Saturday, February 06, 2010

Fijian Methodists celebrate in song

This description of the 2008 Fiji Christmas stamps is taken from the website of the Fiji Philatelic Bureau:

Christmas 2008: A Celebration in Song

Even though nearly half of the population of Flji is not Christian, Christmas Day and Boxing Day are public holidays, and Christmas is celebrated in some way by all segments of the population.
While all Christian denominations include choral music as part of their liturgy, none emphasise it to the same extent as the Wesleyan Methodist Church (Lotu Weseh), which was historically the first denomination to bring Christianity to Fiji, and still today commands the allegiance of some four-fifths of the indigenous Fijian population. Indeed, the annual Methodist Choir Competition, which takes place along with a bazaar before the annual Conference (Koniveredi), is the single largest gathering of indigenous people in Fiji, and looked forward to by Fijians, Rotumans and other ethnic groups from every corner of the archipelago. For many in rural areas and remote islands, it is their only trip to the capital city Suva, where it is usually held, and they will save every penny during the year to be able to splash out on boat fares and a colourful and elegant choir uniform, and to buy handicraft or sample the culinary delights that other participants bring with them to sell.

Wesleyan Methodism was introduced to the island of Lakeba, in the Lau Islands of eastern Fiji, by Reverends David Cargill and William Cross, in 1835.They had ~ preceded by three Tahitian missionaries of the London Missionary Society, who had had limited success, and a number of the Tongans who regularly visited Lakeba and the Lau Group had also become Methodists and had introduced some concepts and practices of the new lotu (Christianity).

It was soon discovered the Fijians had a natural aptitude for singing. A particular style of polyphonic traditional chant was adapted to the new religion, and the earliest hymns, composed in the dialects of Lau and Somosomo, were sung in this style. Before long, it had become customary to chant the Fijian translations of the Te Deum, Apostles' Creed and Litany from John Wesley's abridgement of The Book of common Prayer in this sonorous and rhythmic polyphonic chanting style.The popularity of hymn-singing is evident in the fact that 4,000 Fijian hymnbooks were printed in 1843 - long before mass conversions to Christianity, and when very few Fijians could read.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, western style four-part harmony was introduced and quickly gained popularity, as Methodist missionaries translated standard English hymns into Fijian, and soon Fijians themselves were composing and adapting. As in other Pacific nations, the notation used was tonic sol-fa rather than staff notation, and this remains the most popular notation to this day. Gradually the traditional chanting style was lost, and now it is confined to singing the psalms, Fijianised as same, and in Lau the catechism (tare), usually chanted by women before the Sunday service.

It is jokingly said that Welsh people "break into four-part harmony at the drop of a hat", and the same could justly be said of Fijians. Choir practice is probably the most widespread form of social activity, with the exception perhaps of kava drinking. National rugby teams (both fifteens and sevens) have become famous for singing melodious hymns of praise after games, in stark contrast to the traditional challenge or war dance (cibi) performed beforehand.

As illustrated in these stamps, there is a fairly rigid dress code, with men wearing isulu vakataga (tailored wraparound sarongs) and women isuluira and jaba (dress over ankle-length skirt), but a great variety of styles, colours and accessories. At Christmas, choirs sing Fijian versions of well-known English carols, such as Bogi buts (Silent night), So memela dina mat (Ding-dong merrily on high), No ivakatawa era to), No ivakatawa era tu (While shepherds watched), Mai na koro i Tevita (Once in royal David's city) and Keitou go no kilaka- (We three kings); and, of course, no Christmas would be complete without a resounding rendition of Aleluya - Handel's Hallelujah Chorus!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

The Methodist Philatelic Society wishes all members, friends and casual visitors
a Merry Christmas and a peaceful and blessed New Year.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Methodist Philatelic Society Annual General Meeting

Saturday 26th September 2009


The room will be available for 10.00 am
for members to exchange material, arrange displays
and judge the entries for the competitions
before the AGM at 2.00 pm
JT Aungiers Cup for 8 to 12 sheets on an aspect of Methodist philately
that may include stamps, postal history, postmarks,
postcards or postal stationery.
Grace & David Clark Cup for a single sheet on an aspect of worldwide Methodism,
its life and mission.
JW Crocker Trophy for a maximum of 6 sheets of Methodist
postal history at least 50 years old.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Charles Wesley stamps from the British Virgin Islands

Finally an illustration of the Charles Wesley tercentenary set from BVI. This was issued on 5th January 2008, a little late for the 2007 tercentenary but I suppose better late than never.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

"The Methodist Church with the Men in Service"

An interesting WW2 postcard with a US Army Postal Service 34 cancel of May 11 1945. This was sent by the Chaplain of 133rd Infantry Regiment, 34th Division, part of the allied forces in Italy.
The card was issued by the US Methodist Commission on Chaplains.

Friday, October 03, 2008

1841 Primitive Methodist Circuit Plan

Here's another beautiful postal history item spotted on eBay. The seller's description reads:
1841 Staffs Primitive Methodist Preachers Plan Newcastle Under Lyme Circut Lords Day Plan for Clsyton, Penkhull, Little Madeley, Knutton Heath, Wrine Hill, Stoke, Hlmerend, Onnely, Scott Haty, Keele, Hanford, Checkley, Shelton Locks and other in week night plan. Preachers names and residences. Letter from W.E. Saunders to Nr Nayland care of Nr Edwards, Southampton Road, Romsey Hampshire. 4 Margin 1d red from black plate 7 to 10 right star white flaw. Cover dated 1841 April 14th, Romsey & Newcastle Under Lyme backstamp.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Fascinating World War 2 Methodist Cover from Finland

The illustrated cover has recently been sold on e-Bay for US $229. Click the picture to see a full size image.

It's a fascinating cover, here is the e-Bay seller's description: Finland airmail registered cover to the US censored by Finland and by the British. Illegible Helsinki postmark probably late 1941 or early 1942. Lisbon backstamp 22 Jan. 1942. On front purple "Held by British Censor until Jan1946". Also smaller "RELEASED" in black. NYArrival marks on back. So what info was the Finish Methodist Committee sending to the Methodist Committee in the US that was so dangerous?

A good question! The cover is clearly printed stationery of the Finnish Methodist Church and comes from around the time when the United Kingdom had declared war on Finland following Finland's 1941 attack on the Soviet Union, known to the Finns as the "Continuation War". Essentially the Finnish government had taken advantage of Hitler's invasion of the USSR to try and recover the territories lost in the "Winter War" of 1939/40.

The cover may well have been posted in December 1941 before the USA entered the war and had reached Lisbon en route to a US address by 22 January 1942. So how did it end up in the hands of a British censor? And why was it held until the end of the war?