Q&A with ARCHBISHOP EMERITUS RT REVD DR Winston Halapua

I’d like to give thanks to God for this space and when you were kind to invite me. I thought of other places and this morning, and that is one of the things you will find out about me, the guidance of God is very clear. Its only this morning I said, why go to other places, go to the place that impact on you a lot. And that is why I say, this is God’s guidance to be here.

I grew up in a family, my Dad was a Minister and later on, the first Bishop in Tonga, and Assistant here in the Diocese of Polynesia. In that kind of background of a church family, your whole life is about churchy things. At the same time you think about your life and career. The first inspiration about my future came to be in the Navy. On my mother’s side, they are naval people. When we first out on school picnic, we went by boat. I stepped into the boat and I was seasick when the boat was still there, and that career went out the window. Then the next thing came, to be in the Army. Something totally different from the church but my friends wanted to join the ministry and some people said, ‘did you hear God say ‘join the church?’ Or I heard other answer, ‘I was called’ etc. No, my friends wanted to join the ministry and I joined them.

Who is Dr. Halapua? What were you liked as a child?

Dad was a Methodist, and his forebears were Roman Catholic. The Anglican Church wanted someone in Tonga, A Tongan, to involve in their school. The Vicar of the Anglican Church at the time went personally and invited Dad to join the school. It was through the years working in the school he joined the Anglican Church. He was the first Principal of the school. He came from an educational background. Four boys in the family. Three of us got PhD’s. One on economics, Stephen known on Talanoa and one in Psychology at United States. He worked there and died there. And here I am. I think what I am really saying, it is a family atmosphere that Dad was a teacher. And the school atmosphere somehow impacted on us. 

You have spent a long time in Fiji?

I’ve spent 54 years in Fiji. I came from Tonga for higher education. I think I was 18. I came here to our theological college. Also went to Derrick Institute. I came here as the first Anglican. There were two of us, sent by the Diocese of Polynesia to do our Bachelor of Divinity here. That is how this place laid the foundation on me at the upper level. 

How has the foundation formed at PTC impacted your life, church leadership and your life in Ministry?’

First of all, theological colleges at the time mostly serve their own church. There were other churches joined in but there as no commitment to be ecumenical in the way this place gave us. The first impact here, is that I came to a Pacific Insitutte for degree level. That kind of ecumenism, is all the churches together. And I was clear in that time, because the Bishop of the Anglican Church at the time as the chair of the council here, of the PTC. The Archbishop of Canterbury opened this place. So with that influence, to come here and see fellow students from other churches and countries you know, not all of them. Something you knew about those churches but here you learn more about what we didn’t know. So the impact of the place, you come from Tonga, suddenly you realise how wide churches in the Pacific. And it was the first to offer degree level. Diploma was offered in some of the other theological colleges. Worshipping together, eating together, playing rugby together, all these things were new. But the most important thing for me, I came to realise I belonged to a big family of the Pacific. You also saw God’s gifts of other churches. How narrow I was. Because the kind of stories, sometimes when referred to us as young people growing up, they were not quality stories. But when you come here and see the richness of students and you saw the churches through them, and you saw the academic backgrounds, leadership and you say ‘wow, I came from a very small place.’ Theological College at that time did not reach to the level of theological colleges now. So, when I left here, you are know longer the same. You are not from one country. Or some of the countries that you have the same church. You belong to a bigger family, to the bigger body of Christ. The community here was excellent, life as excellent, teaching staff were excellent. When we in the Pacific come to a good feast, you know what a good feast is. 

Spirit of Ecumenism – how has it been a strength in your journey in dealing with many issues?

It is not only here at PTC. It is Fiji. Because ecumenism made sense here. But interfaith was not in that time. So, you come here for ecumenism and your learn deeper than that, and you walk out of the boundaries here to the wider city of Suva and beyond that you see other religions. And that kind of profound discovery became very very deep in me. Not only the profound faith, but also their delicacies. Eating all these varieties widened my horizon. And trying to communicate beyond you with others, that is actually the blessing of this country you won’t find elsewhere. Its Fiji as a multiracial country. Trying to be together. You will see the ecumenical side. And for me, the profound thing you will find the interfaith, multiracialism and you will find ecumenism. You are well equipped. Then this place offers the academic level. You have a taste of it and it is no wonder that the vision of the leaders of the church before they came here, was to lift the level of theological education in the Pacific in the 1960s and Fiji was chosen. For me that is an amazing thing for me to see God’s will. So I was shaped, not only here, but outside the gate, in Fiji as a country. And from here we were equipped to go beyond the Pacific. And that is how my other part in Ministry only extended what I was gifted by God here.

Most challenging issue you had to deal with as a church leader here and across the Pacific and the knowledge gained here helped you deal with it?

The beautiful dimension of what I have found here and that has been part of my entire Ministry and I will go to the grave with it, it is the joy and that is to do with what our Principal here works on and some others, it is to do with Relationality. When I came here, I knew something about my faith. But it was in this place, I was trying to communicate with others, my faith as a human being, my faith in the church where I belong. And when I talk about relationship, it is trying to listen to get what they have that I did not know. That’s the beauty of coming together here. You see the different dimension of ministry, vision, mission and so forth. But at the end of the day you have to live together. That is the most impotant issue. What I call the most important gift of this place. We all come here because of Christ but at the end of the day when we ate our dining table, we all had behaviors that belonged to our context. And we were trying to match it in a way to fit with what we have in common. To be common in Christ. Then when we were in the worship, in the time the Anglican Church did not recite the Eucharist and open to everyone. I came here and discovered how difficult to be part of family here and we had a behaviour like that. But we individually couldn’t change things that belonged to the identity of the church. And I saw other change. Some of us played rugby. When you ran out of energy, you became a real human. You forgot you are Christian. Your behaviour on the ground. But we were together with other Christians. It is making that Christ, we are passionate about and grateful to God, meaningful and also living it. And that is the greatest joy of being a Christian. I learnt it here. Thank you Winston for coming here and being a Christian. But can you listen deeply to where others are and their jou and passion. Not live denominationally, own Christian faith, or your nationality and race and so forth interfere with all of this. It is that when you learn when gender issue came into being, and its dynamics, you take one and apply to try to live on the common faith. So all this and my later work on climate change it is all part and parcel of something that was given as God’s gift here. 

Problems, shared problems, climate change, NCDs, and all other problems facing Pacific. What will be your advice to other church leaders?

I’ve arrived at the point that the talking is far too much for too long. I have seen in what I’ve been part of in my journey, is simply to say, perhaps what we need is to live what we believe and what you say. Because I have seen in my journey, when I came here, the journey of trying to come together on ecumenism, was only developing. Then emerged, gender issues, feminist theology, contextual theology and you put any type of theology and look at it, the theology is there. But making it happen is not there, clearly. And when I marvel at people who do marvellous things in the name of the church, you look at it, people outside marvel at what they do. And in my journey on climate change and I look at that again, I speak as a Christian, I think Christians need to do more on living our love of God and our love of our neighbour including the environment. If we live that and they are seen in churches, they are seen at our schools, they are seen at association that belong to the church, people would understand us as the body of Christ in a dynamic way. I believe we are moving towards now a situation that young people are on the public space and they question our integrity because what we say to them –‘this is yours for the future’ when we talk  about the planet. The leading voice is simply saying, what you say, and what we’ve been told to have education in order to arrive on that. I hear them say –‘what you say is not what you see.’

I want to put it simply – the incredible thing about Jesus is that his teaching was his very life. And his very life came out on what he said. And when you pull them together you are clear on where you are with Jesus. Is there any way on the body of Christ that you find a way, to make the action become the way of life? 

Ecumenism – working together

Ecumenism is the only way. You can’t be a Christian working alone. What Jesus left behind is a community. It’s a body in theology language. In today’s world, it’s ‘together.’ So ecumenism is a stepping stone. Because if we as Christians can make sense by doing it, we don’t have much to share with others, they will see us. Our dilemma, we know we are not together. Others see that clearer than us. That is where God has given us that gift and we need to honour that gift. Hence this place is the embodiment of ecumenism and I am looking forward to that. 

What is the future for you?

Yes, I don’t look forward to the future. I already celebrated now. The young people has taken up leadership.

It's only fair to share...Share on Facebook
Facebook
0Tweet about this on Twitter
Twitter
Share on LinkedIn
Linkedin
Email this to someone
email
This entry was posted in Quarter One 2020. Bookmark the permalink.