The blessing and official reopening of the iconic Avatele Church Sinai 2 and the unveiling of commemorative plaques was the event of the year for the people of Oneonepata last Saturday. Hundreds of people joined the people of Avatele including Premier Tagelagi, Cabinet ministers, New Zealand and Australian representatives, government officials and families, and friends.
The first part of the event was the unveiling of the commemorative plaques with the names of the pastors from other villages who served in Avatele and the men and women of Avatele who served as pastors in other villages and in other countries.
The plaque was funded by the Matakau Avatele Oneonepata Association(MAOA), a group of the diaspora of Avatele people living in Sydney Australia.
The second part was the official reopening and blessing of the major renovations of the village Church building Sinai 2. The Ulumotua Billy Talagi explained the history of the church and how it took seven years to build Sinai 2 which was officially opened on 6 October 1973.
He told of the wishes of the congregation to renovate their iconic church building several years ago and how they started raising funds five years ago.
There was a blessing of the project on the 19th January 2020 before JT Constructions commenced the renovations.
JT Constructions is a local Avatele contractor Atoa Talagi and his team Randal Haines and Boston Vakaheketaha.
The renovations work included renewing the ceiling and replacing all the light fittings, replacing window frames, putting in the indoor and outdoor tiles, an all-around paint job and refurbish more than thirty pews.
Canadian Randal Haines and his wife Liz moved to Avatele from New Zealand several years ago. He told about how intrigued he was of the architectural design when he first saw the church building while walking for a swim at the beach.
“We would often walk down for a swim, and I would stand on the road and look at the church and think ‘why is that roof so out of level?’. It wasn’t until I got inside the church that I realised that it’s part of a very interesting design.
“The front wall, the entrance is wider than the back wall and what I call that is a prospective design which means the focus is being taken from a wider area to a narrow area and the unlevel roof was following that part of the design. It’s very unusual and very creative.
I think it’s very important that we do realise that this is quite a creative bit of architecture and its all right here in Avatele. And the builders of that should get a lot of credit for what they’ve done” says Randal Haines.
More than thirty church pews were refurbished by Randal and JT constructions. The original pews are made from solid New Zealand Rimu heart and very rare nowadays.
Billy Talagi said, the Church committee for the renovations felt it was important to leave the original pews and refurbish them.
Elder Talagi said that it was important for generations to come to know that they are sitting on the same pews their grandparents and great-grandparents used in their days.
Reverend Petesa Sionetuato led the service and the blessing of the commemorative plaques and thanked the people of the village, the descendants of Avatele people living in other villages, and those from abroad who all contributed to these two big events.
The feast that followed the blessings was in two parts as well. The first part was for the cooked food and the second was the traditional galue fakatu nave, which was then distributed to all the pastors on the day, and other Ekalesia and other churches.
Songs composed especially for the day were part of the entertainment on the day. The village colours of purple showed the village pride of the people of Avatele and the descendants of Avatele from other villages joined together to put on a very successful event.
Yesterday the village, families, and friends from around the island gathered at Sinai 2 again to complete the two days of celebrations.
The Ekalesia Avatele raised more than eighty-six thousand dollars for the blessing of the church renovations of Sinai 2 and the unveiling of the commemorative plaques.