Mary Mills, one of Fiji’s most notable female figures, was considered the first woman from Fiji to be ordained a minister in the Methodist Church.
She had just completed her bachelor’s degree in theology in 1983 before being ordained. Stories of Miss Mills’ experiences, from challenges with ups and downs to when she was ordained were captured by Fiji time April 5, 1984.
By the time she was 68, Miss Mills had worked in a variety of jobs, ranging from youth worker to primary and secondary school teacher, Christian educator and librarian, until her ‘retirement’ at the age of 60.
“My grandparents and my parents were strong, healthy people and were active into their 70s,” she said.
“I also decided to do something of value between 60 and 70.”
Miss Mills was previously a lay preacher, familiar to the English-speaking congregations of the Methodist Church in Fiji.
After being ordained that year, she had been able to perform communions, baptisms, weddings and funeral services, which was not possible as a lay person.
Miss Mills didn’t feel it was too late to get involved in a new area of work.
“I believe that God has his own timetable for your life. It is an opportune time and an unexpected opportunity to study and consider ministry.
When the door opened for her, she walked in and said that when one person was able to lead the way, others would follow.
Miss Miller’s story encouraged a young Fijian woman studying at Pacific Theological College to become a minister in the Church.
Miss Mills was convinced women would one day be widely accepted as ministers and felt good for Christian women and the church to involve more women in ministry.
Even at a mature age, Miss Mills lived to a busy schedule throughout the week. With a team, she visited Veiuto Primary School once a week to provide Christian education.
She was also a part-time volunteer at HART (Housing Assistance and Relief Trust) villages and said the church has a definite responsibility to those less fortunate in the community.
At Makoi HART Village, she led typing classes in the mornings and worked with groups of children in the afternoons. She entertained the children at five group meetings with sing-alongs, music lessons, talks about hygiene and citizenship, and more.
“Children look forward to meetings at the HART Community Center.
The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), a global women’s organization that has existed for more than a century, was founded in Fiji in 1974 and had Miss Mills as acting president.
“It started because of women’s interest in dealing with drunkenness and all the ills associated with it, as well as drug problems and the status of women.
“We see alcohol affecting many countries. When money is diverted to drink, it is the family at home and the education of children that suffers.
The Fiji Christian Temperance Union was called the Home Protection Organization.
In addition to affecting family budgets, bickering after drinking affects the relationship between husband and wife and destroys the safety of children.
“Fights and arguments caused by alcohol are actually responsible for child delinquents.”
Miss Mills said her team would take the time to visit schools and talk to pupils about the harmful effects of alcohol.
Miss Mills traveled to Norway in 1974 and attended a conference of the World Christian Women’s Temperance Union – the first Fijian representative to attend a WCTU convention.
Since then, several deaconesses from Fiji had attended these conventions which were held every three years in different countries. .
Born in Queensland in a small town called Crow’s Nest, Mary Mills has spent most of her life in Brisbane.
After earning a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Queensland, she did youth work for 13 years and taught briefly at a primary school before working full time with WCTU for seven years.
She returned to being a high school teacher for three years and a librarian for 10 years at the University of Queensland before coming to Fiji in 1969.
She joined the USP library while in its formative phase and saw the rapid development of the current library. Her contract expired after six years as she approached the age of 60 in 1975.
She returned to Australia and, due to her interest and involvement in Christian education, decided to deepen her knowledge of biblical language.
She enrolled at Melbourne College of Divinity for a postgraduate course leading to a Bachelor of Divinity, studied in Australia for a year, then returned to Fiji and continued her education from there.
“In Fiji I had the added benefit of being able to attend lectures at Pacific Theological College and use their library.”
She has studied a wide variety of subjects related to all aspects of Christianity in the New and Old Testament. She also studied Greek, pastoral, Christian education, Hebrew theology, etc.
She got good grades in all her subjects and said she liked studying. After six years of normal probation, she was finally ordained a minister of the Church.