The Tongan community of the California-Nevada Annual Conference is in mourning following the death of King George Tupou V of Tonga. The king died on Sunday, March 25 in Hong Kong, where he had been hospitalized. He had reigned only for a few years, having assumed the throne on the death of his father in 2006, but will be remembered for bringing about democratic reforms.
A special memorial service is being held this Sunday, April 1 at 6 p.m., at First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto. The service is being organized by the entire Tongan community of the Conference. The Rev. Maile Koloto, pastor of First Tongan UMC of San Bruno, will preach.
The service will be "a very, very special event," according to the Rev. Siosifa ("Sifa") Hingano, pastor of Genesis UMC in San Jose and chair of the Conference Order of Elders.
"Our king ruled for a short time but he did a lot. He gave back most of his power to the people," Hingano says. "He touched many Tongan people's hearts with his attitude and his kind words. He was a special king to us."
Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr. has written a letter of condolence and sent it to all those in the California-Nevada Annual Conference with ties to Tonga, expressing his sympathy and extending his prayers.
"I join you in your sadness at the loss of the king of Tonga," the bishop writes. "His untimely death is a shock to all of us...
"Please know I join you in your prayers for the kingdom of Tonga and for each of you. May God guide the nation through these difficult times," his letter concludes.
You are invited to extend your sympathies to any Tongan members of your congregation during this period of mourning.
First UMC of Palo Alto, where Sunday's memorial service for the king will take place, is located at 625 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301. You may use the Google Maps feature on the church's web page to plan your journey.