Simply Living 2013, Lambeth Palace

The Archbishop of Canterbury to Open New Melanesia Pilgrimage Route in Devon

Saturday September 18th 2021

The Archbishop of Canterbury is to visit Devon in September to open a new pilgrimage route in honour of John Coleridge Patteson, the first Bishop of Melanesia.

The 8-mile Patteson’s Way is a joint initiative between the Melanesian Mission (MMUK) of which Archbishop Justin Welby is President, local school children and the Diocese of Exeter.

This year marks 150 years since Patteson, who grew up in Feniton in East Devon, was killed for his faith in 1871, after travelling from Devon to Melanesia as a Christian missionary in 1855.

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
Credit: World Council of Churches

The Diocese of Exeter is linked with the Anglican Province of Melanesia which covers the South Pacific nations of the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

Today Christians in the islands revere Patteson as a martyr and many regard his family home and churches in Devon as places of pilgrimage.

The Right Reverend Mark Rylands, an assistant bishop in the Diocese of Exeter and Chair of MMUK, said “The Archbishop of Canterbury’s visit to Devon is a wonderful tribute to the witness and ministry of a great missionary.

“150 years ago, Patteson’s endeavours helped to birth a Melanesian Church that is numerically and spiritually vibrant today. Now, they are ready, willing and able to help us in the UK to renew our Christian faith and tread more lightly upon the earth.”

St Andrew’s Church, Feniton
St Andrew’s Church, Feniton

The new circular pilgrimage route begins and ends at St Andrew’s Church in Feniton. It also includes St James and St Anne, Alfington, where Patteson was first a priest, St Mary’s, Ottery St Mary, which has a Melanesian Chapel, and Patteson’s Cross, a memorial sited where Patteson left Devon by stagecoach on his journey to Melanesia.

Patteson's Cross, East Devon
Patteson’s Cross, East Devon

During his visit on 18 September, Archbishop Justin will do part of the walk with local families before preaching at a special service at Exeter Cathedral.

Katie Drew, MMUK’s Executive Officer, said “The legacy of Patteson lives on, not only in Melanesia, but in Devon. So many of his values and concerns speak to us today – hidden slavery, black lives matter and care of the environment.

“We hope this new pilgrimage route will enable people to reflect on Patteson’s life, mission and courage, and bring a little bit of Melanesia to walkers in the beautiful East Devon Countryside.”

The Reverend David Carrington, vicar of St Andrew’s, Feniton, said “I am sure Bishop Patteson could not have imagined what would grow from his missionary work. He simply followed his calling and sowed in faith and love.”

MMUK, which is based in Devon, also works to highlight the effects of climate change in Melanesia, where some islands are already succumbing to rising sea levels. Mark Rylands said the Melanesia link was an opportunity for Christians in the UK to make a difference in the fight against climate change “We, in MMUK, do all we can to help the people of Melanesia with disaster relief funding, resourcing vital research and facing the impact of global warming. We are a family 10,000 miles apart – brothers and sisters in Christ supporting one another.”

Diocese of Exeter