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Tupa Parish Mumu


by Rebecca

A local parish of Tupa just celebrated the creation of a new outstation church, St. Peter and Paul’s, where they can officially have mass now. People had been meeting there before, but this is the first time a tabernacle has been present. (The tok pisin word for tabernacle translates literally as “contract box,” that is, covenant box, or the box of the new covenant.) Parishes around here usually have a number of outstations, with the priest visiting two each Sunday, so that each gets at least one visit a month. With the tabernacle present, they can reserve enough of the blessed sacrament so that the catechists and eucharistic ministers can still have a service in the weeks that the priest is visiting another outstation.  We were invited for the mass with the Archbishop and the party afterwards, following several days of recollection.


The priest of the parish, Fr. Joseph, picked us up. First we visited his house, on a hill above Kudjip, with a beautiful view of the Waghi valley and his extensive pineapple gardens.


Then we went to the new church, where all the dancers were engaged in putting on their bilas, or decorations. (In the mass in tok pisin, you say that heaven and earth are full up of bilas!) Here are some more traditional dancers:


And some with a modern spin:


Some modern things have been added to the more traditional costumes. In this picture, you can see powdered red tempera paint being applied to one woman, white-out correction fluid being painted on another woman’s face, and a third being doused with vegetable oil (as opposed to the more traditional lard).


We checked out the food preparations, which were extensive: at least 30 pigs were slaughtered earlier that morning! Over here they were roasting some meat on skewers and had something like a blood sausage rolled up in banana leaves.


Brandon and Annie get a snack of a cooking banana.


Here are the mumu pits, with the pork roasting surrounded by hot rocks. I didn’t get a picture of all the heads unearthed together from one pit!


Then the announcement went out that the mass was about to start! Go to the tent, you don’t want to keep the Archbishop waiting!  So we found our places on the floor. Here are the dancers approaching the church:


Processing into the church:


Our new friend Deacon Matthew proclaiming the gospel:


Archbishop Douglas Young giving the homily


The bringing of the gifts:


Can you find Brandon and Anastasia in this picture?


Receiving communion:


Afterwards, we got to check out some of the dancers more closely.

P1060180 P1060182 P1060183

Then there were many speeches, which we largely skipped out on. We took a walk, waded in a stream, visited a nearby Nazarene church, and just hung out and talked.Brandon brought a small soccer ball and played several games of catch with nearby children. Anastasia entertained herself by dividing up oranges and handing the sections to children sitting near. The ecumenism of the gathering was quite impressive: many of the attendees were protestant. We met some Nazarene dancers on our walk.

I managed to catch the last speech, that of the Archbishop. It was then that I learned why it was so ecumenical. This was not just a church dedication; it was also a peace pact and curse-breaking. Apparently the ground the church was on was a former battlefield, and the two groups who had been fighting had decided to solidify their peace treaty by donating the land to the church. Archbishop Young said, “Where the blood of men was spilled, now the blood of Christ has come.” When asked for a curse-breaking, he did the baptismal exorcism, a renewal of baptismal vows, and an act of faith, and told them that it was up to them to stay faithful to their promises.


They gave him many gifts: bananas, oranges, passionfruits, 6 chickens which ended up under the altar, and three huge pigs.

We were getting hungry by now, so we went down to the mumu pits to see how things were going. We were presented with the entire backbone of a pig. Brandon is here cutting it up.


We were then joined by the Archbishop and Father Joseph, who were served more pork, cooking bananas, and taro. Note the traditional highland hats in PNG colors; Anastasia has at least three by now.


While we were eating, Deacon Matthew told us that the Archbishop was also given a cuscus, a kind of possum. We went to go find it, but Brandon was ambushed by a large curious crowd that gathered around him. Deacon Matthew rescued Anastasia and I from the crush and brought us to the cuscus.


Anastasia was quite enamored of it. When told it was a present to the archbishop, she announced she wanted one for her birthday. And that it would live in the forest behind our house.


Deacon Matthew says that he will build a cage for it and feed it banana leaves, until the Archbishop eats it. The Archbishop demurred about when this would be, saying that the meat was too tough!


Brandon eventually untangled himself and joined the cuscus viewing. It was quite soft. (On a side note, its fur is used to make yarn! We had been given an entire purse knit out of it. Unfortunately the fur won’t clear Australian customs.)


We hung out some more while the rest of the guests were served the mumu food. Most people brought their portions home for further cooking. I brought out our photo album and another crowd, this one of children, amassed to see such sights as Anastasia in the snow.


Packaging up all the food, including the backbone, took some time, but we got it home. We ate pork for about a week!

We were very glad to be part of this celebration, especially as I had just finished reading a book about the pioneer missionary in this area, Father William Ross SVD (originally from New York state!). The book is titled Hagen Saga, and I recommend it. It was very interesting to be able to compare the accounts of the original church dedications with a modern-day example!


  1. Lisa Deeley Smith says:

    Author? Also, as the cuscus is noctunral, one may be in the forest behind your house now!


    • Lisa Deeley Smith says:

      tyty! You could set WordPress up with different logins, but a byline or tagline this way is james dandy.


  2. Rebecca says:

    Bummer about the un-exportability of cuscus fur! What a feast, and what an amazing story about the gift of land for the church.



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