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King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV Memorial Church built by the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga in Australia, 2008

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Comments (11)

Ian Stehbens on March 18, 2009

This very large church is the central church for the Tongan Community in Australia.

  1. It was opened on 23 October 2008, by His Majesty George Tupou V, King of Tonga, as the central church for the Tongan community in Australia. It was named after the late King, Taufa'ahau Tupou IV. It is one of the largest churches in Australia.

  2. This church is essentially a replication of Centenary Church in Nuku'alofa in Tonga, though it is intentionally larger both in width and length. Of course, it is more contemporary with digital projection, television, carpets, air-conditioning, large capacity underground water storage, and a modern residence which the Queen Mother (widow of late King, mother of the reigning King) uses when she visits Australia.

  3. Being of the Methodist tradition, this Christian church is quite spartan, having nothing of the icons and ornamentation of Orthodox traditions. However, the upper windows are illustrated windows and 6 have so far been changed to leadlight stained glass windows. Four of these stained glass windows can be seen here, at the western end of the nave: these 4 are the "I AM" Windows. (L-R: I AM The Good Shepherd; I AM the true Vine; I AM the Bread; I AM the Gate for the sheep.)

  4. The interior is illuminated by a Cruciform light on the ceiling (cross-shaped lighting). This installation was conceived by Rev Sione Pinomi, the Public Officer for the church, and one of their pastors. Sione was the driving force behind the amazing fund-raising and project development. This lighting concept, derives from the Pangai Methodist Church on Lifuka Island, in the central Tongan group of coral islands called Ha'apai Group. ..Back in the 1970s, one morning a scorched area in the form of a large cross (complete with serifs) was found on the lawns in Pangai. The locals interpreted this as a sign from God, a miraculous visitation, and so when the new church was built there, the outline of the scorched cross was measured up and then painted onto the ceiling of the new Pangai church. Its dimensions, I assume, determined the scale of the Pangai church. As the Tongans in Australia come not only from Tongatapu (including Nuku'alofa) but also from Ha'apai, the designing of this cross for the ceiling of this new church was significant. Every person whose roots are in Ha'apai walks into this church now and feels a sense of being 'home', and is awestruck by the remembrance of the divine visitation in Pangai in the 1970s.

  5. The avenue of 12 palms is also symbolic as well as nostalgia.

(a) Palms are part of the environmental heritage of Tongans. One of their great theologians, Rev Dr Sione 'Aminake Havea has said that to Pacific people, the Coconut Tree is a contextual image of Christ, for it is their source of food, of shelter, of covering, of energy, of life-giving drink. Every part of the coconut meets a human need.

(b) The symbol of 12 in the Hebrew Scriptures identifies the nation of Israel, and as this is seen as a national centre for Tongan Christianity in Australia, this symbol is transposed into their identity.

(c) "The 12 apostles of the Lamb" are the foundation for the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:10-14), and for the Tongans this new church is a reminder that they are being prepared spiritually and on their lips is the plea, "Come, Lord Jesus".

  1. The bell tower is a hallmark of Tongan culture. Bells define the patterns of community life. The first bell tells them when to cease doing what they are doing and prepare for the next community event. The second bell ringing calls them to come to the church. The third bell rings till all the people have gathered, then the program commences. This is true for every community in Tonga. The ringing of the bells measures the rhythm of Tongan life.

The Tongan community in Australia desires "to give thanks to God for his love and guidance in the building of this church". Its opening was a momentous occasion for them. It is a remarkable addition to the church scene in Australia, and to the social fabric of Sydney.

Ian Stehbens

Ge Ko on March 20, 2009

Ian, the Church in the light and the dark background. An excellent combination.

A reconstruct Church (new construction) in a small village.


Ge Ko

Edmundo Rodríguez Pr… on March 20, 2009

Great information Ian and great story that of Pangai's churh... Best regards, Edmundo

Ian Stehbens on March 20, 2009

Dear Ge Ko,

I have a number of photos of the church in daylight, but this night image is preferred, unless of course one is more interested in all the culture on display at the opening. Thanks for your visit and comment.


Ian Stehbens on March 20, 2009

I am very pleased that I could share this with you, both the Glendenning story and Pangai story, Edmundo.


Evgenia Lepikhova on March 23, 2009

What a beautiful accents gives night lights to the facade! Wonderful and harmonious lines, proportions, even the stained-glass windows have lost their primacy in comparison with the beautiful form of the building.


Ian Stehbens on March 23, 2009

Dear Special Friends, Eva and Mira,

Thankyou for your very positive responses to this photo. This one was taken on request from the minister and project manager for the construction of this church, and I believe the photo is now hanging in the homes of the two ministers. This is the photo they wanted. I did have a tripod delivered by sleigh from the North Pole, not so long ago, so now I can use a tripod on occasions. This was the second occasion of its use, so Mira that will explain its sharpness. But let me add, that almost always I use a piece of street furniture or a wall in lieu of a tripod - unless I am really being arty!

When you comment on such a building, Eva, I think immediately of all the recovery of Christian buildings in Kiev, and then of the great differences in ornamentation and architecture between this church and those of Orthodox Christianity.


Yan / Ian

Ian Stehbens on March 26, 2009

Thanks for your visit, ira96. I wish you well with your colourful images in the contest. Greetings from Australia to Greece.


FWWS! on March 28, 2009

Nice night photo...

Ian Stehbens on March 29, 2009

Thanks FWWS, I enjoy the night opportunities that digital technology has opened up to us.



Ian Stehbens on January 28, 2012

Tonga's Church in Australia that was built with hope, faith, pride now collapses under the weight of high interest rates and the incompatibility of two cultural systems.

It is with great sadness that I learn of this situation. I was told that "the paint company loan" was a donation, and the Tongan people understood that late last year a celebration was being held to rejoice in the final payment of all debts. Clearly this is not so!!!

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on March 18, 2009
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    by Ian Stehbens