May 1, 2011
A sea of white is what greeted us as we went into church today. All the youth had on white clothing under their kiekies and tu’ovalas. Some wore leis that had been given by their families to mark the importance of the day. Dressed in their best and all seated together, they presented a picture of community, faith, and the importance of family in the culture of Tonga. This was happening in every church all over Tonga this morning. From the 5-year-olds to the young adults, all took part in the whole service, from reading the hymn verses to the reading of the scriptures, verse by verse, individually. All of it was memorized and they stood in front of the congregation. They stood as a group to sing as a choir. Proud parents and families took pictures. A morning of excitement and good memories for all.
(A note on congregational hymn singing: It is the tradition here to read each verse of the hymn before singing it. It’s my guess that this started before the Europeans had made Tongan a written language, so that all could sing the hymns. Most of the congregation, though, know all the hymns by heart and rarely use the hymnal.)
|Sitting together in church.|
|Presenting the scriptures.|
|Singing as a choir.|
|Our language tutor with her grandsons after church.|
|One of the beautiful flower arrangements that morning.|
In the afternoon the congregation reconvened for a program presented by the children and youth. This time they wore their best clothing, but it was colorful and fancy. Children said their pieces, sang, and performed in dramas, such as the story of David and Goliath.