The first Fijian chosen to lead the Diocese of Polynesia in its 110-year history, Fereimi Cama, was consecrated and installed on Sunday. In addition to being bishop of the diocese he is now also one of three equal-status Archbishops and Primates of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. Around 2,000 people were at Suva’s Holy Trinity Cathedral yesterday (Sunday) to witness his ordination as the seventh Bishop of Polynesia and his consequent recognition as Archbishop.
Hundreds wedged themselves into the cathedral itself, and onto into its broad verandas for the occasion – while a multitude watched the televised action in a shelter erected in the grounds of the cathedral. Still more craned to catch glimpses from beneath the frangipani trees and coconut palms that shade those grounds.
Among the many distinguished guests and visitors who attended the services at Holy Trinity Cathedral - where Archbishop Fereimi had previously served as Dean between 1999 and 2012 - was the President of Fiji, Jioji Konrote. A former President of Fiji, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, currently the Speaker of the Fijian Parliament, was also present.
Archbishop Don Tamihere – who had served as the commissary of the electoral college held last October, and who continued, until yesterday, to exercise a responsibility for the Diocese of Polynesia, says that their presence was entirely understandable. “We talk about an incarnational Christ: and from time to time, we should expect to be able to see ourselves in the leadership of the church”, he said. “So Fiji will now be leading Polynesia, in a sense. But there was also a very strong reminder for me in the service of the other parts of Polynesia. They too are part of the diocese, they too want to benefit from the service and the vision of this bishop.”
The official news source of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anglican Taonga, reported that “ancient sounds echoed as the clergy processed into the service - the cathedral bells ringing, the conch shell sounding, both punctuated by the essential rhythm of Fiji, the beating of the lali, the hollow log drum.”
A number of guests from the Anglican Communion were present for the service, including the Dean of Lincoln in the Church of England, Christine Wilson, who delivered a message from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who described Polynesia’s history as being “scarred by the depredations of foreign powers, yet lit by faithfulness in word and deed by its people to the good news of Jesus Christ.”
The Archbishop continued: “Its Bishops have always been marked by courage, and frequently by holiness and heroism. My dear brother in Christ, I pray that inspired by those who have gone before you, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus who breathes over the waters, you will find the courage, faith, long suffering and perseverance to confront the great challenges before you.
“May you and all who serve Christ have the prophetic words that may challenge the world to love its creator by loving the creation, and to repent of the sins of greed and materialism which so threaten not only your climate but eventually the very land on which you stand.”
Other Anglican Communion guests included the Bishop of Wangaratta, John Parkes, who represented the Anglican Church of Australia; and Canon Bruce Woodcock, from the US-based Episcopal Church - Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s , representative to the Anglican Churches in Asia and the Pacific.
The sermon was given by Archbishop Philip Richardson, who paid tribute to the four previous Bishops of Polynesia that he had known – including Archbishop Winston Halapua, who had travelled from his new base of Cambridge in the UK to see his successor ordained.
Archbishop Fereimi would soon stand “in that fine line of bishops of Polynesia”, he said, “but be of good heart and be confident in the call that God has placed upon you. Because when God calls, God does enable. And God does resource us”, not least, he said, because of “the intercession of thousands.”
He added: “It still blows me away - it often brings me to the point of tears - when I hear the leader of the prayers of the people pray for ‘Philip our Archbishop’ or ‘Philip, our bishop’. I'm so grateful for those prayers. I’m constantly upheld by them; and you will be sustained this day, and into the future, by them.”
Two and a half hours after the service had begun, Archbishop Cama bestowed his blessing in the Fijian language, then processed from his cathedral to the sound again of the drumming of the lali.
“Since time immemorial, lali have been beaten in Fiji to announce war and peace, to announce death - and to announce new birth”, Anglican Taonga said. “As Fereimi Cama walked down that aisle for the first time as an archbishop, the drumming of the lali surely heralded a new era for the Diocese of Polynesia.”
- This article is an edited version of an in-depth report by Anglican Taonga.