Category: News

Becky Jacobs at Patteson's Cross

Remembering Patteson – Becky Jacobs

Bishop John Coleridge Patteson attended the King’s School in Ottery St Mary, near his family’s home, before going away to boarding school at Eton. In memory of Patteson, today one of the school’s four houses is named after him. Here Head of Patteson House, Mrs Becky Jacobs, explains why Patteson still inspires her and the King’s pupils today.

Becky Jacobs at Patteson's Cross
Becky Jacobs with students from Patteson House at the rededication of Patteson’s Cross in 2017, attended by the Rt Revd Ellison Quity and the Most Revd Leonard Dawea

I became Head of Patteson House at the King’s School, Ottery St Mary in January 2010. I was instantly intrigued by the man who was our figurehead and as an historian wanted to know all about him. I have tried to read as much as possible about him and use this information to try to translate to my students some of Patteson’s values and aspirations. I love the fact that education was at the heart of Patteson’s life and he sought not only to educate others but at a time when it was very much a privilege.  I am delighted too that he tried to include women as well as men in his quest. This was forward thinking for the 19th century.

I am fascinated with Patteson’s journey to the other side of the world and the remoteness he must have felt. I wonder if he missed East Devon. I have never been to the Solomon Islands, maybe one day I will go there. I have an image of this tall, bearded man wading ashore at Nakapu with gifts and then being tragically struck down. I am immensely proud that Patteson was an anti-slavery pioneer. Other houses at the King’s school cannot necessarily testify to the great character of their figureheads but we can…like the suffragettes Patteson’s colour (green) suggests growth and development. Again and again, education and personal belief is all important. I am proud to be able to talk about Patteson in assembly and show he is so incredibly relevant today. I can use him as a role model for students, someone who expressed a need to learn continually and someone willing to take risk, to travel and to learn about other cultures.

I have pinned my colours firmly to the mast as Head of Patteson at the King’s school. I ALWAYS wear something green every day, have some wonderful banners and I talk about Patteson’s memory often.  I was really proud that my students raised over £100, four years ago to help towards cleaning up the memorial at Patteson’s Cross. I also remember several years ago abseiling down Feniton Church tower to raise money for causes in the Solomon Islands, a great experience!

Becky Jacobs with ACoM staff
Becky Jacobs with ACoM’s General Secretary Dr Abraham Hauriasi and Mission Secretary Fr Nigel Kelaepa on a visit to the King’s School

I hope later in the year to inspire students to find a 21st century equivalent to Patteson, to partner his ideas and aspiration in the modern age. Having said that, Patteson belongs as much in the 21st century as he did in the 19th. I could not be prouder than to have this person as our House figurehead at The King’s School.

Becky Jacobs
Head of Patteson House and Teacher of History and Politics
The King’s School, Ottery St Mary, Devon

The King’s School is formally linked with the Bishop Norman Palmer School in the Solomon Islands. There have been teacher exchanges and visits, and pupils have exchanged letters and worked on joint environmental projects.

Bishop of Guadalcanal. The Rt Rev. Benedict Loe

Consecration and Installation of Revd Benedict Loe into the Office of Bishop

The Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Melanesia the Most Revd Leonard Dawea officiated at the Consecration and Installation service of the new Bishop of Guadalcanal, assisted by the Bishop of the Diocese of Central Solomons, the Rt. Rev Ben Seka and Bishop of the Diocese of Ysabel, the Rt Rev Ellison Quity and other retired Bishops.

Bishop of Guadalcanal. The Rt Rev. Benedict Loe
Bishop of Guadalcanal. The Rt Rev. Benedict Loe

Archbishop Christopher Cardone of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Honiara was the preacher at this historical ceremony.

Amongst many other points mentioned in his first address as the new Bishop of Guadalcanal; The Rt Rev. Benedict Loe highlighted the need for his clergy and lay people to come together and refloat or restrengthen the work of the ninth ship (diocese) within ACoM.

Around five thousand church goers both from the Diocese of Guadalcanal, Diocese of Central Melanesia and sister churches came to witness the ceremony despite heavy down pour a day before. Close to one hundred traditional gifts of foods (chupu) were prepared in this historical event.

  • Most Revd Leonard Dawea & The Rt Rev. Benedict Loe
  • Installation of Revd Benedict Loe into the Office of Bishop
  • Welcome ceremony
  • Most Revd Leonard Dawea & The Rt Rev. Benedict Loe
  • His Excellency the Governor General Sir David Vunagi & Lady Mary
  • Clergy & Members of the Religious Orders

Photos from the Consecration and Installation of the Right Reverend Benedict Loe as the second Bishop of the Diocese of Guadalcanal at Good Shephard Cathedral, Foxwood, East Guadalcanal, Sunday 28th February 2021.

Previously; New Bishop of Guadalcanal.

ACoM Communications

Religious Life Sunday in The Solomon Islands

Religious Communities – February 2021 Update

The Society of St Francis

Religious Life Sunday in The Solomon Islands
Religious Life Sunday in The Solomon Islands

On Sunday 14th February, Religious Life Sunday, was celebrated by the Anglican religious orders in the Solomon Islands at the Society of St Francis (SFF) Friary, La Verna. Brother Francis has sent us a report, along with a report from SSF’s Christmas mission.

SSF – Religious Life Sunday
SSF – Christmas Mission December 2020


The Sisters of the Community of the Church

Revd Sr Veronica sends news from the Sisters – Greetings from the Sisters of the Church in the Solomons Islands.  As we begin another year, may we be reminded of God’s leading and direction this year in 2021.

CSC – February 2021 Update

Patteson’s Cross, Nukapu

Remembering Patteson – Revd Sr Veronica CSC

Patteson’s Cross, Nukapu
Patteson’s Cross, Nukapu

‘Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it”.’ Mark 8: 34 – 36. This is the gospel reading chosen for Bishop John Coleridge Patteson’s Feast Day.

I firmly believe that these words of Jesus are ingrained and embedded in the life and ministry of Bishop Patteson. They show how he lived out his life for the sake of the people of Melanesia, and I am counted as one of those. In his diary, quoted by Margaret Cropper in Flame Touches Flame, are the words, ‘I feel the sense of responsibility deepening on me. I must go out to work without Selwyn, and very anxious I am sometimes, and almost oppressed by it. But strength will come and it is not one’s work, which is a comfort; and if I fail – which is very likely – God will place some other man in my position, and the work will go on, whether in my hands or not, and that is the real point’.

Revd Sr Veronica CSC, Alfington, Devon
Revd Sr Veronica CSC, presiding at St James & St Anne Alfington, Devon, where Bishop Patteson served his curacy before travelling to Melanesia

Having visited Bishop Patteson’s home and the church where he did his curacy, I was overcome by the fact of the Bishop leaving his comfortable dwelling to live as a homeless stranger in these islands. Spreading the Gospel was more vital to him than living in a comfortable home. Where would we be if Bishop Patteson had not made the sacrifice? Would we be still living in darkness without Christ? We owe a lot to the bishop for denying himself and taking risks for our sake. We are the very fruit of his sacrificial life and the shedding of his blood. This role model of Bishop Patteson challenges us Melanesians. Are we prepared to deny ourselves and to take up our cross for the sake of the gospel? Is the Gospel at the very heart of our lives and our ministry? If it is at the heart of our lives and our ministry, then we too will experience the joy of spreading the good news to our neighbours and living it out in our lives, families and parishes. God’s word is alive and active and we must feed on it daily. It is powerful in that it transforms and shapes our lives as believers in God.

Revd Sr Veronica CSC, Patteson’s Cross, East Devon
Revd Sr Veronica CSC, Patteson’s Cross, East DevonRevd Sr Veronica at Patteson’s Cross, East Devon

An item in this week’s news was shocking. A man was accused of sorcery and his feet and hands were bound together and were chopped off. It happened on one of the islands near where Bishop Patteson’s life was laid down. This shows that there is still much to do here in Melanesia in ministry among our people and we need to work very hard.

Our Community is working with women and children who are the victims of domestic violence. It is very sad that we call ourselves a Christian country, but domestic violence is very high in our towns, villages and homes. Although terrible things may happen in our country, we must overcome evil with good, as the Bishop left us the model. As Christians, we need to revisit our mission among our people in our islands. We must deny ourselves for the sake of the gospel. ‘Patteson’s murder was brutal, but it proved to be the seed of the Melanesian Church which grew and continues to grow from strength to strength’. Bishop Patteson brought the Good News to us. May nothing overwhelm the light of Christ within us.

Revd Sr Veronica CSC

Sister Frances Murphy, Sisters of the Church

Eulogy – Sister Frances Murphy CSC

Sister Frances Murphy, Sisters of the Church

Sr Helen CSC, writes the Eulogy for Sr Frances, who died in January. Sr Frances was the Sister-in-Charge of the first house of the Community of the Sisters of the Church in the Solomon Islands in 1970.

I met Frances Murphy, when we were both members of the choir at Christ Church St Laurence, Sydney around 1959. It was not long after our meeting that Frances entered the novitiate at Perth College, Perth on May 30, 1960. Perth College was a boarding and day school for girls run by the Sisters, as well as the Australian training place for women wishing to test their vocation to be a Sister in the Community of the Sisters of the Church.

After some months as a postulant, Frances was clothed as a novice on December 15, 1960, taking the name of Valerie because there had already been a Frances in the Community. Some years later she was allowed to return to her name ‘Frances’. I joined the same novitiate at Perth College in January 1961.

In August 1962 Frances travelled to the novitiate of the Community in England. To go to England to be professed was the usual procedure for novices in Australia at that time. I travelled to England in January 1964, in time to be present at Frances’ profession on February 8, 1964. This was when she made her life vows, received her black veil (replacing the white veil of a novice), silver cross and gold ring. She also moved to the Junior Sisters’ room in the large Convent and had different activities – no more ringing the rising bell early in the morning to wake everyone up! For Frances!

I was professed in April 1964, so briefly we were together again, as Junior Sisters. One of the worst moments of that time was accompanying Frances while she was learning to drive. It was definitely frightening. One of the most enjoyable was when we were both sent to Walsingham to represent our Community at a celebration of the Sisters of the Priory of Our Lady of Walsingham. Our ability to sing proved valuable as we were asked to assist the Sisters’ choir at the Eucharist, because some Sisters had difficulty singing the right notes.

Frances left England in 1965 for Hobart, where she was the housekeeper and did some teaching in the school. In August 1966, Frances, Faith, Gillian and I began a new house at 36 Hereford St. Glebe. We were following the ideals of Charles de Foucauld and the life of the Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus of the Roman Catholic Church in Algeria and France. The ministry was to live and work alongside others, often doing manual work, and by sharing friendship. Frances worked for a while as an untrained nursing-aide at the small local hospital making beds etc., and did some housework for neighbours.

In 1969 Frances went to England for her Solemn Profession when she ratified her life vows and the Community accepted her for life. On the way she visited the Solomon Islands. This stop over was significant as our Community had been invited to start a new house in the Solomons, along with a men’s community, the Society of Saint Francis.

A decision was soon made by the Community to open a house in the Solomons. Frances was appointed Sister-in-Charge of the house and Sisters Beryl and Helen Jane were chosen to be with her. They all had a term together at the missionary College of the Ascension, Selly Oak, Birmingham, England that gave them some guidance on how to live in a country with a different culture, before they flew to Australia and caught a cargo ship to Honiara in December 1970.

In the Solomons the Sisters began Bible studies and Sunday Schools, and visited people in the hospital, prison, and their homes. Frances travelled to various islands in the Solomons telling people about the Sisters and what it would mean for those who wished to join the Community. In 1973 a suitable place was found in a coconut plantation about 14 km. from Honiara where buildings planned by Frances such as dormitory, dining room and chapel, were erected from bush material with corrugated iron roofing to house the women who wished to become Sisters in our Community. Frances was in charge of this place which was called Tetete ni Kolivuti, ‘Hill of Prayer’ in the local language.

An animal population also appeared under Frances’ direction, consisting of guard dogs (sort of), cats to catch the local rats, goats to provide milk, fowls to produce eggs and meat, and later a pig or two. To feed those coming to stay, vegetable gardens were begun as well as flower gardens to make the buildings look attractive. Frances managed to be the driving force behind the establishment of this house even while coping with health problems such as leg ulcers, boils and various bouts of colds and flu.

Sister Frances Murphy, Sisters of the Church

In 1977 Frances was elected the Mother Superior of our Community and moved to England to take up the role. She was blessed as Mother Superior on this day, 2nd February, in 1978. At the time Frances wrote, “I won’t be too sorry to leave (the Solomons), as I feel my work is done here – at least the spade-work has been done.” While Mother Superior, Frances travelled around visiting the Sisters where they were living in England, Canada, Australia and the Solomon Islands, and represented the Community at meetings with the heads of other Religious Communities in England. Frances brought new ideas and ministry to birth during her 10 years in this role, before returning to Australia in 1988.

On Frances’ journey back to Australia, she spent 6 weeks in Israel, and attended a course at St George’s College, Jerusalem. On arriving in Sydney she became part of the household at 96 Hereford St Glebe, where the Sisters from 36 Hereford St moved in 1986 as it had more room for guests. From 1990-1996 Frances was Sister-in-Charge at Glebe and the Australia-Pacific Provincial.

A quieter time for Frances followed when she spent short periods at a cottage in the Blue Mountains and let it out to clergy and church workers in need of a rest. The Glebe house was closed in 2001 and Frances moved to an apartment on Parramatta Road, Camperdown. She was involved in the life of several churches, chiefly St Stephens, Newtown where she was a parish reader. In 2014, because of failing health, Frances moved to The Sister Anne Court in Surry Hills. Her health continued to deteriorate until her death on January 26, 2021.

And I add words taken from The Rule of the Community (adapted). Frances has travelled through all the changing circumstances of her life, and now in her death is made fully one with God at last. Amen.

Sister Helen CSC

Community of the Sisters of Melanesia

Community of the Sisters of the Church – February 2021 Update

In early February UK Associates and supporters held their first joint online service with the Community of the Sisters of Melanesia.

A report from the CSM Administrator, Flory;

Welcome Associates.

First and foremost, thank God for bringing us together as Associates and supporters in mission and team work, serving our God through the work of the Church and the work of the Sisters of Melanesia.

I would like to thank The ACoM General Secretary – Dr. Abraham Hauriasi, the IT person in Charge, Mr. Julian and the Communication Officer Mr. Aldrin for providing access to the Conference Room to make this call. For without them, this event would not be possible.

Associates, we are honored to have the pleasure to join you to talk about the Chapel Development and other news from CSM.

The Chapel Development

The Chapel has been planned since 2018 through a committee of five Sisters, four Lay people and the CSM Chaplain, who meet monthly.

For the first two years, the committee focused on fundraising drives, through envelope giving, ACoM Grants, and oversee donations from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Fund, MMUK, UK Associates, Anglican Aid Australia and other individuals, totaling SD$773,543.02 – around £70,000.00.

With regards to the major construction, we are still waiting upon the detail list of material break downs for the Chapel. The architects have informed the Chapel Committee, that the Chapel will need a steel frame. That will cost more money, but due to the site location on the hill, it needs to be well constructed. We estimate another SD$200,000 to complete the project (£18,000).

So far, we have completed the demolition stage and by March, when we hope the rains will lesson, the major construction work on the building will begin. We assume that almost 50% – 60% of the chapel will be completed this year.

Thank you once again for all your support for this project.

We estimate another SD$200,000 to complete the project (£18,000)

COMMUNITY OF THE SISTERS OF MELANESIA

New Chapel Appeal for The Community of the Sisters of Melanesia

Other News

3rd Year Novices in two groups undertook their field work practical in the Diocese of Ysabel, in Russell Islands and in Bugotu Districts in Ysabel.

Kia Associates in Ysabel Diocese are currently planning a new CSM Household in Kia. The proposed Household has been discussed and endorsed during the past CSM General Conferences. I am pleased to be part of this Household Development Committee.   

Due to demand for the mission of the CSM, The Head Sister has been requested by the Bishop of the Southern Region in Malaita to be part of his annual Episcopal tour to visit another proposed site for another Household. Continue to pray for this event.

Training

One of the main and important needs of the Community is for additional training The CSM is thankful for the invitation initiated by the Melanesian brotherhood to train three CSM reps to further their knowledge and skills on tutoring and Literacy Skills for the training of Novices. The Novices in training will start their first term classes on 9th February, with a retreat to be held on Monday 8th February.   The aim of the Literacy training Program is to help the Novices to be able to read, write, and further their knowledge with other Biblical & theological courses in equipping them for their future Mission of the Church.

The Associate Handbook, The Sisterhood Office book and the Constitution of the CSM is currently under review. Please continue to pray for the review committees.      

Once again Associates and supporters, thank you for your time and patience. May God continue to bless us in our works and mission in supporting the work of the CSM and the Church, in building up the Kingdom of God here on earth.

Tagio Tumas

Flory, Community of the Sisters of Melanesia

Marie Schlenker

New Intern – Marie Schlenker

Marie Schlenker has recently joined MMUK as an intern and will support our team over the next three months. Marie is passionate about reducing inequalities in this world through sharing and caring for God’s creation. During her placement she will focus on creating new opportunities for environmental education and practical climate action.

Marie Schlenker

In her role as an intern at MMUK, Marie will take the lead in developing a climate change course for the students at the theological colleges in Melanesia, which will equip the next generation of priests with the necessary skills to incorporate climate change into their teachings and set up environment observatories in their local communities. Furthermore, she will network to increase opportunities for wider audiences in Melanesia and the UK to get involved in practical climate action, which is essential to ensure that our friends in Melanesia today and our next generations in the UK can continue to hope for a bright future.  

Marie Schlenker

Marie has a background in science and is working towards her PhD at the University of Southampton, studying climate change impacts and community relocations in Solomon Islands. With the support of MMUK and ACoM, she conducted research in remote communities in Solomon Islands in 2019, visiting the Provinces of Guadalcanal and Malaita. Furthermore, she is involved in the design and implementation of citizen-based environmental monitoring within the ACoM Environment Observatory. Before starting her PhD, Marie completed a Masters degree in Environmental Physics and volunteered as a teacher in Chile.

Bishop Elect of Hanuato'o - Rev Arthur Stanley

Revd Arthur Stanley Abui – Bishop Elect Of Hanuato’o

Bishop Elect of Hanuato'o - Rev Arthur Stanley

The Diocese of Hanuato’o’s Electoral Board has elected the Revd Arthur Stanley Abui as the fourth Bishop for the Diocese of Hanuato’o (DOH) in Makira Ulawa Province. The consecration will be held at the diocesan Cathedral, Saint Peter Cathedral, Kira Kira on 21st March 2021.

Revd Arthur was elected on Friday 22nd January at Hautabu, the headquarters of the Society of Saint Franciscan Brothers, near Selwyn College, west Guadalcanal, and succeeds the Right Reverend Alfred Karibongi, who retired in June 2020.

Revd Arthur is currently serving as the Mission Secretary of the Diocese of Hanuato’o, a post he has held since 2019. Prior to that he was a Chaplain at Saint Stephen Community College, Pamua in the Diocese of Hanuato’o 2014 to 2016. He also held several other posts in the Diocesan office since 2009.

Revd Arthur was ordained Priest on 8th December 2002, and began his priesthood ministry for three years serving as Parish Priest in East Arosi. In 2006 he was appointed Evangelism Coordinator and later became the Diocesan Mission Secretary in 2010.

Revd Arthur holds a Masters of Theology in Church Ministry from the Pacific Theological College, Suva fiji and a Degree in Church Ministry from BPTC, Kohimarama.

Revd Arthur comes from Heraniau village in Arosi 1, west Makira and is married to Rebecca Abui from Heuru village also in Arosi 1, West Makira and they have four children.

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

ACoM Communications

Archbishop Leonard Dawea

New Year Greetings

Archbishop Leonard Dawea
Archbishop Leonard Dawea

Greetings and blessings of 2021 to you all, friends of the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACoM). Despites the persisting gloom of the global pandemic, may you continue to undertake your mandates under the protecting hands of our Almighty God. 

May I render on behalf of ACoM immense gratitude and acknowledgement to you for all your support in 2020. Though our historical relationship underscores reciprocity in spiritual and physical support, it is obvious that ACoM, in notable degree, weighs heavier as recipient of practical support from you. That has been the trend over the many years the relationship has existed up until 2020; a year globally acknowledged as difficult. ACoM gives thanks and praise to God for the wisdom to give birth to such a relationship and those who have made it workable and beneficial on both ends over the years up to the present. You are true friends and mission partners for the glory of God and his word of saving grace.

During this dark spell over the global community, as true friends and partners, we offer and welcome that spiritual embrace through prayers for each other. Truly we have been denied that physical visitation and presence, but nothing surpasses the prayers and thoughts genuine friends and partners give each other even from distance. ACoM holds you and the communion family unceasingly in prayers.

Let me just provide you with some updates on the upcoming events of ACoM. This month, the Electoral Board will assemble at Hautabu to elect a new bishop for the Diocese of Hanuatoó. On 28th February, we will have the consecration and installation of the Rev. Benedict Loe as the second Bishop of the Diocese of Guadalcanal. The consecration and installation of the new Bishop of Hanuatoó takes place on 21st March at St. Peter’s Cathedral, Kirakira. It is important to have the new bishops installed early to allow progress in their respective dioceses. Ideally, the first three months of this year see these major events. We will then wrap up this year with the General Synod in November.

The Southern Cross
The Southern Cross

In brief, let me inform you of certain ACoM’s ongoing projects. The Southern Cross has been agreed by both the Council of Bishops and Management Board to go on tender. While some ACoM members have raised concerns of deep affection and connection to it, the need for a bigger boat is obvious considering the unpredictable weather patterns emanating from the climate change. The proposed new Provincial office complex in Honiara has not started yet. A small committee composed of staff members was appointed to oversee this project. They are putting together a concept design and site clearing plans before actual work can begin, hopefully this year. Another huge undertaking is the JCP University project which has been around in the Church for almost two decades. Currently there is obvious enthusiasm to push it forward with the involvement of some prominent laities and academics of our Church. Aside from these, there are ongoing projects in the Board of Mission and Education departments.

COVID Awareness Sessions
COVID Awareness Sessions

On COVID 19 situation, both Solomon Islands and Vanuatu lost their COVID-19-free statues late last year. Following the repatriation of our citizens abroad, Solomon Islands in a very relatively short space of time recorded seventeen cases. Vanuatu still record a smaller number in comparison to Solomon Islands. Both Countries are managing well to contain the cases within the quarantine centers. According to the Prime Minister’s nationwide address this week, out of the seventeen, only two still remain positive in Solomon Islands. The two are among the footballers who returned from England last year. While we all acknowledge that it still far from over, life in the two countries is fairly normal despites the lingering fear and cautiousness.

We will continue to uphold each other in prayers, knowing that when the world seemingly fails us, God remains truthful to his promises to be with us. He comes to us on Christmas in the thickness of not just the bleak winter, but also the darkness of the COVID -19. Against that backdrop, he came and lived among us; he is Emmanuel. He is with us, not just literally with us, but supporting us through all manner of situations. As always, please continue to uphold the events and projects of ACoM in your prayers.

God bless our friendship and partnership always.

Thank you

The Most Rev Leonard Dawea, Archbishop of Melanesia

ACoM Communications

Patteson's Cross, Nukapu Island

Remembering Patteson – Rt Revd Willie A Pwaisiho

This year in September we will be celebrating the life and ministry of John Coleridge Patteson, first Bishop of Melanesia, on the 150th anniversary of his martyrdom.

In a new series we will be reflecting on Patteson’s ministry and his legacy for Melanesians and Christians around the world today. Bishop Willie writes our first article, on how he grew up knowing and being inspired by Patteson.

Patteson Portrait, Lambeth Palace
Patteson Portrait, Lambeth Palace

I first heard of the name Bishop John Coleridge Patteson in 1960, when I attended a junior primary school named after him on South Malaita, where I come from and as two teachers there were also named Patteson. There we celebrated the feast of Bishop and martyr every year, as we still do in Melanesia, with feasting, drama and traditional dancing in our custom dress and attire.

The story of Patteson’s martyrdom was retold, preached and acted out in drama the years I was at school from 1960 until 1974, the year I left college for my training for the priesthood.

The most lasting memory of our beloved bishop and martyr for me, is our present Bishop Patteson Theological Centre, Kohimarama, where we have trained all our priests, catechists and lay church workers in evangelism, mission and ministry since 1969.

In the year 1971, my first year at BPTC, we celebrated the centenary of our Bishop’s martyrdom. First was the laying of the foundation stone of our College Chapel by Sir John Gutch. Sir John was the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific and was based in Honiara from1955 to 1960. He wrote a book to mark the Centenary of the martyrdom: “Martyr of the Islands – The life and death of John Coleridge Patteson”.

The College staff and students also did a presentation at St. Barnabas Cathedral, with a drama enacting the story of the life of Bishop Patteson, leading worship with hymns under the direction of Mrs. Muriel Jones, our Warden’s wife, who was excellent in drama.

We had various church dignitaries from New Zealand and Australia visiting us during the Centenary year at college, preaching historical sermons on the evolution of the Church in the Pacific. It was very moving when the Archbishop of Melbourne apologised for the black birding done by Australians that led to the martyrdom of Patteson and his companions on the Island of Nukapu.

The Text he preached on was John Chapter 4 verse 38: “I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labour.”

It is a fitting text every time we celebrate the feast day of our Bishop and martyr including other founding fathers and mothers of the mission.

From 1977 to 1978 I served my curacy in Mission Bay Parish, Auckland Diocese. The parish church at Kohimarama, Mission Bay was dedicated to the Martyrs of Melanesia, and one of the main roads in the parish is known as Patteson Avenue, I walked along that avenue every morning and evening to church.

Another memory of our beloved Bishop Patteson is here in the UK at Exeter cathedral, his home diocese, where the pulpit in his memory depicting his martyrdom is so powerful.  Standing in the parish church at Alfington where he served as a curate before he left for Melanesia and visiting his family’s home in Feniton, is like walking on holy ground.

The Martyrs' Pulpit, Exeter Cathedral
The Martyrs’ Pulpit, Exeter Cathedral

The same thing could be said when visiting Merton College, where he was a Fellow. Touching his prayer desk gave me that connection with this holy man whose faith in God and his sacrificial love has touched us in Melanesia in a way that is so powerful even 150 years later. The inscription on his memorial on the Island of Nukapu reads “His life was taken by men, for whose sake he would willingly have given it.”

There is a feeling of guilt on our part in Melanesia every time we celebrate the feast of Bishop Patteson and yet there is much celebration and rejoicing at the same time, as if evil has been conquered and defeated by the death of Bishop Patteson.

Bishop Patteson is a saint according to Melanesia. He is honoured by many village churches that are dedicated in his memory. Also, schools and names of people bear the name in every generation.

We have great admiration for Bishop Patteson’s solid faith and witness for the gospel, a living legacy that we inherited by his death. I believe that has rubbed off on us to be missionary minded and outgoing. We have seen this most recently in the martyrdom of seven Melanesian Brothers and the growth of our four religious orders: SSF. CSC, MBH and CSM.

Bishop Patteson was truly a servant and disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave his whole life for the Gospel and for Melanesia. He was a shining star from God, who touched the lives of many in Melanesia in the past, today and in years to come.

And in his honour we say with the whole Church in heaven and on earth:

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be.
World without end.
Amen.

The Rt Revd Willie A Pwaisiho