Christmas worship at Point Marion UMC will be a little different this year. The December 14 service at the church in Fayette County will feature music sung by a Fijian choir in the native Fijian language.
The tiny borough, located between Uniontown, PA and Morgantown, WV, had a population of just over 1300 as of the census of 2000, but that number is growing as more and more native Fijians have moved there to work in the shale gas industry. Many of those immigrants attend worship at Point Marion UMC.
“Their choir will be providing special music and their children will be participating in our youth Christmas program,” said Bev Roscoe, the part-time local pastor at Point Marion UMC. Since the church hasn’t had a choir in several years, the music provided by the Fijians is even more special.
“It’s awesome. They love to sing. It’s all a cappella music. They don’t use any accompaniment,” Roscoe said. “A lot of times we recognize the tunes as being hymns from our hymnal, but we don’t recognize the words. They all speak English, but they sing in Fijian.”
Though they hail from islands of Fiji in the South Pacific Ocean, most of the families have come by way of California. Methodism is the major Christian religion in Fiji, so while living in California, the Fijian families established faith communities that would come together for a combined worship service each month. When they moved to Pennsylvania, they looked for a church where they could replicate what they had in California. Point Marion UMC became that church.
“The service here was a spin-off of what they were doing in California,” said Roscoe. “The churches would come together once a month and have a big worship service. The first time they had 40 to 50 people here, but we’ve had more than 100.”
The monthly worship is a traditional Fijian service in the native language of Fiji. It is open to the public and an interpreter is brought in to assist. “We get a lot of visitors that are just more curious,” Roscoe said.
Some of the Fijian families also worship weekly with the rest of the congregation at Point Marion and have begun to get involved in ministry there.
“There is a tremendous need in the community for social supports for children and youth. There are a lot of latch key kids and absolutely nothing for them to do. There are a lot of young people who don’t have GEDs,” said Roscoe. “One of their retired teachers offered to teach a GED course.”
The church also will add a program for children in grades Kindergarten through 5. “We are working on an after school program mid-week, twice a month where we’ll offer tutoring, school support, bible study and a light meal with the support of the church and Fijian community,” Roscoe said.
The District and the church are ready to do whatever is necessary to help the Fijians become part of the Point Marion community.
“God has sent this wave that we don’t want to miss. These are not just people that we need to help. These are people who need a community,” said Blair.
“They are going through culture shock of going from Fiji to California to Point Marion. They, on their own, chose to come and worship in the community. It wasn’t like Point Marion reached out to them. They found Point Marion.”
The Fijians give back just as much as they receive at Point Marion. “We are in ministry with them, but they are in ministry with us,” said Roscoe. “They feel it was a mission from God for them to be moved here.”
The Fijian choir will perform during the 10:45 a.m. service at Point Marion UMC on December 14.