After the Welcoming Service for the Tapu Niue Faith Community last Sunday at Gosnells Uniting Church, Pepe Halatau, Worship Leader, shared with us her journey of faith and Church.
I still remember the year I arrived in Australia from Niue. It was 1998. It’s hard to believe that it is now almost 24 years ago.
Niue is an island country in the South Pacific Ocean. It is one of the world’s largest coral islands and I can confirm it is as stunningly beautiful as it looks in pictures.
I settled in well in Australia but soon found myself longing for connection with family, the community and the culture I enjoyed back in Niue. Fortunately, I met other Niue people in my area who felt the same and we decided to form a community group for socials and other events. Amidst all of this, the one thing we seemed to lack was a spiritual gathering. It was then, in 2014, that we decided to meet up for Church meetings.
We had no idea how to conduct our Church meetings. Lucky for us, Niue elder, Tina Siakimotu Versteeg, stepped in. We couldn’t have done it without her. She introduced a worship format, the lectionary and prayer calendar to our meetings. Sadly, Tina is now late but we cherish her memory and hold her deep in our hearts.
We started meeting at the Gosnells RSL Hall and continued there for a few years. It was not easy. We did not have powerpoint facilities and we had to set-up and pack away after each service. It was a lot of work but we felt we had a purpose and connection, so we continued. I became Tina’s assistant. In retrospect, this was quite extraordinary because whilst I was a young Christian, later on I was a bit of a rebel and going to Church was not a priority. Now here I was reconnecting again with my faith.
In July 2018, a meeting was held at Dome Café in Gosnells between elder Tina, leaders of our Niue community and the Uniting Church’s multi-cultural representatives, Rev Dr Matagi Vilitama and Rev Dr Emanuel Audisho, to discuss the possibility of a deeper, more formal relationship with the Uniting Church. We followed this up with a written request. Rev Bev Fabb, Convenor of the Uniting Church’s Multi-cultural and Cross-cultural Network, put us in touch with the Uniting Church’s Presbytery of Western Australia. We then started preparations to become a Faith Community of the Presbytery. Our Welcoming Service was on Sunday 6 February 2022 at Gosnells Uniting Church.
Being a Faith Community of the Uniting Church’s WA Presbytery is truly special. We have better access to resources, training and support. We are not alone and belong to a broader Christian community and network. We have a space at the Gosnells Uniting Church building to grow our church. “Tapu”, by the way, is the Niue name for Church.
I would like to acknowledge the Tapu Niue Working Committee, the elders Poi & Povi Kauhiva, Niue Perth Community who have contributed a lot – without their support we would not have come this far to becoming a faith group. We value the support from the Uniting Church in Australia’s Niue National Conference. I would also like to thank my mentors during this process – my siblings, Rev Falkland Liuvaie and Birtha Togahai, and also the Rev Dr Matagi & Jo Matagi and Elaine Ledgerwood from the Uniting Church WA. Thanks also to the Presbytery of WA. To anyone not mentioned, my heartfelt thanks to you too.
When I look back now, I pinch myself. I remember back in 2014 being tasked with saying the Sunday prayers. I was distressed and sent an urgent email to my cousin in New Zealand to ask her what should I say! We still laugh about it because now I am the Worship Leader of the Tapu Niue Faith Community! You never quite know what God has got planned for you!
Note: The Tapu Niue was formed in 2014. In 2018, they approached the Uniting Church to become a recognised Faith Community. After a long period of preparation, the day finally arrived on 6 February to welcome this very special community to the Uniting Church’s Presbytery of Western Australia.
Article by Tracey Paul