Gospel Day is observed on July 8 this year and is part of a three-day holiday break in Kiribati together with Independence Day, which is commemorated on July 12. The dates of Gospel Day as well as Natural Culture and Senior Citizens Day change depending on what day of the week July 12 falls on.
This holiday commemorates the arrival of Christianity on the islands. It’s a day for the citizens of Kiribati of all faiths to join each other and give thanks as well as strengthen the sense of community between the different branches of Christianity in the country.
History of Gospel Day
The island nation in the central Pacific Ocean was called The Gilbert Islands. It would be called a different name many years after it gained its independence from the British on July 12, 1979. In Gilbertese, the native language, ‘Gilberts’ is translated as ‘Kiribati.’ The “ti” is pronounced as “s,” and that’s how the country name” came to be.
The island was already inhabited thousands of years ago, even before the first European contact took place in the 17th century. Foreign missionaries who came to the island in the 19th century spread Christianity, though it was also spread by two island natives called Betero and Tiroi. In 1881, two natives from Nonouti who had converted to Catholicism while working on European plantations in Tahiti introduced the religion to the islands. Their zeal for Catholicism was reflected in the education programs and church services they led, leading them to convert many islanders.
Today, Roman Catholicism remains the dominant religion and accounts for the largest majority of followers, followed by Protestants. Seventh-Day Adventists, Muslims, Baha’i, Latter-day Saints, and the Church of God are some other religions present on the island.
Traditionally on every Gospel Day, a celebration is usually held at the Bairiki National Stadium in the capital, South Tarawa, and is hosted by the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. A combined service is conducted by either head of the two churches. Afterward, those in attendance get together in the center of the village called the ‘maeaba.’ Different groups from both churches contribute to the revelry by performing local dances as well as singing choir and religious songs.
Gospel Day timeline
The islands are named the Gilbert Islands by Admiral Adam Johann von Krusenstern after the British Captain Thomas Gilbert.
American missionary Hiram Bingham translates the Bible into Gilbertese with the help of Moses Kaure, a Gilbert Islander.
The entire island group of the Ellice Islands and the Gilbert Islands becomes a British colony.
Paul Eusebius Mea Kaiuea becomes the first Kiribati bishop, using his canoe as a makeshift dais to address a crowd of 7,000 people.
Gospel Day FAQs
What are the Gospels called?
The first four books of the Bible’s New Testament are called the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Why are there four Gospels?
The four Gospel books are enough to contain most of what is known about Jesus.
How long after Jesus’ death were the Gospels written?
The first Gospel was written 40 years after the death of Jesus.
How to Observe Gospel Day
Read the gospels
Even the most devout Christian sometimes needs a refresher on the life and works of Jesus. These written accounts give you a front-row seat to the story of his rise from humble beginnings to being a savior.
Go to church
Nothing renews your faith better than attending a service with many like-minded church-goers. The combination of prayer, singing, and the word of God can be inspiring.
Watch “The Mission”
This period film about a Jesuit priest tasked with converting South American natives to Christianity stars Robert De Niro and has a haunting musical score. What better way to spend an afternoon?
5 Unique Facts About The Gospel Of John
It’s symbolized by an eagle
Christian tradition has associated each of the gospels with one of the four faces seen in Ezekiel’s visions from God.
It uses the most metaphors
Jesus often used metaphors to describe himself, and there are more of these analogies in John’s writing than in any other gospel.
It focuses on Jesus as the Messiah
It stands as a witness for those who weren’t there to see Jesus’s ministry and proves that he is the Messiah.
It shows apostles meeting Jesus
It is only in John’s account that some of the disciples bring their family and friends to meet Jesus.
It centers on the belief in Jesus
The Greek root words for ‘believe’ and ‘faith’ appear here much more than in the other gospels combined.
Why Gospel Day is Important
It brings people together
It’s a time when the community can come together to celebrate despite their differences. In times of strife, what binds us together are our similarities.
It reminds us to pray
Prayers aren’t just memorized texts. Oftentimes the most heartfelt expressions of gratitude and petition come from using your own words.
It’s a time for happiness
Whenever singing and dancing are involved, it’s always a joyous occasion. Sing your heart out this Gospel Day!
Gospel Day dates