Following ongoing volcanic activity and falling ash from the volcano on the Vanuatu island of Ambae, the government has ordered a complete evacuation and the permanent closure of all institutions. This has made over 9,000 people homeless and also the loss of a Melanesian Brothers’ Household and the Church flagship school St Patricks.
The Rt Revd James Tama, Bishop of Vanuatu and New Caledonia has made this appeal to UK friends.
Please pray for our situation here and the displaced families from Ambae, over 2,000 in Maewo, over 7,000 in Santo and over 2,000 scattered all over the islands in Vanuatu with immediate family members. I have
over 40 families, a total of 110 staying with me at the bishop’s residence. I do sympathize with them and had to organise fundraising for them, since the government is still to respond with immediate needs. We are looking for some plots of land, somewhere suitable for farming and the stronger men will then go there and begin clearing the bush ready for farming. The women will stay back with the children who are attending school. We have partitioned part of the Diocesan office into 3 rooms where the children of over 5 schools from Ambae attend daily from kindy, class 1 – class 6.
My wife and I have started the psychological first aid support with the mothers, gathering them, allowing them to express freely their feelings and the needs for their families, then we decided out of our own pockets provide wool for knitting, printing materials, crochet knitting, sewing materials, and other life-skills to occupy themselves and at least do something that they can sell and earn small money to help their families since the state of emergency is now extended until 26 November. My humble request is if you can share our stories of the difficult situation we are facing at the moment, and for anyone who may wish to support our mothers with little funds to resource their home life-skill training would be very much appreciated.
Many thanks with love and prayers +James Tama Diocese of Vanuatu and New Caledonia
Many thanks to those individuals, parishes, schools and Companions of the Melanesian Brotherhood who have already sent in donations to support those affected by the volcano. If you would like to make a donation to help Bishop James provide for these displaced families, please send your donations to the charity with the reference Ambae relocation. The charity is planning to transfer another round of donations before Christmas.
In 2019 MMUK hopes to receive the plans for the rebuilding of St Patricks School, and will launch a fundraising campaign to support this large project. You will find details for this, at the time of launch, on our donations page.
In This Light is a collection of messages for Christmas written by the Archbishop and 47 of his friends and colleagues. Including contributions from John Kerry, Afua Hirsch, Jonathan Bryan, Sally Phillips, Bear Grylls, Grace, Anthony Ray Hinton, Jo Malone, Benjamin, Dr Agnes Abuom, Julie Etchingham and more. Journalists, politicians, priests, musicians, peace activists, actors, comedians, authors – people of different faiths and none, writing from across the world from South Korea to South Sudan, Australia to the UK, America to the Vatican.
All royalties from the book will go to support the following wonderful organisations: Caring for Ex-Offenders, part of the ministry of Holy Trinity Brompton, Equal Justice Initiative, The Melanesian Missionand Charis Tiwala.
In This Light is available to buy through all good book sellers online and on the high street.
‘The world shrinks, and perceptions of God expand’ was the main finding from research conducted into what happens when Christians experience positive cross-cultural encounter.
From 2014 to 2016 I was engaged on a fascinating piece of research asking questions about Diocesan Companion Links. These are the relationships, some as long as 40 years, which dioceses have with different parts of the Anglican Communion and wider ecumenical links. Questions about the nature of Companion Links relationships were paramount. What sort of relationships were they? What were the challenges and joys faced in these relationships? How were they developing into the future?
I took a case study approach to this research. Three Church of England dioceses agreed to be part of the project. They were the diocese of Bath and Wells in its relationship with the five dioceses of the Anglican Church of Zambia, the Diocese of Chelmsford and their relationship with the five dioceses of the Mount Kenya East region and the diocese of Liverpool and the diocese of Virginia in the Episcopal Church of the USA.
These three case studies provided a rich picture of following Christ in different contexts with access to vastly different resources but who were similar in worshipping and following Christ through the Anglican tradition.
I travelled to all the dioceses involved in England, Africa and the USA. I asked two simple questions – what is your experience of the link and where do you see it developing in the future? Meetings and interviews took place in churches, schools, under the mango tree and over many shared meals.
The conclusions fell into two categories – discipleship and friendship. It became clear that positive cross-cultural encounters were a source of growth and transformation for many involved in links.
Discipleship seems to be the theme of the moment. Everyone in the churches, it seems, is talking about discipleship. However, I haven’t heard a lot about the contribution of cross-cultural encounters to ongoing discipleship. What became clear early in the research was that positive cross-cultural encounter can encourage and inspire discipleship.
Here’s a story. A tragic and sudden death of a parish link co-ordinator in Bath and Wells Diocese shocked everyone. Catherine was loved in her parish and by the parish in Eastern Zambia where she had visited several times. The parishioners in Eastern Zambia were unable to attend the funeral but at the same time as the funeral was taking place in the UK the church in Zambia came together to give thanks for Catherine’s life and commit her to God. The effect of this in both places was a stronger personal link between very different places and an inspiration to follow and witness to Christ more faithfully.
A further example was found in the link between Liverpool and Virginia dioceses. A clergyman from Liverpool witnessed work with refugees in Virginia and was inspired to begin a similar work. Young people from Liverpool said that their Youth Pilgrimage helped them to talk about their faith at home. It was clear that whether experiences were between north to north contexts or north to south contexts the effects were similar.
Friendship was the major way in which links described their relationships across cultures. Friendship is an important way of expressing our common belonging in the Body of Christ through practical expressions such as visits and gift-giving. It became apparent that while the English partners were good at giving we were less happy about receiving from less materially affluent partners. There is learning to be done that recognises the wide variety of forms of gifts and that giving and receiving of gifts gives dignity to all.
The Melanesian Mission is an important expression of these principles. Encouraging discipleship and friendship is at the heart of being a mission agency.
By Reverend Richard Carter and Reverend Jacky Wise
RC: How many Brothers and Novices are there currently?
In Tabalia there are 138 Novices in training and there are 300 Novices and 200 Brothers across the seven dioceses, including Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.
Five novices accompanied four brothers in one area, Nikoyu, in Malaita, and they are developing a brand new area of mission. We are building seven new houses and a chapel and actually making a new village. They baptised five families last month.
RC: Would you say that the brothers still playing a major role of evangelism across the Solomon Islands?
Yes, I think we are in the front line. This year ACOM has launched the Decade of Evangelism and the Brothers are in the front line of this work.
It’s the same mission strategy. The Brothers are the people who are prepared to stay, do practical and tough work, whereas some missionaries just visit and then go.
RC: Could you tell us a bit more about the new decade of evangelism?
Jeffrey, the former Chester student, is coordinating the strategy. We want people within the different Anglicans sectors or groups can relate to each other and to understand each other better. We want to empower them all, including the Mothers’ Union, the Companions and the parishes.
RC: Why are the Brothers such effective evangelists?
The Brothers go and live among the families and get involved. We then show them what to do. The former Archbishop, David Vunagi, said to us that the mission of the Brothers and their communities is successful partly due to the fact that the people will obey the Brothers but they won’t necessarily obey the parish priests.
RC: Does singing, music and drama still play a big part in your missions?
The dramas are so important. Always. The youth want drama. This year the Passion Play has been important in communicating to young people, and we appreciate being able to use the dramas that you prepared with us too.
RC: How does it feel to the leader of such a big community?
I have seven section elder Brothers and they take a lot of responsibility too. It’s not just me doing the work. If there is something really hard for them to handle then they call on me, especially in disciplinary cases.
RC: I remember when Chester Rest House was built. How important has this been? It’s generated quite an income over the last fifteen years hasn’t it?
It plays such an important role in what we have been able to do. The profit from the Rest House has allowed us to buy so many things. It funds 60% of all our missionary activity.
It’s not just the Rest House; the Brothers who have studied in Chester have been such a blessing to us all after their studies. One of them is a Bishop, Leonard, who is helping the whole church, and Jeffrey is now coordinating a major strategy and there is Jonathan too, who is now a chaplain again. They’re making a huge contribution. My own time in Chester exposed me to many different people and I have a better understanding of difference.
RC: What attracts young people to this tough way of life?
The Rule is tough but they want experience, and they know that tough things will be good. You do what others do and they like it. We always get many more applications than we can take.
Over the last two years, the programme of partnerships between schools in the Diocese of Chester and the Province of Melanesia has blossomed.
Links between two Church of England primary schools, in Warmingham and Frodsham, and St Francis School, Vaturanga (Guadalcanal) have been in existence for some time. A member of staff from St Francis, Salome Vuthia visited our two partner schools in 2015, and children in all three schools have been keen to exchange letters and presents, and to learn about life on the other side of the world.
The number of partner schools has now grown substantially. More primary schools are coming into the programme from across the diocese, pairing with schools in the Solomons and now also in Vanuatu. In all, there are now eight primary schools from across the diocese in such arrangements.
One of our church secondary schools has now joined the scheme as well. Woodchurch Church of England High School (Birkenhead) has entered with great enthusiasm into a partnership with St Nicholas Senior School, Honiara, signing a formal partnership agreement in 2017. A team from the chaplaincy at Woodchurch, led by Rachel Hsuan, visited the Solomon Islands this spring, making three excellent and innovative films about life in the islands and in St Nicholas’s School, for use in collective worship back at Woodchurch. These are proving invaluable in helping children here to gain vivid insights into life in Melanesia, covering topics as diverse as the practicalities of daily life, Christian worship, education and the challenge of climate change.
The Diocese of Chester sees these schools partnerships as a key element in the link as a whole, as we look to involve a whole new generation. Friends from the Anglican Church of Melanesia visit regularly, and each time, visits to our partner schools have been an important part of the programme. It has been a joy for our schools to receive visits from Archbishop George Takeli and Mrs June Takeli, Dr Abraham Hauriasi (Provincial Secretary), Fr Nigel Kalaepa (Mission Secretary), Father Nelson Bako (Head Brother, Melanesian Brotherhood), and Brother Michael (Section Elder Brother, Tabalia).
Venerable Mike Gilbertson, Archdeacon of Chester, Trustee MMUK
I am the assistant curate of Tavistock, where we are fortunate to have a faithful group of Melanesian Brotherhood Companions. In 2001 the late Fr George Elo and Bishop Leonard Dawea (then both Brothers) came to Tavistock to work and live in the parish under the guidance of the then Vicar, Fr John Rawlings. Since then we have maintained strong links and, earlier in 2017, Bishop Leonard came to visit Tavistock to see old friends. I was invited to become a Companion and was soon gently ‘encouraged’ by Katie Drew (let the reader understand, and be warned—her enthusiasm is infectious) to visit the Solomon Islands to see and experience the Church there for myself.
I spent my three-week trip on Guadacanal, first at Honiara, before travelling to the Brotherhood’s Headquarters at Tabalia, working my way westwards to the Franciscan community at Hautabu, visiting the Community of the Sisters of Melanesia at Verana’aso on the way. I also paid a call to see the Project Trust students working at St Nicholas’s School and Selwyn College. It was good to see the students so well received and integrated into the communities they serve.
I ended my trip back in Honiara, from there I visited Norman Palmer School and the Community of the Sisters of the Church at Tetere Ni Kolivati (TNK). I led a study day for priests in Honiara, gave lectures at Bishop Patteson Theological College and at the various communities I visited, and was honoured to be invited to preach and celebrate services for my various hosts.
The trip was full of rich and wonderful experiences. I was fortunate to be present at Tabalia for the Ss Simon and Jude festivities. The Chapel and surrounds were richly decorated with beautiful orchids and fragrant frangipani blossom. I arrived on Saturday afternoon, the before the big day, and attended Choral Evensong. The singing was superb: the Psalms and Canticles are sung in blazing four, six and sometimes eight-part harmony. The music is based on Anglican chant, so it is easy to join in – familiar, but different, and certainly very exhilarating to be a part of.
At the Eucharist the following morning Bishop Sam Sahu presided at the installation ceremony where thirty-six novices became brothers, and three brothers (Brothers Thomas Suia, Mark Tafodi and John Alley) renewed their vows. The community said goodbye to seven Brothers: Nathanial Tagoa, Albert Iroga, Culbert Moana, Mostyn Tugu, Winston Heke, Lazarus Vavaha and Francis Mauru, the second-oldest member of the Solomon Island Brothers. Brother Francis entered the novitiate in 1984, became a brother in 1986, and served in Australia and Fiji as well as in the Solomons. It was clear that many novices and brothers will miss his wise support and guidance. Like many leaving brothers, he became a Companion later in the week, before he prepared to return to Makira.
The Chaplain, Fr Richard Nokia, kindly invited me to celebrate and preach at several Eucharists during my stay, and to officiate at Choral Evensong on my final Sunday, which was a huge honour. Fr Nokia has a great rapport with the novices and brothers, which is not surprising as his motto is: ‘give them everything!’. Mrs Veronica Nokia is also a much-loved member of the community and gives an incredible amount of time and energy to running a successful literacy course for the novices. During my stay, I was privileged to attend the Literacy Awards Ceremony, which was organised by Veronica and the Mothers’ Union, represented by their president, Pamela Abana and her colleagues Emily Pengalo and Adriana Estrada who are based at St Agnes Rest House in Honiara (an excellent hostel where I stayed towards the end of my trip).
The celebrations around Ss Simon and Jude’s Day lasted a week – lots of feasts, dancing and general socialising. It was wonderful to see thousands of supporters and Companions, many of whom stayed for the week, helping to prepare meals and tidy the site as they waited for boats to take them back to their islands.
My flying visit to the Sisters of Melanesia was a treat. After speaking to the novices and sisters, I was invited to sit down to a lavish tea, complete with boiled eggs, custard creams and coconut juice straight from the husk – an unusual teatime combination, but it worked for me!
I then travelled to see Noah and Ultan at Selwyn College. Like their colleagues Juliette and Flora at St Nicholas’ in Honiara, Noah and Ultan had settled in extremely well and had been welcomed wholeheartedly into the communities. It was wonderful to see all four of the Project Trust students at the various services and celebrations, in Honiara, at TNK and Tabalia – they had clearly become part of the Anglican family. There is also a bit of cultural exchange going on, as they had begun teaching the Solomon Islanders Scottish Country Dancing…
During my second week, I stayed with the excellent Brother Jonas and the community of Friars at their beautiful hillside home at Hautabu. Any nerves I felt about giving my theology talks here were soon forgotten as our friendly discussions continued in our outdoor classroom under the shade of palm and mango trees, looking out over the Pacific Ocean.
Once I got back to Honiara, I travelled out to see the inspirational Sister Veronica and the Community of the Sisters of the Church at TNK. Their work building up the kindergarten and women’s refuge is truly inspiring, and it was a huge privilege to attend Sister Kristy’s life profession there just before I flew back to Britain.
My trip was a hugely encouraging experience. The hospitality I received from everyone I met was truly incredible; all the clergy and religious communities work as part of a big family and work hard to support each other. All were present for Sister Kristy’s profession, so I could say goodbye to almost all the people I had met over the past weeks. I owe so many people a debt of thanks for making my time in Melanesia so fruitful and enjoyable, but I must thank Fr Nigel Kelaepa especially for his organisation, kindness and hospitality.
Project Trust has since 1967 been the leading gap year provider here in the UK representing 50 years of volunteering and 7800 volunteers overseas.
Project Trust has been based on the Isle of Coll in the Scottish Hebrides almost since its inception. Some might argue that our wonderful shell sand beaches rival those of the Solomons. Maybe, but our sea and air temperatures most certainly do not, languishing at around 12C and 15C respectively around our mid-summer. Here we have our offices and residential centre which is used for Selection and Training.
Selection is a key part of the process and all aspiring volunteers must attend a four day assessment course before any decision is made as to suitability and if so, which placement overseas they would be most suited. Training is the next stage in the process and this takes place in July prior to the volunteer departure in August. This is a four day course where we focus on skills and preparedness for 12 months overseas.
It is important that volunteers bring added value to any of our projects worldwide, currently 22 countries worldwide. Areas which have been identified by both St Nicholas and Selwyn College include spoken English, IT and mathematics. In addition extracurricular activities such as drama, sport, music to name but a few are areas where volunteers can make valuable contributions. Through daily interaction with the students it is hoped that the overall standard of spoken English will improve, certainly this is our experience elsewhere in the world where English is a focus of their activities.
Oceania is a new region for Project Trust. The first approach with regard to sending volunteers was made early in 2016 by the then British High Commissioner in Honiara, Chris Trott. Chris is himself one of our Alumni having been a volunteer in Egypt in 1984/85. He was very enthusiastic about the possibilities for volunteering and introduced us to the Anglican Church through the Melanesian Mission in London.
To the future we look to placing volunteers in schools on some of the other islands in the Solomon group and Vanuatu has also been discussed. We look forward to a developing and sustained relationship.
As a Companion and Associate, I’ve long wanted to spend time and experience Solomons life with the Brothers and Sisters of Melanesia. This summer I experienced both joyful pilgrimage and a great adventure of faith that continues to enrich my faith and Curacy.
My first night in the Solomons was spent at Chester Rest House which helped me to get my bearings in Honiara and appreciate how much the Brothers’ guest house is valued by all who stay there.
It was so good to be met by Sr Veronica the next day, who drove us to TNK for an overnight stay. The Sisters and Novices of the Church of Melanesia were very kind and sensitive to my jetlag! The beauty and peace of TNK is complemented so well by the worship, hospitality and ministry to the local community and wider church. It was delightful to meet Tina and David Arnold who kindly facilitated my trip back to Honiara, stopping at the Christian Care Centre en route to see their hugely important work.
The Sunday service at St Barnabas Cathedral became an unforgettable experience of worship – as swifts flew around the Chancel and a pair of Mynah birds showed off their nesting skills.
The following day I was met by Flory and her husband Charly who are such good advocates for the Sisters of Melanesia. We set off for Verana’aso where I experienced the most incredible welcome and hospitality from the Sisters and Novices during the following five days. Being invited to teach the Novices was a great privilege and joy as we shared experiences, worshipped together and got to know each other more. Visiting neighbouring Franciscans at beautiful La Verna was a precious time, hearing stories and seeing the lasting legacy of Br Giles.
After a moving farewell at Verana’aso, I set off for Tabalia, blessed with the joyful company of Franciscan Br Clifton – also a great truck driver, skillfully negotiating huge pot holes.
St John The Baptist Satellite Church Highway Community
Melanesian Brothers and Novices at Tabalia
At Tabalia I continued to experience the precious worship and partnership in the Gospel that I’ve always found through the Melanesian Brothers ministry. It was wonderful to see Head Brother Nelson leading Evensong in his home setting. The beautiful peace of Tabalia, being near the graves of the Seven Martyred Brothers, the worship and hospitality of the Brothers and Novices was humbling and profoundly moving.
Returning to Honiara, I stayed at St Agnes Guest House, a lovely place, run by the Mothers Union. MU President Pam and team are doing such great work with the Anglican Church. We visited two satellite church communities and also spent time with the MU at All Saints Church in Honiara. The MU are incredibly inspiring, speaking out for justice through practically helping families to flourish through educational and life skills programmes.
I’ve learnt so much from the witness of all those I met, experiencing how much goodness and flourishing the religious orders and local churches bring to their surrounding communities. Melanesia is very beautiful and life incredibly fragile. The people value and do so much with so little, in comparison to what we have in Western Europe. It was a real lesson in life to value every drop of water and realise how many people throughout the world really do live without running water or electricity.
This Melanesian pilgrimage has shown me the true Agape love of God, which I’ve always experienced through times spent with Melanesian visitors to the UK. Agape love as joyfully knowing ourselves part of the global Christian community, drawn together through the depth of God’s love. I thank God for our Brothers and Sisters.
Revd Cathy Scoffield – Curate at St John the Baptist Churches, Bishops Tawton & Newport, Barnstaple, Diocese of Exeter.
It’s August, I’m home now and so nice to be back amongst my friends and my family! However, it is an incredibly strange feeling to be thrown back into a totally different environment and way of life and it’s a difficult one to try an explain what it was like. As it got closer, I’d built up the idea of coming home so much and I was so excited but when it finally arrived, it wasn’t the same picture I’d painted in my head, it wasn’t that it was not as good as I thought it would be, it was just not quite what I thought it would be like. The first week was all a bit of a blur and I think it was all a bit much to appreciate everything that I had missed so much and take it in fully. I remember sitting in front of my TV in my living room, with my 24 hour constant electricity, hot running water, and my big comfy bed and I just didn’t really know what to do with myself, I felt a wee bit lost. The things I’d been craving while I was away were suddenly not really what I wanted.
I went away to Spain for a week with my family and that was really nice just to spend some time thinking about it all and reconnecting with my Mum, Dad, Brother and Sister. That week was really helpful for just getting back used to normal life here without being overwhelmed by too many people and things at home.
Now I’m back at home and it’s so much better than it was during the first few days of my return. I’m able to take everything in a lot more and really enjoy all the things that I’d missed out on all year, like hot showers! Being back around all my friends has been one of the best things, catching up on a year’s worth of events isn’t a short conversation and trying to tell them how my year was isn’t exactly easy, as sometimes I just don’t know where to start, it’s hard to condense a year into one story. But I’m loving every minute of being with them.
Thinking about all the experiences I had throughout my year in Solomon Islands, all the things I saw, all the things I learnt and all the friends and family I made, is quite a hard concept to grasp, there’s just so much. Spending a year there was like nothing I’ve ever done before. You can’t compare it to a holiday or a long term expedition, it’s just not on the same level. I’m so glad that I chose to go over seas with Project Trust, it opened so many doors for me, started a lot of new amazing things, and helped me decide on things I didn’t really have a solution for beforehand. I sometimes wonder how different things would be now if I hadn’t volunteered with them. Now I’m home, fundamentally I don’t think I’ve changed that much as a person but I’ve just got a different view on some things and I’m a lot better at appreciating the small things in life.
However, as good as being back at home is, I miss the wee group of islands on the other side of the world that I call home, I miss being hot and sweaty 24 hours a day, I miss the beautiful ocean (that is so much warmer than the North Sea), I miss everything and everyone constantly being late and no one really caring or stressing about it, I miss riding around in the back of a truck, I miss people laughing all the time no matter the situation and most of all, I miss my Solomon Island Mums, Dads, Brothers and Sisters, my Friends and family I left over there. I guess the grass is always greener… But hey, I’ll be back one day for sure.