Tonga Parish

Tonga Parish - Integration into the Nation

The Tonga Parish is the largest organisation with active Tongan members in Australia. An extension from the earlier Methodist activities for Tongans, the Parish developed out of the amalgamation of churches in Australia into the Uniting Church in Australia. The creation of the Parish, within the UCA Sydney geographical area was to foster communications, co-operation between the Tongan community and the UCA.

The Parish, although strong, was a very painful transition for the Methodist adherents who were faced with the difficulty of a new country compounded with a religious environment differing daily from the Free Wesleyan (Methodist) system from which they were comfortable in Tonga. With the inception of the Uniting Church in Australia, the Tongan Methodists saw many of their supporters within the Wesley Mission (formerly Central Methodist Church) reappointed elsewhere and divisions developed within the Tongan community on whether to reaffirm connections directly with Methodism in Tonga, or to work within the new church structure.

Two major groups developed, one proposing direct ties with the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga, and the second pushing remaining within the new Uniting Church in Australia. The split, coinciding with the growth of other denominational frictions, became quite bitter and un-christian. Although many meetings were held by the Tongan communities, both with Uniting Church officials and Free Wesleyan Church officials from Tonga, the differences could not be allayed and split became formalised with the incorporation of the “Siasi Uesiliana ‘o Tonga ‘i NSW” as the umbrella organisation for those wishing to connect directly with Tonga.

The Tonga Parish, was thus born with a lot of apprehension, distrust, ignorance, arguments, faith, and a lot of prayer. The majority of Methodist oriented congregations chose to enter with their lay leaders into the umbrella of what was to become the Tonga Parish.

[ref: The Tonga Parish in Sydney, In Search of a new identity. Tevita Maliepo Siuhengalu]