Tongan Pilgrimage: Day of Sabbath

    Tongan Pilgrimage: Day of Sabbath

    Tongan Pilgrimage: Day of Sabbath

    by Richard J Bell


    On a downtrodden path on my South Pacific pilgrimage in Tonga, I walk with a cross around my neck. The streets are empty. I sit on the lawn of a church, and as I start to hear the sounds of church bells ringing, a screen emerges from the grounds.

                Flickering on, it starts playing a memory of when I travelled to Tonga in 2007, my first trip since 1998.  I hear chimes of the church ring throughout the friendly island nation as I step outside of the family home where we stay.

                ‘I’m going up to the corner store,’ I say to Mum, as she smiles cheekily.

                Outside I notice the main street ahead is quiet; not a car on the road.

    ‘This road is usually quite busy,’ I think to myself.

    Arriving at the corner shop, its familiar white doors are shut. I realise it’s Sunday and the only bakeries are open in the afternoon.

                Back at home, I tell my Mum. She laughs with a smile, knowing I haven’t been in the Kingdom for nine years and must have forgotten its religious orientation.

    The scene changes to a memory of an evening drive to get bread. No shops are open on Sundays in Tonga apart from bakeries filling the air with the smell of warm sweet bread.

    The television flickers off with the fading choir of church bells, and as I sit on the lawn watching it sink into the ground, I remember how Sunday is the day of Sabbath. Christianity was widely accepted throughout the islands, with the Wesleyan Missionaries arriving on ships along with other Christian denominations. Now the main church is the Free-Wesleyan Church of Tonga. There’s even a Mormon High School for Latter-Day Saints, and Tongans still say grace for every meal.

                On the day of the Sabbath, no one works in the Kingdom of Tonga because they believe God has made it a day of rest.


    Copyright © Richard J Bell 20th April 2021