11 September 1934 – 5 January 2007
Samiuela Toa Finau was born on 11 September, 1934 at Hihifo, Ha’apai. He grew up there with his parents, ‘Elina and Kisina Finau, and attended Primary School in Ha’apai and then attended Tonga College from 1948 to 1953. In 1961 he studied at the Sia’atoutai Theological College and from 1962 to 1963 he attended the Evangelists’ Training Institute at the Central Methodist Mission in Sydney. From 1964 to 1965 he taught at Tupou College.
Toa met his wife, Lurline Judith Dawson, from Parramatta NSW, when he was studying at the Central Methodist Mission in Sydney. They were married on 5 February 1966. Toa and Judith have three children, Petunia practising law in Tonga; Salesi Toa, now living in Fiji [Duty Manager at the Wakaya Island ResortJ, and ‘Elina ‘Amelia.
From 1966 to 1968 he studied at the Leigh Theological College Sydney [now United Theological College] when he attained the LTh. and Diploma in Religious Education from the Melbourne College of Divinity. During this time Toa ministered to the Tongan Congregation at Wesley Chapel in Sydney.
During 1969 Toa served as minister for the Robertson Methodist Circuit, NSW. He was the first Pacific Island minister to be appointed to a Methodist Circuit in Australia.
Upon returning to Tonga Toa was Ordained in June 1970 and from February 1970 to December 1972 he served as Chaplain at Tupou High School.Toa received a World Council of Churches Scholarship in 1973 to study at the Pacific Theological College Suva where he graduated in 1975 with a Bachelor of Divinity Degree majoring in Pastoral Care and Counselling. He- returned to Tonga and lectured at Sia’atoutai from February 1976 until August 1977 when he took up a scholarship to study for the Doctor of Ministry degree at the School of Theology at Claremont California. He graduated in June 1979 again majoring in Pastoral Care and Counselling. On return to Tonga Toa again lectured at Sia’atoutai and was appointed Senior Tutor [Tiuta lahi] in 1980.
In 1983 Toa accepted a call from the Pacific Theological College, with the blessing of the Free Wesleyan Church Conference, to take up the position of Lecturer in Pastoral Care and Counselling. As part of the PTC Faculty Development programme Toa attended the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California where he attained a Master of Arts in Religion and Personality Sciences. As part of that course he completed his clinical training at St. Mary’s Hospital and Medical Centre, San Francisco, California. Also during this time he ministered part-time to the Tongan United Methodist Congregation at Sacramento, California. While at the Pacific School of Religion Toa lectured in Preaching and also in Pastoral Ministry to Local Pastors from the Tongan and Samoan congregations in California and Hawaii.
He graduated in June 1990 and returned to PTC to continue lecturing at the College and also was part of the Education by Extension for Development [EEDA] team from the faculty which went to Micronesia twice a year to conduct short intensive courses for the churches in the Marshall Islands, Chuuk and the Federated States of Micronesia.
Toa was Vice Principal of the Pacific Theological College from 1985-1988 and from 1992-1999 and was Acting Principal for the whole of 1995. During these times he also ministered to the Tongan Congregation in Suva. He was the Founding ChaiiTiian of the Pacific Community for Pastoral Care and Counselling, based in Suva from 1987 until 1999.
In February 2000 Toa accepted a call to become the Minister of the Park Church Tongan Congregation of the Uniting Church in Australia at Highgate Hill, Brisbane Queensland. Unfortunately, due to ill health Toa retired from Park Church and the Queensland Synod of the Uniting Church in Australia on 30 June, 2005. He was a member of the Multicultural Ministry Network in Queensland and remains an Ex-Officio member of the network in retirement.
During his ministry Toa was supported by Judith and their family. He passed away peacefully at the Princes Alexandra Hospital on Friday evening 5th January. 2007.
Photo : Rev Samiuela Toa Finau