Archbishop Winston Halapua has spent an event-packed 24hrs in the parish of All Saints Wokingham. The Archbishop, recently retired from his senior position in the Anglican province of Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia was visiting on behalf of the Anglican mission partnership organisation USPG and in connection with the church’s observance of Environment Sunday. He is one of the leading global voices on climate change for the Anglican Communion.
Born and raised in the island kingdom of Tonga in the Pacific Ocean he bears direct witness to the impact of climate change on the ocean and on the islands of Polynesia during his lifetime.
On the first evening of his visit at a bring and share supper attended by parishioners the Archbishop gave a short yet very profound call to unity of action on climate change on the basis of our single common humanity. Recalling a remembrance service he had attended in London for those Polynesians who had served proudly, and died, in the first world war on behalf of Britain, he challenged gently his Wokingham audience to consider now coming to the aid of the Polynesian islands by taking seriously the need for effective action on climate change, by making changes in our affluent lifestyles.
He praised the beauty of an English garden in summer with its many wonderful varying textures and shades of green together with diverse and colourful blooms which reminded him of the coral in the sea around his homeland when he was a child. Sadly now so much of that coral has died away because of the warming and acidification of the ocean. The destroyer has been fossil fuels. He enjoyed the variety and abundance of food and drink at the buffet supper which reminded him of the abundance and variety of seafood he enjoyed in his childhood years; whereas now it has been so much diminished because different species of fish and shellfish have disappeared. Whole islands and nations are at risk in the Pacific Ocean of being lost altogether unless climate change is stabilised, and some islands have already gone. And if climate change is to continue unchecked, he said, not only far away Islands but also the great world cities of London and New York and others will become vulnerable to inundation. The Archbishop’s message was that climate change is about people in the end; calling us to realise our common humanity and to come together with unity of purpose.
On the Sunday morning of his visit, the Archbishop preached at the two communion services 8 am and 9:30 a.m. and gave a short talk for children at the 11 a.m. Family Service. At the Communion services, the Archbishop picked up the themes from the gospel reading set for the day in which the Lord Jesus Christ prayed to God for the unity and the glorification of humanity. Reflecting that the glory of God is seen both in God’s creation and in redeemed humanity the Archbishop wove together these truths to make an urgent plea for us to realise our unity in Christ and in our common humanity created together with the environment to claim the reconciliation we have been gifted by God and to prevent the destruction of the homelands and habitats of those with whom we live upon this earth. He spoke also of the beauty of the creation God has given us to dwell in, and of the beauty of the diversity in unity which is found when people come together and respect each other’s gifts and contributions to a common purpose.
For his short talk at the Family Service, the Archbishop had seized upon a drawing of a cockerel which he had found on the walls of the Rectory. Using this as a visual aid, together with his imitation of a crowing cock he showed the joy we may have in the world around us which God has given.
During his sermons, the Archbishop shared his personal story of how he was supported by USPG over 40 years ago to come to the United Kingdom to study for the ministry at a theological college in Birmingham, which is where he met his wife Sue; now The Reverend Sue Halapua. She accompanied him on his visit to Wokingham. The couple are coming to the end of an academic year spent at Westcott House, a theological college in Cambridge where Sue has been serving as chaplain
After the services in church Winston and Sue were joined by Canon David Hodgson, Rector, and the Reverend Colin James, together with other parishioners, for Sunday lunch at Cote Brasserie restaurant in Broad Street Wokingham before they left by train for Cambridge.
The collection for USPG held at the services raised £535 excluding Gift Aid.