Pray with Fiji, November 26, 2023
Lectionary Selection: Matthew 25:31-46
Prayers for Fiji
God of Grace, we pray for the Pacific Theological College in Fiji and all our partners throughout the Pacific. We pray for the students and graduates of PTC who will return to their communities to be strands of love, hope, and healing in times and places where the mat of your creation is starting to fray.
We know your desire for creation is wholeness, not separation and division. We pray for your guidance and mercy to follow you by caring for the hungry, the sick, and the stranger. Lead us to love others and to love the earth that sustains us all.
Bless the PTC as they grow in their mission to provide a “whole of life” education. Bless the whole ecumenical community of the Pasifika, and weave us together with them that, united, we may serve you as partners.
Mission Moment from Fiji
The Pacific Theological College (PTC) in Fiji just completed its 56th graduation ceremony. This top theological school gathers students from across the community of Pacific islands to obtain certificates and all degrees up to the Ph.D. A vibrant community of learning and engagement, PTC celebrates its diversity of students from different cultures throughout and beyond the Pacific region.
Theological reflections in the Pacific often use the image of a mat as a symbol for the community. Throughout the Pacific, mats are woven together from various natural plant fibers to form a unified surface that is both beautiful and functional. Mats have a special significance in Pacific traditions. They serve a number of purposes besides as a simple floor covering to sit on.
Mats create a shared space for a family, a village, a group of friends, neighbors, or newly acquainted, to gather together. On the mat, the gathered might eat or drink, they might deliberate or discern, or as the church, they might pray together. On the mat, the community might make hard choices – they might mourn or celebrate – but through whatever activity they do on the mat, the gathered themselves are also woven together.
The mission of the PTC is to provide a ‘whole of life’ education, in which the nurturing of individuals is grounded in the care and respect for the natural world. There is a wholeness to God’s creation, and seeking the wholeness of one person depends on ensuring the wholeness of the community and the wholeness of the earth.
In the final worship of the academic year, the Principal of PTC, the Reverend Professor Upolu Vaai, gathered the school community under the shade of a large tree on campus. “The tree of life, the longest-living tree in PTC,” he said. The Principal spoke about how being a community is important in the Pasifika way of thinking because in the Pacific, there is no true individual, but only a part of the mat of community. “Because the individual is in the community, and the community is in the individual.”
“Wherever we go, we carry our homes, ancestors, and parents with us. We are never individuals,” he explained. And yet, he warned that “the Pasifika way is increasingly disintegrating into individualism. We are caught in this issue of compartmentalization of things. We pull things aside and separate things.”
“Many things about being a community we need to learn from the mat,” Principal Vaai said. In a theology rooted in traditional Pasifika thought, the weaving together of individuals reflects the will and love of God toward humans and all of creation. God’s grace always desires to weave us back together when the mat is frayed. At graduation, Principal Vaai told those receiving diplomas that their papers gave them new reeds and strands to create community. If they don’t weave mats of community with them, their diplomas won’t be used as God desires.
Partners in Fiji