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Sunday Service

Indigenous Fijians are a deeply Christian people. The first missionaries only arrived in the islands in 1830 but they had a big impact on locals creating the first written versions of the Fijian language. Today over half of the population are Christians, particularly indigenous Fijians who incorporated the religion into existing rituals. The sabbath remains a quiet day everywhere with the only music coming from churches which still have healthy congregations.

The nearest village to us had a Methodist church that's known for its singing and cheeky kids which draws tourist who pack the pews for Sunday services. Today Methodists make up more than a third of the population, though there were teething problems with the religion's arrival on the mainland when a missionary was eaten by locals who didn't like his preaching style in 1867.

The service we attended was entirely in Fijian and other than a few mentions of 'Jesu' much of it was lost on me. Locals attended in their best with boys decked out in floral print shirts and sulus (traditional skirts). The choir wore more formal white and sung roof-rising harmonies that transcended language. The pastor delivered an old-school fire and brimstone sermon wearing an oversized jacket. His fervour pushed most of us tourists to the door.

There was one other character who drew the attention from the pulpit. As the cheeky lads jostled into the pews they were watched by a man with a very long stick. If they got too loud he'd make them swap places or put them in another row. He'd sit by some of them making sure they paid attention with a stern look. But when he couldn't reach them and the gaze failed he stretched out his cane and gave them a poke. Hopefully that was the only use for the cane.