Coordinator of the Centre for Women’s Development Programme

Applications are invited for the following position:

Co-ordinator of Centre for Women’s Development Programme

The Pacific Theological College (PTC) is a regional ecumenical tertiary institution that serves the region through the churches of the Pacific. We invite applications for the position of Coordinator of the Women’s Development Programme (WDP) with the aim to equip women of the different ministries to meet the daily challenges in their respective churches, home and communities.

The person appointed shall be an educator and committed to the theological education and advocacy for the dignity of women; is ecumenical, both in relation to the diverse Christian traditions and faiths; a leader with ability to lead and to achieve the ‘leadership for justice’ vision of the college; a team player and able to work with a diverse multi-cultural community, and is responsible for the sustainability of the Centre.

The person shall be required to coordinate and administer the Women’s Programme with focus on planning and preparing curriculum, courses, teaching and coordinating, developing unique and distinctive courses and programmes, especially ground-up programmes with alternative development strategies for marginalized communities; planning and preparing budget with funding partners on behalf of the programme; writing grant proposals and request funding for the center;  management and accountability of the finance of the department; creative and innovative marketing to attract interested partners such as churches, government, NGOs, businesses, to invest on PTC through the Women’s programme; community networking and relationship building regionally. 

The person must be familiar with educational and church contexts across the Pacific and the world; Ability to teach and supervise students of whom English is not their first language and work reliably and respectfully with a team within an ecumenical institution. Willingness to work in a team and to dialogue with persons of different cultural and religious background. Propose and facilitate seminars/workshops that empower women and developing published materials to assist women both at PTC and in the local communities to liberate women from cultures and traditions that suppress their God-given rights. Ability to work to advocate for justice for the dignity of women and their responsibilities in church and society. Participating in committee work and any other appropriate duties assigned by the Principal of the college and/or the College Executive Committee. Ability and willingness to participate in extra-curricular activities and other community activities of the college. 

Qualifications and Requirements:

At least a Bachelor degree with at least 5 years of experience of teaching and mentoring women and working with women organisations who are committed to grassroots communities. Also a 5 years of administrative and management experience is required. A good understanding of financial management with the ability to write convincing and realistic Grant proposals for the Centre.

Renumeration:

Salary will depend on expertise and experience in consultation with the PTC Council &
Executive approved annual salary scale. 

Deadline and Starting Date:

Closing Date for all Applications is Friday 4th September, 2020. The person appointed is expected to take up duties in January 2021.

Applicants are asked to submit their current CV along with a supporting letter of motivation of no more than two pages, with references from at least two referees with their contacts. Applications can be submitted electronically to the Human Resources Manager by email to: vijay.kumar@ptc.ac.fj. Alternatively, hand delivered to PTC reception desk or send via postal mail to the address: Human Resources Manager, Pacific Theological College, Private Mail Bag, Suva. 

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New Appointments

For the first time, the Pacific Theological College has a new Manager Human Resources.

The appointee to the position is Vijay Kumar. He is Fijian.

Mr Kumar joins PTC from the University of Fiji where he held the same position. He holds a Masters degree and brings with him a rich experience in dealing with Human Resources policies and management, industrial relations, an intimate knowledge of Fiji’s labour laws. He is also well acquainted with handling immigration matters, mediation and arbitration. His core role at PTC includes the renewal of the College’s academic and management systems.

Dr. Darell Cosden, who joined the College this year as the Senior Lecturer Theology and Ethics, is also the new Academic Dean.

Dr. Cosden took over the position from Rev. Dr. Gwayaweng Kiki who held the role for the past three years.

He is from the United States of America.

Ends…

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Reweaving an Ecological Pacific

Growing the Movement

The Institute for Mission and Research (IMR) of the Pacific Theological College is organising a series of webinars and online meetings on the theme ‘Changing the Story (CTS) of Development in the Pacific Meeting Series.’

The meeting series scheduled weekly, one week for young Pacific Islanders conversations and the other for the more senior generation, is held around various themes focussed on the dimensions of the introduced neo-liberal development model in the Pacific Islands.

Virtual meetings are being held on the Zoom platform, abiding by the COVID19 social distancing restrictions.

The theme for each meeting is set by IMR. 

The first meeting provided an Overview of Development in the Pacific islands and Pacific Spirituality and Philosophy and its Implications for Development in the Pacific Islands. 

Online meetings are promoted with flyers on digital platforms

The second focused on Globalisation and Neoliberalism. 

The third will address the issue of Education. 

The webinar and podcasts that make up the CTS meeting series is part of the Reweaving the Ecological Mat Project working towards building the greater movement of reweaving an ecological Pacific. 

The neoliberal narrative of development though has brought about a lot of progress in terms of education, the economies, health, technology and others have also given rise to a lot of despair. 

Pacific Islanders for instance make up some of the highest number of people living with non-communicable diseases and deaths around the world. 

Environment degradation and the loss of ecological relationships is at its worst.

Poverty, inequality and a deepening sense of insecurity pervades the region. 

The COVID19 pandemic has brought to stark reality the failures of the neoliberal model of development.

Economic development has suffered. People have trained for job markets that no longer exist. 

The online meetings create a space for conversations on rethinking development by examining the frailties of the past and reimagining a future model that places wellbeing of people at its centre. 

The meetings are open to the public.

The speakers are chosen from a pool of contributing authors to a book titled ‘From the Deep: Pasifiki Voices for a New Story,’ which hosts a collection of dreams and visions of a new normal the authors submitted as part of a Call for Visions on reimagining a new normal.

The Call for Visions is a strategy of the REM project, crafted post-COVID19.

Ends… 

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Talanoa with Dr. Cosden

Dr. Darell Cosden, who is from the United States of America, joined the Pacific Theological College this year as Senior Lecturer Theology and Ethics. He also serves PTC as its Academic Dean, taking over the role from Rev. Dr. Gwayaweng Kiki who held the role for the past three years. 

The College is at a time of transition, progressing towards being a University as part of its new Strategic Plan 2020 – 2025 with the theme ‘Towards Excellence in Theological Education for Leadership for Justice.’

Dr. Cosden is spearheading PTC’s curriculum redevelopment and design to deliver on the Strategic Plan vision and contextual theological education that meets the needs of Pacific Islanders. 

He has carried out similar work in theological colleges in Europe and the United States of America, reinventing curriculums in order for the theological colleges to survive and to grow. 

Q. What excites you about your new role as Academic Dean?

Answer:

I think right now we stand at a very interesting moment in the history of the College and theological study globally. Even cursory study with theological education globally is in trouble. We have declining numbers. We have shifting patterns of church and education for church. We have rising costs. We have basically a global crisis in theological education.

I say the Pacific has maybe have been shielded from some of that or feeling less the effect of that. But what is happening there, we see signs it is coming this direction. We also have some unique challenges at PTC. So, for me, it’s an exciting time. It is an exciting time to do something new, something different, something that builds in the heritage of the past, does not throw away the good heritage and the good past but also does something that has not been done before and not in this way. I think that’s the moment that I arrived with the new institutional strategic plan making the same kind of claims trying to chart a new course. For the strategic plan to succeed there has got to be a creative re-thinking, redesign, creative editions, creative theological scholarships that’s going to reshape the academic plan and structure of what we do here. People have different views of what the Dean does. We typically think of them as an Administrator and Operational person and in an institution, that is what they do. The problem is in an institution you don’t need primarily an administrator but a builder and a leader. For me personally I’m not the administrator. It’s not my gift, skills set or interest. I’ve always been a builder at the three previous high and institutions where I taught or led. 

Q. What do you intend to build for PTC?

Answer:

We are in the brainstorming and collecting phase at this stage, getting feedback and collecting ideas, getting input from faculty, key stakeholders, churches and potential students. We have pieced a broad skeleton of what is possible.  In 2010, the Pacific Higher Education Framework came into play in the region. By 2015, those had made their way into the South Pacific Association of Theological Schools (SPATS), into the theological world. To date SPATS and the Fiji Higher Education Commission are really at the early stages of trying to figure out what these frameworks are and how to implement them. To be honest and fair they were brought into the context, with no training of the implementors and sort of imposed on the context. There seems to be little understanding of it. It is an essentially British framework that made its way into the Pacific Islands by way of Australia and New Zealand but is essentially a British system of design. To be entirely fair, SPATS has struggled to understand it. And PTC, working with SPATS, has struggled to understand it too.

I think one of the reasons I was asked to do this role because back as early as the late 90’s I was trained to understand the structure and the system.

You asked the questions what I intend to build? I intend to help our faculty and team here rebuild curriculum; I don’t intend to build anything for anyone. I simply want to provide the tools and the training and the skills and as a builder I take leadership rather than administration as my goal. So, I want to lead us through the processes. For me there is a difference between a leader and a manger. 

Q. Share some thoughts on the expected changes for the PTC curriculum?

Answer:

The curriculum is going to take full advantage of the frameworks. We are going to rethink our current Masters in Theology (MTh) and re-align it within the framework.  Right now (referring to Masters in Theology) it tries to do everything, a one size fits all and if you try to do everything you run the risk of doing nothing, or at least to the level you want to do it at. You do a whole lot of things at a more dispersed level rather than a focussed goal. I can’t tell you what the purpose of that degree is because we haven’t decided. 

The masters in Theology tries to serve multiple purposes helping people to become writers and scholars, helping them to become faculty members in their own church schools, helping people to become leaders in their churches. You know, which is it? What is it trying to accomplish? If we are trying to create teachers for emerging theological colleges. That’s a set of specific set of skills and goals. If we are trying to build pastors who go deeper, that’s a specific set of skills. If we are trying to produce researchers and writers, that’s a different set of skills. 

What we are clear about is that we need to have a very academic route here. Whatever degrees we offer. We need to be the place where academic scholarly training takes place. So, I possibly envision this degree fulfilling that role. That the MTH is the Masters that leads us into the PhD route. And the PhD route is for scholars, writers and teachers. 

But I’m also convinced the vast majority of our students are not academically oriented. They don’t come from having academic aspirations. They don’t come from having experience doing the more academic things. Some do. but the vast majority come from years of experience in ministry. And we don’t have a developed professional route at this point. So, you ask what I envision? I think we need to develop entire pathways, an entire route that goes from undergraduate level to a professional doctorate. We haven’t named it yet. We have some ideas; I don’t want to give those away at this moment. 

A professional doctorate that is on ministry/missional based issues. Things like the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) works on all the time. Addressing Pacific issues, social justice issues. We have a number of people coming from churches and we really want them to work on those issues when they return. And these students won’t become the teachers in theological colleges and if they are, they won’t be in New Testament or Old Testament studies but in Mission Studies. Our students come from years of ministry experience and yet this contribution is undervalued in classrooms, not on purpose but by design. We currently work on more academic skills. We try to turn people into people they might not be, people that might not be their vocation or calling from God. The churches aren’t sending us those kinds of people primarily. That’s not how they select or how they send. So instead of trying to make every square fit into a round circle, let’s broaden the offerings. A professional doctorate for example would have maybe no more than a year’s worth of coursework, than it would have on the ground implementation of a project for a couple years and then a writeup period where you recontribute to the scholarship of the Pacific, of the practical dimensions, of the social justice side. 

At this moment our curriculum is structured for academic, research and writing. We don’t want to lose that. I think there are fewer students suited for that route. But we need to have that route and need to make that a strong suite of what we do for them that’s appropriate. For the rest of our students, who experience a lot of frustration and anxiety for trying to become something they are not, or don’t want to be or not passionate about, they are not going to go home and do that anyway, we can design a something that really meets their needs. It meets that social justice leadership of the Strategic Plan and really serves the vision of the church in the Pacific.

The key to all of this is pathways. Pathways that start at the Institute for Mission and Research (IMR) level where Capacity Building Courses are offered. That people in the churches, ministers, but mostly also lay people, who have an interest and need for theological education, can begin a process that can take them from IMR right up to the professional doctorate level. But with appropriate exit points at every step of the way, either because they are satisfied, that is sufficient for what they need or because their skills don’t allow them to progress to the next level. And the frameworks allow this. The quality mechanisms of the framework make sure students don’t go away empty handed. That there is exit points at each place, that it’s appropriate that an award can be taken away. And you can move on and not reach a dead end at any point. That has not been understood and exploited in the Pacific and particularly not at PTC yet. 

Q. Will the new design assist churches to play a greater role in helping Pacific islanders meet the challenges of this new age? Should the churches get involved beyond the pulpit?

Answer:

Yes, I strongly do. The purpose of the church is to embody the presence of Christ in the world and context. But the idea that church focusses on eternal things only, or some narrow definition for spiritual, this other worldly and life in society is temporal and isn’t the business of the church, is viewed as a flawed ecclesiology. It’s a flawed theology of creation. That type of thinking can lead to the church becoming an oppressive problem when it is forced to engage culture and the world, without thinking through things. Christ comes in a cultural context. The new curriculum will help students to embody Christ in the world. While addressing the pressing issues that everyone in the congregation and society face, it will address the eternal and spiritual questions. 

Q. What do you think is causing the decline in interest in theological education globally?

Answer:

Several factors:

  1. Curricular approach and structure built on a medieval 19th century model of theological education which many churches are not finding really prepares its leadership. Its curriculum is irrelevant.
  2. Rising costs of higher education – that’s across the board not just theological education. We are particularly vulnerable within that. Costs are rising because of technology, and the needs for an internet infrastructure that is constantly changing and needs constant upgrade
  3. Administrative costs – so as we add more frameworks and layers of accountability there needs to be hired people to oversee those things so you might end with an institution that needs hugely drives up costs.
  4. As in the history of modern missions, a lot of theological colleges are built on a charitable giving model. It’s sort of a colonial model where you need rich people to give you crumbs from their table and support that way. That is not the world we live in and will not be the future. We need more revenue generating activities which could be an in-demand curriculum. 

Global institutes are shutting down monthly, globally. So far, we have been shielded. In the Pacific the historic Protestant denominations compared to the rest of the globe are still very strong. Globally, the historical Protestant denominations are dying. The entrepreneurial church movement, free church, with the rock band in front, is growing. The rise of the mega-church. These churches start to function more like a corporate model instead of the traditional denominational model. They function more as a corporate structure. And many of them, if they want training, they have in-house training. They want their own methods of leadership, interpretations of the Bible. It’s a global phenomenon. 

Q. How does the re-design of the curriculum position PTC to deal with threats to theological education globally?

Answer:

The key to that is expanding on the vision of who theological education is for. Theological education is obviously for priests, pastors and church leaders. But theological education primarily belongs to all the people of God. We need a mixed focus of all the above at PTC. People who are obviously priest, or ministers in the formal denominational sense of the world, but also the laity at all levels, women, men, who aren’t seeking ordination. That’s where the excitement is generating from. Some of the proposals that were passing around, and every time when I’m talking to people, every time when I do a presentation, the people in the room not part of the power structure or priest structure, there would be something they want to do.  We haven’t rolled this out, yet we are already getting inquiries from outside the traditional PTC structure of those identified, chosen, sent, sponsored by the church. 

Right now, we have an unsustainable student-faculty ratio. It  3:1. That is not economically sustainable in any way. The kind of curriculum we have structured right now, requires a workload for faculty that means we can’t get much more than a 3:1 to one student faculty ratio, if our students are going to, we are going to succeed. The model is just not financially viable or sustainable. That suggests to me that the kind of curricular structures that we have right now can’t work in the context of the sustainable vision. 

The new curriculum is also the igniting factor to pull together again the three main pillars of historical ecumenical movement in the Pacific – PCC, PTC and SPATS.

I am working on issues that requires the integration of those three ecumenical bodies in the Pacific. Instead of just talking about the structures of these three institutions we actually have a missional purpose for them again. 

This will also make us appealing outside of the traditional churches that supports us to a wider group of churches, from outside the narrow Pacific confines, for diaspora of Pacific people, or for people in Australia and NZ and other parts of the world, interested in the context of the ecological crisis and post-colonial issues and these kinds of things. We are getting interest in that area as well. I think the narrow vision, of working here to serve the traditional group of churches will continue to be a focus. But do we have to be limited to that? To actually serve those churches well, we actually have to serve Christ’s purpose as well and that includes people outside of those structures. And that includes engaging globally and having something to contribute on the global scene as well.

Q. So this is about crafting a good in-demand product?

Answer:

The curriculum is the product that must get in the income. I know that even talking that way will make some of my colleagues angry. Because it’s the commodification of the curriculum. It is the neo-liberal capitalist model. If what we have to offer is a theological college, our theological education is the product. If you want to call it a produce, we will call it such. If it is good and people want it, they will do what they must to get it. They will make personal sacrifices, they will pay. If it is not worth having why would they want it. 

Q. When do you expect the new curriculum to roll-out?

Answer:

Progressively. We are on a three-five-year path to make a completely comprehensive overview and overhaul of everything. This is an organic, integrated design process. The plan is to have significant, online learning. The plans for PTC are to continue residential, but move also to fully online and hybrid models. 

Q. What do you like about working at PTC?

Answer:

I love the ecumenical nature, the diverse student body, the unique role and vision that we can have in the pacific and in the globe. For a little tinny place that is so insignificant in this corner of the globe we have so much potential. 

Ends… 

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Psycho-Social/Spiritual Support

Fijian Church leaders are calling for greater psycho spiritual/psycho social support for Fijians following the COVID 19 pandemic and a recent spate of Cyclones.

Many voiced their concerns about the emotional and psychological wellbeing of Fijians at a Psycho-Social Forum organised in Suva recently by the Institute of Mission and Research of the Pacific Theological College.

Archbishop Peter Loy Chong

Archbishop of the Catholic Diocese in Suva Dr. Peter Loy Chong said both COVID19 and times of disasters is one of major change and upheaval in a person’s life. 

‘In crisis situations, there is universal need for meaning where your sense of meaning breaks down,’ said Archbishop Loy Chong. 

‘And when that breaks down, that is a major crisis and that’s when people think life is useless and people can think of suicides at that time.

‘People can go without food, you don’t hang yourself when there is no food or money but wen sense of meaning breaks loose and is there is nothing else to hope for this is a major crisis.’

Representing the largest Christian denomination in Fiji, the Methodist Church Apisalome Tudreu related the growing feeling of listlessness being observed in the population. 

Mr Tudreu said there has also been an observed increase in domestic violence, greater hardships experienced with massive job losses with women and children especially vulnerable.  

‘Many of the discussions on unemployment and domestic violence tend to drift to the difficulties in handling the anxieties and the pressures, the coping mechanisms, so the church is aware that this is a development part of our life which may in fact be unnoticed or outside the way people operate,’ he said.

‘But there is a real danger as we have seen. And there is definitely, we might be nurturing a boil waiting to burst.’ 

Apisalome Tudreu (front-Blue Shirt)

Psycho-social or the spiritual language has been identified as an essential dimension of the healing process for Fijians during COVID19 with the church playing a crucial role in sharing it.

‘The spiritual language which uses the symbolic language for meaning and for God has a very important part in the human structure of life and when that structure falls apart it’s this language that needs to come in,’ said Archbishop Loy-Chong.

‘Because science can tell you why things are like this and what we will need to do or to undo. But to move people to do things, when they don’t have the capacity it needs another language that touches the heart of people, evokes a response and energises.

‘So that’s why psycho spiritual should be considered an essential human need during COVID19 for the full restoration of human person.’

Head of the Salvation Army Church in Fiji Captain …..said psycho spiritual healing focuses on reconciling people with God.

‘It brings people closer into community relationships so instead of individuals stuck isolated in a place, we are healed by being part of the wider communities.

Peter Shultz from Operation Foundation of Fiji said psycho spiritual healing focuses on people’s complete wellbeing. 

‘All of us have a desire for wellbeing, of ourselves and others and the state can bring frameworks and policies within which it can help that economically but deep realities of wellbeing come out from the relationship we have with each other,’ said Mr Schultz.

‘And the health of those relationships, the way they are fostered, formed and nurtured and it really comes back to the space of the church. 

If we look at the big picture of history, we see God reaching into humanity to do exactly the same thing for our wellbeing through Christ. That we become redeemed. 

We as representative of that have the same charge, the same calling to see the wellbeing of the communities in which we exist and live.’

Members of the Forum

However, a challenge for the Church is dealing with the state’s lack of recognition psycho-social or spiritual support. 

One of the challenges, unfortunately, is that political leaders don’t recognise the language of the church. 

‘When we speak, they say we should remain in the church,’ said Archbishop Loy-Chong.

‘Unfortunately, in Fiji, Fijian leaders and society, have not come to appreciate and recognise the contribution of religious spiritual language and symbols so for example when I speak in the media political leaders say the church should remain in church because we are a secular state.’

‘Compared to this, in the United States, when I go to the hospital in my Roman collar, they help you to do your ministry, help you to get to the sick people you need to get to. 

‘Over here they do not even recognise that as part of the human process. They don’t recognise there is a space for God in the healing process,’ added Archbishop Loy Chong. 

Mr Tudreu believes the Methodist Church with its extensive network can have a big impact in restoration and healing but is not engaged.

‘You know the church deals with the side of development in Fiji that cannot be handled by the judiciary or police. 

‘Unfortunately, the churches are not always in the radar when Government wants to deal with things. They have the resources, sometimes they don’t engage the church in this area where actually knows there can be a part to play.’

‘Our challenge in the future is how to engage the system or government so that it takes all the institutions together,’ said Mr Tudreu.

Harnessing the power of network especially of churches becomes crucial in rolling out psycho-social and psycho spiritual healing.

Archbishop Loy Chong remarked on the need to bring together not just churches but all religions. 

‘This type of forum is one way of getting together, not only Christians but other religions as well,’ he said. 

‘We need to bring together all the religions and churches so that we are on the same page in terms of sharing one language or understanding this as an important language we need to bring to the wider society and that we should speak to the government and other agencies that we are partners with. 

They make contribution, we also make a contribution rather than working disjointedly.’

An example of such a networking is one the Methodist Church is involved with the Church Agencies Network Disaster Operations Fiji.

‘We are working with them to try and mobilise psycho social support by the participation of different churches and other organisation,’ said Mr Tudreu.

‘Because the church is present in many places, we want to work with these agencies when they turn up. 

‘With a plan in place, they will just come and play their part and hopefully the church will still attend to the spiritual part in some of this because some of them are more secular than the way we want to deal with this as a church.’

The Forum was organised by the Institute for Mission and Research through its Peacebuilding project. 

Project Officer Vosita Lenisaurua said the forum was organised to ensure conversations around psycho-spiritual support is scaled up for the sake of Fijians suffering the traumatic experiences of natural disasters like devastating tropical cyclones and COVID19.

‘This allows space for networking for various church organisations and also perhaps the building of psycho-social networks here in Fiji and across the region.’

Ends…..

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Rededication of Islanders Missionary Memorial Chapel

‘We present this newly renovated chapel to you to be re-consecrated for the worship of God and the service of all people,’ the congregation proclaimed together.

‘And by what name shall this chapel be known?’ asked Deputy Chair of the Pacific Theological College (PTC) Council and Executive Rev. Dr. Epineri Vakadewavosa. 

‘Islanders Missionary Memorial Chapel,’ responded the audience.

This exchange marked the rituals part of the re-dedication ceremony of the Islanders Missionary Memorial Chapel on July 17, 2020 attended by Suva’s ecumenical community an staff and students of PTC. 

PTC Deputy Chair of Council and Executive Rev. Epineri Vakadewavosa unveiling the plaque
Renovated chapel

The Islanders Missionary Memorial Chapel is 52 years old. Its history though is so much older than that. The seeds of its existence were sowed right from the very beginning, as Pacific islanders moved across the Pacific sharing the gospel and bringing their fellow men to Christ.

‘These early missionaries were mostly the ones that built and started theological colleges, converted grassroot communities, took the gospel to remote island communities before European missionaries, were literally the hands, feet and eyes of European missionaries on the ground,’ recounted PTC Principal Rev. Professor. Dr. Upolu, while sharing the history of the chapel.

However, these islander missionaries remain nameless, largely unrecognised, their sacrifices largely undocumented in mainstream Pacific textbooks mostly written by Europeans.

The 1967 General Assembly of the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) held in Lifou, New Caledonia agreed to its members churches raising funds for building the chapel as a lasting memorial and an act of thanksgiving for the ministry work of the islanders.

Funds were raised through special services held in every village on the 27th of June 1967 and sent to PTC.

Rev. Professor Vaai said this effort symbolises de-colonisation as Pacific islanders attempted to correct the dominant narrative of European and American missional work in the Pacific, reclaiming their place in the Christian mission narrative.

‘But this narrative should not be in anyway intended to underrate the equally heroic sacrificial services of European missionaries even at sometimes to the cost of their life,’ said Professor Vaai.

‘However, it is about questioning and overturning a dominant colonial narrative that has contributed to the suppression and non-recognition of similar services offered by indigenous missionaries and many indigenous people.’

‘I may say that this chapel is symbolic of this vision of justice and decolonisation initiated by our forebears.’

In his sermon, Rev. Dr. Vakadewavosa said the chapel also serves to inspire and remind students of PTC that it is a missional college.

‘It must bring the good news of the kingdom, good news to the poor, freedom to the prisoners, recovery of sight to the blind, set the oppressed free, to proclaim the good year of the Lord in difficult times, in situations and context. 

‘Our role is first and foremost for Christ to be known to all people even if our names are not known, not written or forgotten.’

‘In this chapel we are reminded that God equips and calls women and men and even children to be his messengers of grace.’

‘God equips and appoints the right time for mission because the mission is not for our glory or benefit but for Gods glory and the benefit of Gods people and creation.

‘Every time we are reminded that we are called to God’s mission in the Pacific and beyond and we have a role to participate fully and sacrificially in the mission of God.’

‘God’s mission is the heartbeat of the church in the Pacific in these modern times.

‘Its survival depends entirely on our sincere and faithful response to our love for God and his son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.’

‘Our brother and sisters in the faith who we are remembering today were God fearing missionaries with deep commitment to the mission of God because they loved God right to the end of their journey – they gave their all even if their names are not written in the records of history. 

‘That did not deter them in their mission for God. ‘

The Chapel is also hailed as the centre of PTC being its engine room or powerhouse.

On 9th December 1968, the then Chairperson of PCC Reverend Dr. Sione Amanaki Havea dedicated the chapel and since then, this is its first major extensive renovation.

Renovated to the tune of $51,000 the Chapel underwent roof replacements, was retrofitted with a skylight, its posts reinforced, its floors replaced with gleaming tiles, a cross designed with fine Tonga magimagi design is now hung over the altar.

Chapel under renovation.
Maintenance team

Works also included converting the chapel equipment room into a chaplain’s office, repainting the building and its walkways and redesigning the floor beds.

The Chapel rededication is also marking the College’s 55th Anniversary celebrations.

College Principal Rev. Professor Vaai also announced a proposal to be submitted to the PTC Council and Executive for June 27 to be set aside as a Memorial Day for the islander missionaries that sacrificed their all for Christ. 

Ends… 

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Jasveer’s PTC Journey

‘My dad is Punjabi while mum is Nepalese!’ shared the Pacific Theological College’s Manager Maintenance and Properties. 

‘I’m a mixed breed Indian, hailing from a very strict cultural background but working here at PTC has been an enriching cultural experience.’

‘There are many cultures here at PTC that have since amazed me. So diverse, different peoples,’ he said.

‘And even though I’m just an employee, I am welcomed into this cultural diversity. I can feel personal growth.’

Jasveer or Jas as he is popularly known around campus, joined PTC four years ago from a financial lending institute in Fiji.

What brought him to PTC was a finance officer opening with the Finance Department, specially dealing with student financial matters.

The journey down four years has been transforming. He’s acquired new perspectives on life, extended his family network, learnt new skills, and achieved many undreamt outcomes.

‘From the finance team to leading PTC’s maintenance team, I am deeply appreciative of the faith and trust and opportunity the Principal has vested in me and I am committed to this place that I have come to call home,’ he said.

Jasveer who is 36 years old changed quite a few significant narratives over the four years.

He moved from finance to maintenance and property management achieving the construction of the Vaka PhD study centre which is a newly crafted study space for students pursuing their doctoral degree. He also crucially coordinated the renovation of the Islander Missionaries Memorial Chapel and is now working on a brand-new Faculty house for the College. 

Perhaps the most significant story he changed was a more personal one. He became a husband in December 2019.

As PTC sets the wheel turning to transform into a University as part of its new strategic outlook, more big goals lie ahead for Jasveer.

‘For the future I’m glad to be part of this college and to be part of the outlook of the strategic plan to become a University,’ he said.

‘I look at myself being part of it and achieving what’s there and being part of the committee to cost everything and don’t see myself going but to achieve the many challenges ahead.”

While the work is certainly motivating, Jasveer says for him the appeal of PTC is so much more than that.

‘The College is surely an extension of my family, my second family, I spend most of my hours here, eat together, work together,’ he said.

‘I don’t differentiate regardless of my cultural background and consider everyone here as family.’

‘I went to a Christian school my whole life as a student. But here working for one is totally different where we get to see how life is beyond what we can see with the naked eye.

‘It’s a deeper, emotional experience not just in terms of work but the value we gather from other indigenous people.’

‘I must say I am loving it here,’ he added.

‘PTC will always have a place in my heart and its worked wonders for me as well.’

Ends… 

Posted in Oceania Laca, Quarter Two 2020 | Comments Off on Jasveer’s PTC Journey

No Church Silence on Violence

A founding member of the Pacific Theological College says there will be no silence on violence in the face of growing statistics of violence against women and children in the Pacific Islands region.

Methodist Church of Fiji President Rev. Dr. Epineri Vakadewavosa gave this assurance at a meeting with the World Council of Church committee that visited Fiji in January this year.

Rev.Dr.Epineri Vakadewavosa addressing the World Council of Churches meeting.

The WCC delegation was divided into four Pilgrim Teams looking at various issues including Gender Justice. 

The visits were coordinated by the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) that observed that rates of violence are high in the region and for most countries it is higher than the global average of 35 percent.

Members of a pilgrim team visit to Vatuwaqa’a Wailea Settlement in Suva.

In an information brief for Pilgrim Team 3 whose focus was ‘Gender Justice, People with Disabilities, Interfaith Dialogue, the PCC stated that for too long, and more often than not, faith communities have been part of the structural violence enacted upon women of all age and social status in the Pacific.

‘Patriarchal structures of leadership and decision-making, biblical interpretation and attitudes towards women in faith communities have underpinned the psychological, emotional, physical, sexual and economic violence that Pacific women have had to endure,’ stated the PCC document.

‘We acknowledge the complicit and implicit actions and inaction by those in positions of authority and responsibility, and the abuses of power and trust experienced by women and children in our Pacific churches, that there are places where the gospel of love, inclusion, preference for the least among us in society and of peace and abundant life for all is preached and held out as the ideal but not practice,’ the brief further highlighted.

‘At the same time, we acknowledge with gratitude the many mothers and fathers who have had the courage to address these and other forms of gender-based violence experienced in homes, churches and church institutions for more than two decades, in their local churches, national churches and in the Pacific Conference of Churches membership, and those sisters and brothers working to continue and strengthen this work.’

‘This is part of a global move by Christian communities to address all forms of abuse of power and trust,’ the brief stated.

Rev. Dr. Vakadewavosa assured the WCC committee that the Methodist church is addressing gender violence in various ways.

It has partnered with Uniting World Australia to run a programme on gender theology.

It will also appoint a special chaplain and a gender-based violence project officer as well as encourage its Ministers to address the issue from the pulpit. 

The PCC says there is a growing shift by its members churches from conservative, colonial and fundamentalist, patriarchal theology to one based on more inclusive, contextual biblical interpretation and strong Christian theological and ethical reflection that violence against women in all its forms is a sin.

PCC General Secretary Rev. James Bhagwan (extreme right) with members of the WCC at the Nadera Methodist Church

Facts: 

Rates of Violence Against Women and Girls 

Tonga – 79%

Samoa – 76%

Kiribati – 73%

Fiji – 72%

Vanuatu – 72%

Solomon Islands – 64%

Ends.. 

Posted in Oceania Laca, Quarter Two 2020 | Comments Off on No Church Silence on Violence

Pacific Journal of Theology

The 58th issue of the Pacific Journal of Theology (PJT) was issued in June, 2020 as part of the 55thAnniversary Celebrations of the College. 

The College is producing two issues of the PJT as part of this celebrations. 

The recently released issue hosting eight chapters is a much larger volume than the 2019 issue.

Leading the coordinated effort by PTC faculty, alumni and the ecumenical community of the College, Dr Gladson Jathanna, PTC’s Senior Lecturer in Church History said the articles by different authors focussed on the PTC vision ‘Towards Excellence in Theological Education for Leadership for Justice.’

‘This journal consists of articles that focus mainly on the contextual significance of theological education in the Pacific,’ said Dr Jathanna.

‘Each and every article is strongly rooted in Pacific epistemology.’

‘This will be a resourceful contribution for our research students in the Pacific – not just PTC but across the Pacific – theological students and researchers in and around the Pacific.’ 

Contributing authors include Archibishop Emeritus Winston Halapua’s keynote address at the launch of the PTC 55th Anniversary celebrations, members of the PTC Faculty, students and alumni.

The chapters of the book include the following;

  • Editorial: The 55th Anniversary of the Pacific Theological College by Upolu Luma Vaai
  • Talanoa of Justice: Keynote Address on the Occasion of the Inauguration of the 55th Anniversary of PTC by Archbishop Emeritus the Rt Rev. Dr. Winston Halapua
  • The Dance of the Frigates: Reframing the Ecumenical History of the Pacific Theological College from the Perspective of the Pacific Household by Aisake Casimira
  • Relational Theologising: Why Pacific Islanders Think and Theologise Differently by Upolu Luma Vaai
  • Veikau (Forest/Wild) Theological Pedagogy for Transformative Encounter in Fiji by Taniela Baleinakorodawa
  • ‘Kill the Boys….let the girls live’: Murder, Midian and Mosaic Leadership in Numbers 31 by Kathryn Imray
  • Si’i le Tu?’oi: Shifting Perspectives on Exodus 1:8-2:10 through a Samoan/ Pasifika Reading by Faafetai Aiava
  • Resistance, Resilience and Radical Justice: Reimagining Theological Research in the Pacific by Gladson Jathanna
  • At Home in the Pacific Five Millenia and Counting: Decolonising Pacific Institutions of Higher Learning and Research Methodologies and the Role of Research Institutions like the Pacific Theological College by Unaisi Nabobo-Baba

Book Reviews include the following:

  • In Pursuit of a Pacific Island Biblical Hermeneutics – A Review of Elusions of Control: : Biblical Law on the Words of Women (2003) by Jione Havea – reviewed by Fatilua Fatilua
  • Work in the Spirit Toward a Theology of Work (2001) by Miroslaf Volf reviewed by Ioelu Onesemo

About 100 copies of the PJT was printed and circulated widely within the PTC Community and students free of cost. 

Hard copies are also available at a cost with the South Pacific Association of Theological Schools.

There are also plans afoot to also make it accessible online.

The 59th issue is expected for release in November.

Ends… 

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Islanders Missionary Memorial Chapel – A Brief History

By Rev. Professor Dr. Upolu Luma Vaai

On Friday 17 July, the college celebrated the rededication of its chapel, the centre of its life and wellbeing. In the absence of the Chairperson Rev Dr Leatulagi Faalevao due to covid19 restrictions, the Deputy Chairperson Rev Dr Epineri Vakadewavosa did the honour of rededicating the chapel after 52 years of service. The reason for its major renovation was due to the many leaks over the past years that have threatened its structure. To save the current structure and its important history, which has deep meaning to the Pacific ecumenical journey, the management has to act quickly, even under the challenges of the covid19 pandemic. It took the college Maintenance Team six weeks to complete the work. 

Building of the Chapel in 1968

When the chapel was planned for a full renovation, a search for a documented history began. Unfortunately, there was none. So commenced the hunt for information from the PTC library achieves and PCC reports to document one. To our surprise the extracted archival documents shed some light on the historical, ecumenical, and theological significance of this chapel that I believe should be celebrated together with the 55th anniversary of the college this year. 

A. Chapel History: A Symbol of Decolonisation

Completion Stage and Dedication in 1968

The Islander Missionaries Memorial Chapel, as the chapel was originally named by the Pacific churches, was dedicated on Monday, 9 December 1968, by the Rev. Sione ‘Amanaki Havea, the then Principal of Sia-‘a-Toutai Theological College in Tonga, and the then Chairperson of the Pacific Conference of Churches. As the name of the chapel indicates, it was consciously meant to be part of a larger movement in the Pacific that ardently demanded the rightful place of the Pacific Islanders in their own history which had been at stake during the centuries-long colonialism and its aftermath. It was quite evident in the clarion call given by the first General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches Rev. Vavae Toma from Samoa, in the first General Assembly of PCC held at Lifou, in New Caledonia, in 1966. He said: “while we have carefully preserved the names of the European and American missionaries to the Pacific of last century, we are in danger of losing for all time the names of many more Islander missionaries” (George A. F. Knight. 1968. The Pacific Theological College Newsletter. No.9 (June), 2). As Rev Dr George Knight, the first principal of PTC recollected, Rev Toma stressed on the historical fact that in some cases the Island missionaries “were the first ones to bring the Gospel to the Territories that no white man had reached. Thus both Tahitians and Tongans brought the Gospel to Fiji before the first white man had set foot on its shores” (ibid.). 

Old chapel normally covered in tarpaulin because of roof leaks

Throughout the Pacific, the islander missionaries built and started theological schools, converted grassroots communities, took the gospel to most remote island communities, the hands, feet, and eyes of the European missionaries on the ground, even led the movements of resilience when the European missionaries were called back to Europe as in the case of the Methodist church in Samoa. Unfortunately most of these sacrificial services were not acknowledged, recognised, or documented by the mainstream Pacific history textbooks that have been written both by Europeans and Pacific islanders. In fact, the current college vision of justice enhances the 1960s church leaders’ vision of justice to the Pacific people’s service and reclaiming their rightful place in the Christian mission narrative. But this narrative should not in any way be intended to underrate the equally heroic sacrificial service of the European missionaries who contributed a lot to the Pacific household even sometimes at the cost of their lives. Rather it is about questioning and overturning a dominant colonial narrative that has contributed to the suppression and non-recognition of similar services offered by indigenous missionaries, or any indigenous peoples. This is why history is critical to changing the narrative. I may say that this chapel, is symbolic of this vision of justice and decolonisation initiated by our forebears. 

2020 face-lift with new colorbond roofing, new windows and posts.

B. Chapel Funding: A Symbol of an Ecumenical Household Commitment

The Report of the First PCC General Assembly in Lifou in 1966 in New Caledonia recorded a proposal of a clear plan for the Chapel to be erected and also a vibrant vision for the chapel. It was recorded in the Assembly report: “We propose to our member churches that a united effort be made by our people to provide funds for the building of the college chapel. We suggest that a special service be held in every village close to 27th June 1967. This would be an act of thanksgiving for the ministry of islanders who have carried the Gospel across the Pacific. A thank-offering made at these services would be sent to the P.T.C. so that the chapel might be a lasting memorial to our own islanders who were such great evangelists…” (The Pacific Conference of Churches. 1966. Report of the First Assembly of the Pacific Conference of Churches held in Lifou, New Caledonia and Loyalty Islands from 25th May to 7th June, 1966: p. 4.). Further, as Dr Knight records that the vision of these church leaders was that “[t]he names of the indigenous missionaries would then be laid up in the Chapel, which would become their memorialIt is gratifying that the names of the Roman Catholic indigenous martyrs and missionaries will be included on the scroll” as well. (Knight, Newsletter, 2). This scroll is in the library though incomplete. Thus this shift of mindsets in the church complements the self-determination and decolonisation spirit of the 1960s in the Pacific. What I can confidently say is that this chapel was meant to be a symbol of relationality not only in community commitment from the ground but also relationality between Catholics and Protestants. We are family in the mission of Christ to the Pacific household of God. 

C. Chapel Theology: A Symbol of Decentralisation of Power

New internal face, with a cross, as the old chapel did not have one. Name of chapel mounted on top of the cross. New TVs for liturgy. Ceramic tiling. 

The architecture of the chapel signifies the relational vision of the Pacific churches. The octagonal shape with the pulpit and communion table at the center was designed in such a way that the slide of light from the glass roof at the centre of the chapel would fall on the proclamation of the word and celebration of the Eucharist. This signifies the strong ecumenical spirituality of this place rooted in the philosophy that there are multiple cultures, multiple traditions, and multiple lights that come from different corners of the region and the world that make part of our being. In other words, it was an embodiment of the true ecumenical and relational spirit that the Pacific churches celebrated. The vision is that no one is left out or left behind in this chapel. 

New weatherproof glass ceiling with the PTC logo with new sound system mounted to the walls 

The Pacific churches, having a long-experience of being enslaved by colonisation, wanted to ensure that the new Chapel becomes a symbol of freedom and decentralisation of power. According the Dr Knight, “being virtually circular, the chapel will not sport any seats of the mighty” (ibid). It was envisioned not only that the people who sit in the circular pews enter into a relational face to face encounter with God and with each other, but also should redeem themselves from the single-might to embrace multiple lights, from one dimensional to multi-dimensional faith, and from being individualistic to embrace a neighborly spirit during worship. Hence the chapel as the great equalizer symbolises that all are equals when we come to the presence of God (Knight, Newsletter, 2).

CONCLUSION: THE POWERHOUSE

Inside the chapel at night

To conclude, the powerful symbolism of this chapel provides vision and hope of why this space should be at the heart of our ecumenical journey. This space is not just a chapel. It is a compass of decolonisation. It powers both the college spiritual journey and the ability to be able to see and interpret life from different multiple perspectives, especially from the perspective of those suppressed by colonial conventional ways. Our forebears had vision that this chapel could ignite and shape a movement to change our mindsets for a new story for the Pacific household of God. This is the initial step into redemption. Into our metanoia moment. Into recognising and giving credit and respect to those who deserve it. Like the islander missionaries. Like those who own this land the college is built on?the Suvavou people. I do hope that what comes out of this chapel, its liturgy, its biblical and theological reflections would continue this vision of decolonisation, ecumenical commitment, and the decentralisation of theology, structures, and leadership in order to be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

Acknowledgement:

I acknowledge God for allowing us this space under the extraordinary pressures of the pandemic to complete this work. To Tui Suva and the Vanua o Suva for allowing the college to exist on their land. To the Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson, and members of the College Council for their prayers and support. To our mission partners for always believing in a partnership in mission. To the PTC community for their endless support. Last but not the least to the Construction and Maintenance Manager and his Maintenance Team that made this possible. Vinaka!

Announcements to PTC community:

  1. The chapel will be opened from 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday, to host community prayers, meditations, and quiet time for individuals and families for the PTC community and the wider Suva ecumenical family. The college chaplain will be responsible for this initiative.
  2. From next year 2021, because of the chapel’s important history and theology, the college will honour the churches’ vision by celebrating annually the 27thJune as the memorial day to remember the sacrifices of the islander missionaries to the Pacific household. By celebrating every year their contribution to Pacific Christianity, we celebrate as well the meaning and purpose of this chapel. 
Floating cross of the Chapel

Vinaka vakalevu!

Principal

20 July 2020

Posted in Oceania Laca, Quarter Two 2020 | Comments Off on Islanders Missionary Memorial Chapel – A Brief History