Christian Distinctiveness Training – Return to Melanesia

Christian Distinctiveness Training - Programme

Rev. Preb. Cate Edmonds (Exeter Diocese) and Canon Daphne Jordon (Blackburn Diocese) accompanied by technician Graham Jordon, returned to Melanesia in July for three weeks to undertake Christian Distinctiveness Training for ACoM Schools.

Daphne first went to Vanuatu in 2013 and 2014 and had visited schools, introduced the concept of a Christian Distinctiveness and Character and made recommendations to the ACoM Board of Education about further developments. Cate had been on a fact-finding Mission in 2016 and was concerned about the lack of real understanding of the distinctiveness of Anglican Schools.

Daphne’s recommendations were eventually acted upon and a volunteer from New Zealand, Joan Middlemiss, was commissioned to develop these recommendations into ACoM Education Authority Standards:

  1. Quality Education and Assessment
  2. Access and Student Services
  3. Integrate Christian Values and Holistic Development
  4. Management Systems

At a similar time funding was available from MMUK to continue the work Daphne and team had started in 2014.

Cate and Daphne were therefore commissioned to deliver two Conferences, in Honiara (S.I.) and Luganville (Santo, Vanuatu) for Principals, Teachers and Chaplains of Anglican Schools and members of the Diocesan Education Team, exploring and developing Christian Distinctiveness and Christian Character of Church Schools.

Christian Distinctiveness Training - AttendeesEach conference followed the same pattern, with a brief catch up in Luganville as a few of those present had been at the initial training in 2013/4. Some progress had been made, e.g. all Principals had mobile phones in order to keep in contact, but with changes in personnel progress had been limited.

The day began with themed Worship:

  • Who are we?
  • The Environment – God’s Creation
  • The Family of God

Attendees were asked to be children and young people and to participate in order to experience a range of ways of worshipping. They experienced different music, Bible reading and prayer and were encouraged to interact with the worship rather than observe, which was new to them, but they grew in confidence.

Following worship the hard work began and with four sessions per day over three days, there was much to cover. Each school was presented with a jigsaw puzzle which was completed over the days of the conference when each element had been introduced.

Wherever possible participants worked in their school groups and drew up new Vision and Mission Statements for their schools as well as developing Action Plans for the future.

Christian Distinctiveness Training - ParticipantsThroughout the training there was an emphasis on a Church School being a place where God was working already but where we needed to work with Him to be the best that we could in all areas of school / college life. On reflection and debate we felt that the ACoM Standards needed to be reordered and that the first should be about Christian Values and that everything else flows from this.

Participants were encouraged to look at their schools and colleges with new eyes, there was some hesitancy in doing this but gradually participants saw the value of this approach as well as finding it amusing. All our sessions were well received and participants appeared to enjoy the approaches as well as developing their skills, particularly in looking at more creative ways of delivering the curriculum and of prayer.

Christian Distinctiveness Training - Return To MelanesiaThere was much more we could have developed and although we managed to visit six schools in the Solomon’s and four in Vanuatu, it was felt that further training would be useful based in a school or college.

As well as preparing for and running the conferences we were able to make additional visits. Daphne and Graham visited TNK and the relocated, due to volcano ash in Ambae, St Patricks School. They we deeply saddened by the conditions that the school was enduring whilst awaiting a more permanent site. We also met with Melanesian Brothers who were suffering accommodation problems as well due to their Main House being destroyed in the same way on Ambae.

Cate visited Ysabel and met with Bishop Ellison and his team and also spent some time a Verana’aso working with the Novices of the Melanesian Sisters. More stories could be told by both; including Daphne and Graham experiencing two earthquakes in Vanuatu and Cate just one. A fulfilling and worthwhile trip which we would like to repeat to continue the work in the future.

Rev. Preb. Cate Edmonds (Exeter Diocese) and Canon Daphne Jordon (Blackburn Diocese)