The Power of the Pastor
In the Pacific Islands, there is no one better at getting the message out than the church. But while some high level engagement has taken place of churches, not enough work has been done empowering the village pastor to bring the message of stewardship to the people.
With communities facing declining natural resources, and increasing challenges meeting their food and income needs, the Methodist’s Church of Fiji partnered with cChange to help village church leaders take the lead in promoting environmental stewardship.
The initiative launched on Galoa Island, where church leaders from nine villages in Bua and Macuata provinces received communications training and outreach tools on natural resource management, including illustrated flipcharts, documentaries on community efforts and a 10-minute video animation.
Teams village pastors, deacons and village headman collaborated with cChange to adapt the natural resource management messages for church sermons, village meetings, small group talks and Sunday schools.
“One of the pillars of the church is the protection of our natural resources. And church leaders in the villages are the best able to send the messages to everyone in the village,” said Rev. Semisi Turagavou, Secretary of Non-formal Education, for the Methodist Church.
Turagavou presented scripture during the workshop that established the obligation of Christians to be good stewards of God’s creation and also spoke on the meaning of leadership.
The 3-day workshop, which had a total of 35 participants, ended in a farewell church service that debuted the some of the new sermons and poetry created by the participants. “I am so thankful that as a preacher I was able to attend this workshop, which had the vision to combine management of our resources together with the teachings of the church,” said participant Apisalome Bolaciri, a deacon from Naivaka Village. “We have to go back and talk to our leaders, chiefs and families, and at our village meetings, of what we have to do to manage our resources as part of being a godly person.”
The village teams agreed to conduct a series of outreach events to engage their communities, and provide progress reports to the Methodist Church headquarters and cChange. The Fisheries Department and Forestry Department joined the workshop to provide ongoing support as these communities decide to take actions, from establishing rules to limit such things as overfishing and unsustainable land use.
The goal is to demonstrate that this partnership is a valuable investment to funders and the Methodist Church and cChange can take the training and tools to village churches across Fiji. cChange would also like to expand the training to include more religious denominations as interest grows.