For six weeks this summer, I travelled to Solomon Islands to experience the Anglican Church and religious orders on the other side of the world. Having left Europe only once before in my life there was little that could prepare me for this life-changing experience.
Before leaving home, I felt trepidation; would I be safe? Would I enjoy myself? How homesick was I going to get? I didn’t expect to see a whole new perspective on my faith and the church into which I will be ordained in 2 years.
Week One: I stayed in Verana’aso with the Melanesian Sisters. Living without running water or electricity was a shock at first, but the wonderful hospitality of the sisters eased the transition! I was delighted by the fresh fruit such as mangoes straight from the tree, and the wonderful sunrises, sunsets and starry skies.
The offices were the rhythm of each day for me, interspersed with attending the Youth Convention at Selwyn College. I’m currently a student at Selwyn College, Cambridge so it was a great experience to attend bible studies and worship at our sister institution!
I sometimes struggled with the theology taught in the bible study classes, mainly because it was a lot more conservative than I am used to. This was a consistent paradigm shift for me over the course of my trip: namely, what does it mean to be ‘in communion’ with other Anglican churches, and how can the worldwide church live together with our differences in integrity? I believe I have a much better idea of what binds us together as an Anglican communion due to my time in Solomon Islands.
I spent week two in Tabalia with the Melanesian Brotherhood. This week was quieter than the week at Verana’aso, but the worship was louder! I loved to wake up for morning prayer and then to be truly woken up by the singing there.
I enjoyed chatting to the novices and walking along the beach with them. I visited Kohimarama and chatted to students, I edited Brother Christom’s thesis from which I learned a lot about the challenges facing those brothers who transition from life in the order to life in the laity.
Week Three was spent at TNK with the Sisters of the Church. Meeting Sr Veronica was wonderful and talking to her about the joys and challenges of being a woman who is ordained to the priesthood in Solomon Islands was very illuminating.
Week Four on Ysabel was a real highlight of my trip, from the beautiful location of the rest-house where I stayed in Jejevo, to the amazing hospitality I received from local people, inside and outside the church.
I went to an ordination in a town called Nareabu, followed by a feast. This amazing community event was a tremendously spiritual experience for me, reminding me of our call as Christians to serve and be served by one another.
Finally, I spent a week in Honiara, visiting the local schools, the cathedral, attending a celebration for Makira day, and saying goodbye to the friends from the religious communities that I had made during my stay. I also managed on a free day to go scuba diving which was incredible!
My time in Solomon Islands was life changing. I loved to see how others live their lives in such a different way to the one I am living, and yet we are joined together in the Anglican Communion, and the Christian Church. The friends I made will remain in my heart forever, and the experience will inform my ministry. I have learned the benefits of living slowly, welcoming openly and worshipping loudly!
Thank you MMUK for this opportunity, and for all your help and support throughout this once in a lifetime experience.