In 2018 our Diocese remembered the 30th Anniversary of our Diocesan Link with the Anglican Church of Melanesia. Head Brother Nelson Bako and his Section Elder Brother at Tabalia, Brother Michael Bosawai visited the UK to meet and inspire Companions and friends and were present at our celebration day at Foxhill, our Diocesan Retreat Centre. Our Chaplain Father Richard was also present, along with members of the Pwaisiho Family and two Sisters of the Church. All these Solomon Islanders, I include Father Richard as a Solomon Islander, brought their love and joy of living with them. Father Richard celebrated the Eucharist and Head Brother spoke to us. The Brothers brought a gift of a large cross, constructed by a Brother, for this anniversary at Foxhill. Father Richard interviewed our guests and we has some lovely Melanesian singing, a special day for all at Foxhill. Our two Brothers spent a week in Chester and were able to visit Bishop Peter and Head Brother Nelson visited the University of Chester, from where he graduated in 2011. Section Elder Brother Michael, who has studied agriculture in the Western Province was very happy when Revd Canon Ian Davenport arranged a visit to a farm and a primary school in Malpas, Cheshire. They worshipped at the Cathedral and fitted in visits to St Bridget’s Primary School, West Kirby and Woodchurch High School, with a urban farm situated on a housing estate, both schools being linked with schools in the Solomon Islands. In addition, they visited the Sisters of Jesus Way who are supporting the Sisters of Melanesia. Our Sisters have recently sent books to the Sisters and tools to the Brotherhood which have been much appreciated. The Brothers were able to come to Holy Island on our annual pilgrimage to remember Ini Korpuria, their founder. The Brothers and 20 Companions were led across the sands by our Chaplain.
Chester Companions are able to send funds to provide lunches for Novices at Tabalia every quarter. We aim to meet close to those Feast Days that the Brothers remember. Our best attended meeting has always been on the Feast Day of SS Simon and Jude because for many years this has been hosted by Bishop Willie and Mummie Kate at Gawsworth. Bishop Willie retired at the beginning of this year and they have moved a mile or two down the road to the village of Henbury. The Pwaisihos have been so generous in their friendship, advice and feasting and we wish them a happy retirement and are glad they are still nearby.
We are grateful to Bishop Peter and our Diocese who have been able to help when crises arise as in Vanuatu when the regional HQ has to evacuate their beautiful island of Ambae and relocate at Beau on the island of Malo, where they started with nothing.
The Companions were pleased to welcome Bishop James Tema of Vanuatu and New Caledonia and Bishop Rickson Maomaoru of Malaita and Bishop Peter hosted a supper party for his senior staff and Companions. The two Bishops met with former Dean Stephen Smalley who opened Chester Rest House in1994 and has corresponded with Bishop Rickson since then.
Plans are in hand to have a Martyrs Chapel in Chester Cathedral; this is for modern martyrs and Companions and Brothers are working with the Cathedral.
Three Companions have passed away in the last 12 months, namely Revd Margaret Jones, Jane Bartlett and Sally Spencer, our Chester Companions Secretary. Sally died suddenly and was well known by Brothers who came to UK and all our Companions. A very keen MU member, sang in her church choir, helped at Messy Church, gave lifts, and hosted Bishops and Brothers. She was never late and never too busy to lend a hand, helping to pack and transport boxes for shipments, a perfect friend, sharing joys and sorrows. She is much missed. In addition, we have mourned the sudden passing of Sister Marie, one of the founder members of the Sisters of Jesus Way. She was very happy to give me books to send to the CSM sisters only last December.
We give thanks to our Chaplain Revd Richard Carter for his example and his encouragement.
We thank God for our Melanesian Brothers and Sisters, from whom we can learn so much.
For these and all his mercies may God’s holy name be praised.