Author: Ian Drew

Being a Companion to Melanesia

Being a Companion to Melanesia

It is twelve years now since I returned from being a priest and brother in Melanesia. In many ways no two lives could seem on the surface more different. For the many years I lived at Tabalia I never had more than a few hours electricity from the generator each day. Even fresh water was at times sporadic with long walks to the spring by the river when the taps were dry and the rainwater tanks empty. My refrigerator with no electricity was used only for storage. The diet too was very different “Does this dish have a name? I remember an American who had just arrived asking me, “because it tastes very similar to the dish I had yesterday,” he commented. “Yes” I said also eating a plate of slippery cabbage, a trace of tinned tuna and a piece of cassava-“and it’s going to be very similar to the dish you are going to have tomorrow and the next day and the next!”

But living as a Melanesian Brother at Tabalia I felt so close to the natural world- you knew where everything came from and that if the gardens failed you would go hungry. I remember waiting for the rains to come and when I heard the first drops running over to the church gutter where the downpour cascaded off the roof: after the wait it was the most refreshing shower you could ever have. Night could be as dark as velvet and the stars- with the Southern Cross so astonishingly bright. When I first moved into my flat in Trafalgar Square I thought I would never sleep. London is nonstop- it is twenty four seven- and it’s hard to keep the neon out of your bedroom, and the sound of sirens, and cars, and emptying bottle banks and the shouts, laughter and cries of those returning from a night out. How could the lessons of Melanesia be of any value here? I felt like a tuna out of water. Most of all I missed Melanesian community- where you were always with people but not in a demanding way- just with people-sharing in a generous reciprocity and a lot of fun laughter. In Solomons whatever you do there are always people to share that doing with you be it washing clothes in a bucket, peeling sweet potatoes, riding on the back of a truck, or going in search of ripe pawpaw.

But if my first reaction was how different this life in London – I soon began to realise there were, deep down, such similar human needs. And the deepest perhaps of all those needs the need for companionship- relationship with others to make meaning of our lives. The church is a unique place to do that of course. While the corner shop may have disappeared, and the post office and even the person in the supermarket has been replaced by the self-service till whose only conversation is to tell us repeatedly that there is an unidentified object in the bagging area- there is still a church in most communities and if you are blessed like we are at St Martin’s- its not only here, it’s also open every day of the year- then you do have a place to belong- to God, to your own deepest self, and to your neighbour, whoever that neighbour may be. And I began to realise that the skills that the Melanesian Brotherhood had taught me were the greatest possible gifts for ministry not only in Solomon Islands but in the centre of London. First the need for the rhythm of prayer to provide the pattern and centre of my life- and those who come through our doors of St Martin-in-the-Fields to join me. Second the vital importance of face to face encounter- actually listening and talking to people- giving them the gift of time and relationship rather than believing our primary relationships are with Facebook or a mobile phone or ones business agenda or strategic plan. Third I learnt the importance of generous sharing- being with others and benefitting from each other’s gifts and skills. I learnt that community is so much richer and less stressful when we let go of our western obsession with competition and self-sufficiency. I might be good at cooking but others were good at planting, at growing, or climbing coconut trees or diving for fish and that together we were so much more than we would be as isolated individuals and how much the same is true in London when we begin to share the gifts. Fourthly I learnt that community is Eucharist- it’s about sharing food and just like Solomons if you begin sharing food in London you will soon create that community. You become companions- those who share bread. You see you share Christ and find Christ in one another. Here in London we have created an informal Eucharist called Bread for the World and it is a wonderful celebration of diversity and all that we have to gain from creating communities of compassion and hope and joy in this country just as we have seen in Melanesia. Fifthly I learnt from Melanesia that those who one at first thinks of as being poor are in fact God’s gift. They open our eyes to a new way of seeing and being. They open your eyes to our own poverty. Some of the most rewarding work I have the privilege of doing here in London is with those who are homeless, or with refugees who have no recourse to public funds, or with those who have mental health difficulties, or those who for whatever reason are on the edge of so called society. They are actually at the heart of our Christian faith and it is being with them that I know will renew not only me but also the church. For this is where we must look for Christ- on the edge where he was in his own life.

What did I learn from Melanesian? I learnt the joy of living together and sharing a common home- that God has entrusted to our mutual care. And the gift they gave me was that longing for community here in London and the realisation that it is when we remove our defences, our desire to control or dominate- and recapture the humility and hope of the Gospel, then the place where we are living can become a Tabalia or a Brotherhood and Sisterhood- can become the place of God’s flourishing.

With God’s help I have formed a community at St Martin’s: it’s called the Nazareth Community. It’s an experiment in being with- with God, with silence, with sacrament, with compassionate service, with sacred study, with generous sharing. Much to my delight and surprise 48 people decided to join me as we made promises to live the Gospel- promises of course inspired by the Melanesian Brotherhood. I have so much to be grateful to them for.

The Vicar of our Church Sam Wells wrote this about the Nazareth Community:

“Being with God and one another and ourselves is how we shall spend eternity. The Nazareth Community is a group of people who are saying, ‘Why not start eternity now? Why wait?’ In their living eternal life now we see hope and inspiration for ourselves, our church, our community and our city.”

I think that’s also a good description not only of the Nazareth Community but also of the Melanesian Brothers and Sisters and the Church in Melanesia. You will be pleased to know that my fellow priest in the Nazareth Community is Catherine Duce. She also learnt a lot from Melanesia!

Revd Richard Carter is Associate Vicar at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square.

Reverend James Tama

ACoM Announces New Bishop for DOVNC

The Anglican Church of Melanesia Diocesan Electoral Board has elected the Reverend James Tama, as the sixth bishop for the Diocese of Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

Reverend James Tama succeeds the late Rt. Revd James Ligo who passed away in December 2017.

Since 2015 the Reverend Tama has held the position of Assistant Mission Secretary of the Anglican Church of Melanesia, based in Santo, Vanuatu. He has held various positions in the Church including Deputy Principal of the Bishop Patteson Theological College, Kohimarama, and the first Principal of the Fisher Young School of Theology and Ministry based in the Diocese of Banks and Torres, Vanuatu.

Revd Tama holds a Masters degree in Theology in the field of Church History from the Pacific Theological College, Fiji.

He comes from Saranamai Village, West Ambae, in Vanuatu. Revd Tama is married to Mrs Diana Tama and together they have six children.

His consecration and installation as the sixth bishop of the Diocese of Vanuatu and New Caledonia will take place on 12 August 2018.

The Archbishop of Melanesia calls on all members of the Anglican Church of Melanesia to uphold Revd Tama and his family in prayer as they prepare to take on this important responsibility in the church.

News story and pictures from ACoM Communications

ACoM Conference

First Conference for Diocesan Secretaries and Senior Managers

The Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACoM) had its first conference for Diocesan Secretaries and Senior Managers at Tete Ni Kolivuti (TNK), earlier this month.

ACoM’s General Secretary, Dr. Abraham Hauriasi opened the conference saying:

“The conference is organised purposely to; acknowledge the important and critical roles diocesan secretaries and department heads play in the life of the Church. Secondly, it is part of building the capacity of Church leaders to raise the level of governance at different levels of the Church. Finally, the General Secretary is required in his or her role under canon to call regular meetings of diocesan secretaries to discuss matters that are of concern to dioceses and the province.
“Capacity building for these senior leaders through coming together to share knowledge and learn from each other so that we all move together to achieve our overall goal is also another reason why the conference is organised,” the General Secretary said.

The main objectives of this conference is to help the Diocesan Secretaries and Senior Managers foster closer coordination, networking and cooperation amongst dioceses and with the provincial offices. The conference will also offer a platform for the senior Administrators to share their challenges and opportunities and to propose strategies for addressing common issues faced in their lines of work.

Participants to the workshop come from Dioceses and Provincial Offices in both Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.

The next conference is expected to be held in 2019.

News story and pictures from ACoM Communications

Next Dean

Next Dean for ACoM’s Provincial Cathedral Announced

Revered Philip Rongotha, the current Vicar General of the Diocese of Central Melanesia (DOCM) is to become the next Dean to the Anglican Church of Melanesia’s Provincial Cathedral – Saint Barnabas Cathedral in Honiara.

Elected by the Cathedral’s Chapter, Reverend Philip succeeds the Very Reverend Davidson Nwaeramo, 55 who is retiring from office at the end of this year.

The installation of Revd Rongotha to the Cathedral’s chair will be on 28th January 2018.
Reverend Philip 52, holds a Bachelor’s Degree in theology (BTH) from the University of Auckland, New Zealand (2006-2008) and a Diploma in theology (with Distinction) from Bishop Patteson Theological College, Kohimarama (2000 – 2003).

He comes from Binu Village, North Guadalcanal and is married to Jessie Rongotha. They have four children.

The Very Reverend Davidson is the longest serving clergy at the Saint Barnabas Provincial Cathedral. In his 25 years in the Priesthood Ministry, he served eleven years at the Cathedral. Three years as Rector and eight years as Dean. He started working at the Provincial Cathedral on the 5th of July 2009 and will end on the 31st December 2017. During his time at the Cathedral, the Very Revd Davidson has been responsible for the facelift of the Cathedral, the newly built Melanesian haus and Desmond Probet’s hall.

Please keep Revd Philip Rongotha and his family in your prayers as he prepares to take on the responsibility, and also give thanks for the faithful service of the Very Revd Davidson.
News story and pictures from ACoM Communications
15th General Synod

ACoM Sits for its 15th General Synod

More than 76 synod delegates are engaging in important discussions and deliberations on issues affecting the Mission and Ministry of the Anglican Church in the Province of Melanesia (ACOM) at the 15th General Synod at the Church of the Resurrection in Port Vila, Vanuatu from 23rd to 28th November.

A colourful welcome ceremony took place on 21st November at the synod venue after the arrival of the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Melanesia the Most Reverend George Takeli, the Bishops from the Diocese of Solomon Islands and the delegates from Solomon Islands.

Bishop of the host Diocese, the Right Reverend James Ligo, in his welcome remarks acknowledged the Church of Melanesia for giving Vanuatu a chance to host this highest decision-making body in the Anglican Church of Melanesia. “This is the first time Vanuatu has hosted a General synod”, he said.

Supporters are asked to pray for all the delegates and those organising and hosting this event.
News story and pictures from ACoM Communications
20171011-01-ArchbishopsVisit

Archbishop’s Visit

Archbishop George, his wife June, Dr Abraham and Fr Nigel have now all returned to Honiara after their UK visit. The party have expressed their thanks to all who welcomed them into their homes, churches, schools and dioceses.

The Archbishop wanted to make this visit to reconnect with the church which sent the first Anglican Missionaries to the region. He calls coming to the UK like ‘coming home’. The group particularly enjoyed visiting schools partnered with schools in Melanesia and being questioned by some very enquiring young minds. Pupils and teachers were particularly moved by our guests accounts and first-hand experiences of living with climate change.

Many miles were clocked up by the party and those who accompanied them on their visits to London, Southwark, Canterbury, Ely, Exeter and Chester Dioceses. June even made it as far as Edinburgh to attend the Mothers’ Union AGM. Archbishop George finished his time in the UK by attending the Primates meeting. Here are some links to the Primates Meeting, which included discussion on climate change.

Anglican primates leave Canterbury “refreshed and renewed” after “best” Primates’ Meeting
Anglican primates discuss action on climate change

A full report and pictures will appear in the next magazine, with sermons and talks given by the group appearing on the website shortly.

The Archbishop’s UK Commissary Revd Richard Carter has also written ‘A briefing based on the Vision of the Archbishop of Melanesia‘.

20171011-03-ArchbishopsVisit 20171011-02-ArchbishopsVisit

20171011-01-2017Festival

The 2017 MMUK Festival and AGM

Over 60 of us gathered on an early autumn Saturday in the Cheshire market town of Nantwich for this year’s AGM and Festival. Hospitality was extended to us by the good folk of St Mary’s, who enabled us to share in worship in the parish church and to conduct our business in an upper room in their parish centre.

20171011-02-2017FestivalWe were privileged to welcome Archbishop George Takeli and his wife, June to our gathering along with Fr Nigel Kelaepa, ACOM’s acting Mission Secretary and Dr Abraham Hauriasi ACoM General Secretary who were visiting the UK. Proceedings began with the Chairman of Trustees, the Rt Revd Mark Rylands, Bishop of Shrewsbury welcoming all to the event wearing a pair of sunglasses which he deemed was necessary given the glare from the shirt worn by one of those present. It was quite bright, Bishop Willie!!

After the presentation of the accounts for the 2016/17 financial year, gifts were presented to the retiring treasurer, Mrs Sue Clayton who was generously thanked for her work. The Ven Mike Gilbertson, Archdeacon of Chester was duly appointed as a trustee. Mr Andrew Cartwright was reappointed as a trustee, both for a period of three years. However, by assent a trustee vacancy remains unfilled at the moment to enable the trustees to discuss further the most appropriate way to manage financial reporting both to the AGM and to trustees’ meetings.

Following the formal AGM, Archbishop George presided at the Festival Eucharist in the parish church and the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster preached.  In his sermon Bishop Peter drew us to the ‘beauty of the cross, which has always inspired Christian mission’, as Christians endeavour to proclaim Christ crucified whilst living within the mystery of the cross.

20171011-03-2017FestivalAfter a lovely soup lunch, we reconvened again in the upper room in the parish centre for the Festival.  This year we had an opportunity to hear from the archbishop, acting mission secretary and general secretary as well as Andrew Cartwright following his visit to the region earlier in the year. Andrew spoke of needing to be ‘calm in the storm’ as he experienced Cyclone Donna first hand.

Two points stand out from what was shared with us. The first is the impact of climate change on weather patterns and the consequent effect on the ability of those who live in the region to cultivate the land. This will be the case for others around the world. The second was the importance of capacity building and the need to develop clergy who serve in ACoM to enable the church to be self-sufficient, self-reliant and self-propagating going forward.

It was a well-organised and informative occasion. It was good to meet and share with friends old and new and to have an opportunity to hear from the Archbishop of Melanesia and some of his senior staff first hand.  My thanks and the thanks of all who attended are extended to our hosts, our guests and those who worked so hard to make the day so fruitful.

Revd Martin Cox
MMUK Trustee
September 2017

20171011-01-VisionBriefing

A briefing based on the Vision of the Archbishop of Melanesia

On Sunday 17 April 2016 more than 4000 people gathered at St Barnabas Cathedral Honiara in the Solomon Islands to witness the enthronement of Archbishop George Takeli as the sixth Archbishop of Anglican Church of Melanesia. It was at this enthronement that he set out his vision for the future of the Church of Melanesia. In the last 18 months, he has been working to establish many of those ideas.

I want in this briefing to reflect upon the key messages of that vision which Archbishop George Takeli has set out and the Church of Melanesia has begun trying to live out and implement.

“God is always present with us.”

Melanesian culture is pervaded by the realisation of the presence of God in all things. It is a culture immediately dependent on the land and sea to sustain the life of its people. When storms and cyclone come, as we have seen they often do, we have constantly seen how vulnerable these low-lying islands are, made still more vulnerable by climate change. We also see the resilience and courage of the people both in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu as they rebuild their lives after floods and cyclones and when forced to move whole villages and abandon islands due to rising sea levels. In our partnership with the Church of Melanesia we have much to learn from this closeness to creation- for we abandon our own stewardship of creation at our peril. But we also have much to learn about the presence of God in our daily lives- the gifts of God revealed in the food we eat, the water we drink, our homes providing shelter from the elements, the air we breathe and the many gifts of God we take for granted. The promise of God’s presence is, according to Archbishop George, a promise of hope for the future, even in times of deep fear.

“The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord”

Another lesson that we learn from the Church of Melanesia is that living the Gospel is a path of joy. It is joyful to be a disciple of Christ not a burden or an anxiety. In all aspects of the churches life we see that joy pervading the mission of the Church of Melanesia. We see it in laughter, in dancing, in Melanesian music, in welcome and generous hospitality and in community life. To share the life of the religious communities in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu is to experience struggle, and at times poverty, but never without profound joy. It is also to rediscover the spontaneous- a faith that comes from the heart. Notice the way that songs are often learnt by heart and the ritual of worship is not just the written word but the Word made flesh.

“God recommissions the church for mission”

The Church of Melanesia has always been proud to be a missionary church. It celebrates Bishop Selwyn and of course Bishop Patteson from Exeter Diocese- and all those who left family and home to live the Gospel in the South Pacific. These were “missionaries not stationaries.” Its model of mission was a ship moving from island to island.  And right from the beginning those called to become its evangelists whether priests or brothers or sisters or teachers and lay workers often had to let go of family and home and set out trusting in the Gospel.

The Church of Melanesia is not ashamed of a Gospel that brought peace to the islands and overcame the fear of the evil spirits and the violence of tribal conflicts and head-hunting. It has always had a confidence in its missionary calling and has been confident to profess the new life that Christ brings. At Pentecost 2017 the Church of Melanesian relaunched A Decade of Evangelism and Renewal- with the desire to bring new believers to know Christ and to bring those who have fallen away back to Christ. It is a call to all to live in the light of Christ more faithfully. Archbishop George Takeli has challenged the church to build a renewed community of God’s people where faith is not simply a denominational allegiance but the Spirit which changes lives and builds God’s kingdom. The Church of Melanesia is a young and growing church full of gifts and potential. Of course, there will be pain and struggle as in the birth of a child but this is a mission which will demand both perseverance and the hope that comes from God.

“It is a vision of God. Mission work must begin with God”

Even in times of crisis or critical challenges, God is still in control. Archbishop George has emphasised the importance of prayer as the basis for all mission and ministry and the essence of all renewal in the church. You cannot do God’s work without God’s help. Again, and again we are invited to return to God in prayer and faithful worship. Prayer is the secret of a closer walk with God. This renewal will also depend on the renewal of leadership. If leadership is renewed that allows for the whole church to be renewed. Leadership according to Archbishop George: “is not about seeking privileges and opportunities but is a sacred responsibility of service to the community from which we have been called.”

“The church must become self-supporting and self-reliant.”

The Church of Melanesia, the Archbishop argues must no longer depend on others for its finances and well-being but mature both spiritually and also in terms of its industry, its administration and planning, and its generation and use of finances. Archbishop George has insisted these things are also of God. The growth of a church will depend on wise management and planning of resources and priorities. The Melanesian Mission UK has a part to play in this growth, not stifling this independence but by being a faithful friend and partner of the Church of Melanesia in a relationship of equality and trust and the sharing of expertise and gifts.

“A church which works together with others.”

Archbishop George has stressed the importance of working together with others. He sees the different diocese within the Church of Melanesia not rivals dividing up of a cake but as partners in mission together working for the common good. To that end he has worked to bring a greater understanding between the dioceses and to establish a greater collegiality and bond of faith between the bishops of each diocese.

But also, he has worked for a closer relationship with NGOs and Mission Partners. The partnership with the Melanesian Mission UK is of vital importance and significance to him. He sees it as a reciprocal relationship in which we can learn from one another. This is particularly seen in the relationships that have grown through the visits to and from the religious communities in Melanesia to the UK and between schools. The Primary and Secondary School links and the active links with the religious communities especially the Melanesian Brotherhood, the Sisters of Melanesia, The Sisters of the Church and the Society of St Francis has been a source of real blessing and renewal both in UK and in Solomon Islands and beyond.  Archbishop George is the chair of SICA the Solomon Island Christian Association and believes that unity between churches is also of vital importance.

“The stewards of creation”

The more we learn about how climate change will impact on people and the environment, the more we see how people need to take action to reduce green-house gas emissions that are causing such destructive climate change.

As Christians, we are called to become the stewards and defenders of creation. The Church in the South Pacific has a vital prophetic role to play and the Church in the UK and the west must become advocates and witnesses to the threat our partners face. It is not the Solomon Islands that is causing the rising sea levels, it is the industrial western world but it is some of the poorest most vulnerable people in the world who are suffering the consequences. In the islands of the pacific we have seen rising sea levels, flooding, erosion and the disappearance of land and small islands, coral bleaching, changing tide patterns, unusual winds and currents and weather patterns, draught and lack of rain, and then increased and more violent cyclones and concentrated rainfall bringing flash-floods.

The Church cannot remain passive. The decade of Evangelism and Renewal is about renewing our commitment to the gifts of creation and their stewardship. It is also about realising that the way we live in one part of the world has a direct impact on the lives of others in other parts of the world.

“Blessed are the Peacemakers”

The Church has a vital role to play within the wider community as Solomon Islands faces its own divisions and conflicts. The Church of Melanesia is the messenger of a greater unity that comes through the forgiveness and example of Christ. Every Christian is called upon to be a messenger of that peace and to break down the hatred and animosity that divides tribes, islands, nations, faiths and cultures. The divisions that led to the ethnic tension are still often present under the surface. It is the call of every member of the church to show that we are first and foremost Christians. Who is my mother, my father, my brother my sister, my tribe, my wontok? The one who does the work of God.

These are the ideas and visions which Archbishop George Takeli has shared and begun implementing in his first 18 months of office. They are, I believe, not just of value to the Church of Melanesia but the whole world wide Anglican Communion and to us, partners in the Melanesian Mission UK.

Revd Richard Carter
UK Commissary to Archbishop George Takeli
September 2017