, Methodist Church in Fiji)- Vodafone Arena

18th August – Furnival Park
9am: Devotion
10am: Reconciliation Service and programme
6pm: Worship Service

19th August – Furnival Park
9am: Devotion
10am: Kubuna Day
Traditional Ceremony, Speech, Meke and other items
2pm: Representations from Overseas Churches – Methodist Church in Great Britain, Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, United Church of Papua New Guinea
6pm: Worship

20th August – Furnival Park
9am: Devotion
10am: Burebasaga Day
Traditional Ceremony, Speech, Meke and other items
2pm: Representations from Overseas Churches – Uniting Church in Australia, Methodist Church of Samoa, United Church in the Solomon Islands
6pm: Worship

21st August – Furnival Park
9am: Devotion
10am: Gifting Day – Local Methodist Churches
6pm: Worship

22nd August – Furnival Park
9am: Devotion
10amTovata Day
Traditional Ceremony, Speech, Meke and other items
2pm: Representations from Overseas Churches – United Methodist Church –USA, Methodist Church in New Zealand, Korean Methodist Church
5pm- 7pm – Agape Feast – National Stadium
7pm: Worship – Furnival Park

Saturday 23rd August – Furnival Park
                                8.45am Youth and Students March of Witness from Flea Market to Furnival Park
                                9.45am Youth and Education Day
                                7pm: Closing of National Celebration

“Simplicity, Serenity, Spontaneity”. 

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