Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fightings Without and Fears Within

On this past weekend the annual Methodist hymn festival and choir competition in Fiji was to have taken place. Last month the gathering was cancelled by the military government of Fiji, but regional choral events were planned. During the last week, I had read that permission was then denied for those regional gatherings as well, but I wanted to wait to see what would happen, as there was speculation that the people would gather to sing in defiance of the ban.

A report has finally surfaced at Christianity Today. It appears that the government was successful in suppressing the choir gatherings. Several Methodist churches were "unavailable for comment." Reports of a new state-sponsored Methodist denomination in Fiji which will obviously be tightly controlled are troubling.

This Methodist hymn by Charles Wesley foresees the day when the Fiji Methodists are free to gather again in conference or in song. We should pray that that day will not be long in coming.

And are we yet alive,
And see each other’s face?
Glory and thanks to Jesus give
For great redeeming grace!

Preserved by power divine
To full salvation here,
Again in Jesus’ praise we join
In Jesus' sight appear.

What troubles have we seen,
What mighty conflicts past,
Fightings without, and fears within,
Since we assembled last!

Yet out of all our God
Hath brought us by great love;
And all along our paths hath trod,
To guard our life above.

Then let us make our boast
Of God's redeeming power,
Which saves us to the uttermost,
Till we can sin no more.

Let us take up the cross
Till we the crown obtain,
And gladly reckon all things loss
So we may Jesus gain.

Charles Wesley, 1749: alt.
Hans Nageli, 19th cent.
arr. Lowell Mason, 1845

It's unfortunate that Methodist churches worldwide couldn't have made this situation more widely known. Imagine if congregations all over the world had held their own hymn sings or other musical events on this past Saturday in solidarity with the Methodists of Fiji. Perhaps someone somewhere thought it would be counter-productive (or maybe just hard to organize on a Saturday in August), but in the tradition of social justice movements of the past it would have
told the military government that the world was watching.


Leland Bryant Ross said...

I am embarrassed to say that it didn't occur to me to hold an impromptu "Free the Fijian Methodists Hymn Sing" this past Saturday. Maybe this Sunday I'll see if we can get a few people together to sing the old Fiji National Anthem, which is set to the tune of "Dwelling in Beulah Land".

C.W.S. said...

It just seemed like a logical response, and maybe it happened somewhere, but without a large coordinated effort it wouldn't have attracted much notice.

Nice to see you back.