To encourage, listen and engage with their young people, Beth Shalom Tongan Uniting Church recently purchased a range of music instruments for the purpose of starting up a band. Many of the young people have musical gifts and skills that they wanted to use in the congregation to express their love of Christ.
Using a $4,500 grant from the Uniting Church WA’s Innovative Opportunities Unlimited Fund (IOU), Beth Shalom purchased an acoustic guitar, bass guitar, speakers, a mixer and a microphone. The band was formed, raising the roof each Sunday. Before each service, the band plays up to an hour of praise music, celebrating and worshipping God.
At the recent Summer Spirit event, held in February at All Saints Floreat Uniting Church, the group performed with high energy, enthusiasm and talent, and showed all those present, from the wider Uniting Church WA, just how loud church can be.
Kalo Fotu spoke on the importance of listening to their young people and engaging them as active members of the congregation. Whether a project succeeds or fails is not the point; it’s about giving young people a chance to express themselves.
“It was not very welcome at first because it was new,” she said. “It didn’t happen in just two years, it happened in ten years.
“You have to provide a space for [young people]. They have beautiful voices, but they don’t want to sing the Tongan hymns. So we have to compromise.”
Now, with the lively new band, older members of the congregation join in with the music; dancing and clapping their hands.
Lima Palu, co-ordinates activities for the young people at Beth Shalom. She believes that the band is helping to encourage their younger members to use their gifts in a meaningful way.
“I believe each child has a unique gift,” Lima said. “It’s hard to get the kids to come to church; it’s even harder to keep them at church. The work that I do in my church, I do it because I love Jesus and I love our youth kids.”
Worship services at Beth Shalom also provide time for younger members to stand up and tell the congregation how God is moving in their lives. One such member, Tai Aiafi, explained to the engaged crowd at Summer Spirit that he joined the band, on the drums, as a way of glorifying God.
“It’s good because we can see everyone enjoying it,” he said.
John Filia Palelei, chair of the Beth Shalom Tongan Uniting Church Council, loves the energy and vibrancy that the band has brought to their congregation.
“Youth are alive in our church,” he said. “I’m sure our next door neighbour can’t wait for next Sunday to hear our singing.”