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By Siosifa Pole in All Sorts

the church must take the time to respond effectively to the changing tides of politics, values, etc.

It is always refreshing to walk down at St Clair beach on a sunny afternoon. On my day off, I love walking on the beach and there I always aware of the changing of the tides. At the low tide, I can walk on the beach below the seawall at the Esplanade right to St Kilda beach. At the high tide, I can’t walk where I can at low tide. The sea is high and the waves roll strongly and crash powerfully into the seawall.
This living experience of the changing of tides reminds me of the importance of time for the local people in Tonga when they go to the seaside looking for seafood for their sustenance. Usually, the local people of the Island go to the sea at the low tide to find seafood. They do it with extra care for their safety and for the sake of their families. While they are looking for seafood in the coral reef, they aware that the high tide will return. They hurry, according to the time, to ensure that they will have everything that they want. When the high tide rises, they return home with their catch and watch for the next low tide. If the low tide happens twice in a day the people of the village would see it as double blessing. It means they can go to the sea for a second time and look for more seafood. Two low tides on one day is what we call ‘tahi ua’, which means, ‘two seas’. Those two seas would provide more than enough for local people for their livelihood. It usually happens in the morning and late afternoon. Because of the vitality of Tahi ua to the survival of our people, I see it as a concept that identifies the inevitable changing of time, the risks, and the opportunities that come with it.
Our life and our movements are basically controlled by the passage of time. There is a saying, ‘Time is waiting for no person.’ In the western world, we have something that we call a ‘watch’ that measures time. It ticks every second, every minute, and every hour. Whatever we do, we are controlled by the ticking of the watch. It means we sleep on time, wake up on time, and start work on time. Our behaviour and action change according to the changing of time so that there is no confusion, contradiction, or missed opportunities. In other cultures, they don’t rely for their timing on watches but rather in the natural world and human interaction. Just like the concept of tahi ua, movement and action are influenced by the context where they live and interact with human and the natural world.
I had that experience when my lecturer, who is an American and I had a trip to Tonga in 1995. We came to the capital of Tonga, Nuku’alofa. On our return to my village, we decided to go by bus. We walked onto a bus that would take us, but after 15 minutes sitting in the bus we were still the only passengers. My lecturer started to worry and asked me the time the bus would leave. I told him that in this place there is no exact time for the bus to leave. The bus can only leave when it is full of passengers, and so we sat in the bus for about an hour before it departed. It was really a learning experience to this American. Time in this context did not depend on watches but on human interaction and relationship. The bus driver didn’t leave until everyone from this village was on the bus to return home safely.
In his book entitled, The Gift of Time, William McConnell insists that our understanding of time is shaped by our various contexts despite the clock ticking. He states, “We have all noticed that sometimes time flies, sometimes it drags, and other times it just lies there heavy on our hands. That is, our inner time responds differently to the steady pace of the clock, depending on what is happening within and around us.” (p. 17) Whatever our understanding of time, tahi ua notion reminds us that our action must change when the tides change. No one has the power to confront or to ignore this change. Our survival will depend on our evolving and adaptation to the change of the tides.
We are in a time when the tides are changing in terms of politics, morality and values, social problems, theology, human conditions, and the natural world. Such tides of change are inevitable, but the church must look for ways to respond effectively and smartly so that it still relevant in these changes. Jesus talks in the gospel about the sign of times and need for us to act wisely. He says, “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near.” (Matthew 24:32)
As we are approach the General Election, the concept of tahi ua reminds us that we need to take action before is too late, to take the risks in order to find successful outcomes, and also look for opportunities for the survival of our community, our whanau, and our kāinga. It means that while we have the time and the opportunity we take it with two hands. Don’t let it slip away for it will cost us a lot.
Siosifa Pole