The United Church of Papua New Guinea has reached a milestone 50 years of service.
The Church was formed in 1968 by merging the efforts of the London Missionary Society, operating exclusively in Papua, the relatively marginal Presbyterian Church, which was confined to Port Moresby, and the Methodist mission, operating in New Guinea and its nearby islands.
Today members of the various United Churches from across all regions within the country came together in celebration of the church’s Golden Jubilee.
The London Missionary Society began its work in today’s Papua New Guinea back in 1871. Several groups of Christians from the Pacific Islands came to work with the mission through the Papuan Mainland.
The Australian Methodist Church, now known as the Uniting Church in Australia, responded to the request to join the pioneering work. The Methodist mission covered three independent areas, these joined together in 1950 in mission work in the Southern Highlands.
In 1962, the London Missionary Society, together with the mission of the Presbyterian church in New Zealand and another mission body, formed the Papua Ekalesia, at the time, the largest single church in Papua.
A further union took place on 19 January 1968, when the Papua Ekalesia, the Methodist and the Union church of Port Moresby together established the United Church in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands as is the significance of today’s celebration service.
In 1996, the General Assembly of the United Church in PNG and the Solomon Islands resolved that the existence of one united church covering two independent countries should no longer be maintained. Thus the united church in PNG came into being an autonomous church of its own.
Today’s celebrations started off with the arrival of various representatives of the 11 regions entering by floats and marching into Sir John Guise Indoor complex with police escort.
Followed by the usual church service, a minute of silence to remember early missionaries and creative dancing and other activities afterwards.
United Church Moderator, Reverend Bernard Siai, expressed that one of the most significant events of the past 50 years is that the church now recognises and allows women to be ordained as ministers and pastors.
“One of the most significant things that have happened in the past 50 years is the recognition of women as ordained ministers and pastors graduating from Rarongo Theological college and the 7 Pastoral Schools right around the regions. Moving forward, we are looking at establishing a higher education institution that we can turn into a university,” said Rev. Bernard.
Soi Moika, an inmate at the Bomana Prison had walked from Bomana on the day to be part of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations today.
“I’ve been an inmate since 2005, God has released and saved me. I was beaten by a CS officer and now only survive with one lung, that is my testimony, I know this God that we serve, he is the one that saved me.”
Rev. Bernard expressed gratefulness at the fact that although the church is heavily funded by its members, setbacks have been minor and the church had grown from strength to strength in the last 50 years.
The celebrations concluded with various church activities with singing and creative dances to finish.