Tuesday, 26 August 2008

The crowning of the king!

It was a great privilege to be asked to represent our Church at the Coronation of King George Tupou V in Tonga. Four of us went together - Myrtle (my wife), Chris Elliot (External Relationships Secretary) and Steve Pearce (Asia and Pacific area sec) to spend time with the Methodist Church in New Zealand and then on to a week in Tonga at the beginning of August.

Tonga is a beautiful island

and as we arrived there was a real sense of excitement as people were returning from all over the world for this special celebration.

The Methodist Church has been part of Tongan society since the first missionaries arrived on the island in 1826. and been the 'main denomination', almost like a state Church. The previous King was a local preacher and many of the royal family are committed members of the Free Wesleyan Methodist Church

There is normally a year's mourning before a new king is crowned but the period this time was longer. Part of this was due to some riots months ago wanting more democracy - the king has appointed a privy council and there are already signs of change that were welcomed by those we spoke with. The press in New Zealand were fairly negative about the Coronation due to the lavishness and high cost of the week's celebrations.

However we found the local Tongan people excited and wanting the coronation to be as good as it could be...as some said it will be the only one we share in.

There was the traditional Kava Installation Ceremony where the new king was honoured by the nobles and installed into the tradtional title of King Kanokupola making him the 23rd holder of that title as the head of a dynasty which was founded in the 17th century. The nobles all bring gifts and the picture shows all the pigs and food which was presented to the king.

The Coronation was held in the main Methodist Church in the capital Nuku'alofa with over 1000 people i n attendance. there was royalty from around the world, lots of dignitaries....and us!

We were told just as we left London that it was top hat and tails so we had to hire these in New Zealand and the photo shows how wonderful we looked!

We had seats on the front row and saw the anointing, crowning and communion but couldn't take any photos. The new King, George Tupou V, looked very elegant. There was a lovely moment at the height of the coronation two small page girls (both royals) were so bored they were changing shoes with each other right in front of us!

The banquet was held in the Palace and we walked there amid the thousands of people li9ning the streets.

We had a wander around the Palace

and suddenly Myrtle turned round and was face to face with the king...so she started chatting him up and we managed to get some good photos.

The tables at the feats were literally groaning with food - all laid out and covered with young women by each table wafting away the flies. Each tables of 10 people had at least two roasted pigs,lobster, octopus, yams, meats, coconuts, salads, fruits and so much more.

The whole week we were there we were treated like royalty ourselves by the Church in Tonga. For them it was a very special statement that the British church had sent their President to be with them at this special moment in their nations life. Please remember the people of Tonga in your prayers and for their new king that he will rule with love, justice and integrity and pray especially for the Methodist family there.....(day 25 in the new Prayer Handbook)

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