Remembering Patteson – Amanda Parsons

Amanda Parsons - Feniton C of E Primary School with teachers from Melanesia
Amanda Parsons from Feniton C of E Primary School with teachers from Melanesia

Head of School, Amanda Parsons writes about Feniton Primary School’s, special link to Patteson and Melanesia.

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

Feniton Church of England Primary School in East Devon serves 210 pupils from the village and surrounding area. Like many rural Devon villages, it has a great community, and there is lots going on. Until recently the main A30 Exeter to London road came past the village. Along that road many a driver or passenger may have noticed a tall brick memorial, and many assumed this was a village war memorial. However, it isn’t! It is a clue to a hidden, historical story.

Since 2010 the pupils from Feniton School have studied much about a special international connection between Melanesia and Feniton. Through their study the children learn about the life of Bishop Patteson. The first Bishop of Melanesia, Patteson was martyred in the course of his duties and while he was delivering the word of the Lord. He was dedicated to the abolition of slavery and was offering love and reconciliation to islanders after slave traders had visited the island of Nukapu, Solomon Islands. He tragically lost his life at the hands of angry islanders.

The loss of Patteson’s life created ripples from Melanesia back to Devon, and in order to celebrate his life, the Patteson Memorial was built at the place Patteson last stepped from the parish.

In May 2010 the Archbishop of Melanesia, the Most Revd David Vunagi, visited Feniton School and returned to the Solomon’s with a folder of information which he gave to our partner school in Honiara, Solomon Islands, The Bishop Norman Palmer School. The main purpose of the trip was to reinforce the links between each school and their communities.

Norman Palmer School Sign

When the Otter Valley Federation started in 2012, Tipton St. John C of E Primary School became part of this unique partnership.

The relationship with Norman Palmer School in Honiara has developed through reciprocal visits between school staff and members of the church congregations.

These visits provided opportunities to share good practice and resources. Over several visits, staff from Feniton school delivered training and support to colleagues at Normal Palmer, with a focus on English teaching and exploring school leadership. The staff and pupils of the Solomons shared their culture and experiences of living with the effects of climate change.

On a visit to Feniton School, Brother Jack talked to the children about the effect of climate change on his island. The children were shocked to hear about this firsthand and to discover that Brother Jake’s home island was disappearing beneath the ocean.

A Melanesian Gospel Canoe also features in regular collective worship at school. The children read the Bible from the canoe, a powerful reminder of our shared history and Christian faith.

As an International Cross of Nails School, Feniton promotes peace and reconciliation through Christian collective worship and our curriculum. The story of Bishop Patteson unites our two countries through a shared sense of forgiveness and strong friendship.

Feniton School's Gospel Canoe
Feniton School’s Gospel Canoe

20th September 2021 marks 150 years since Bishop Patteson was killed and the school community is looking forward to marking this significant anniversary.

Head of Feniton School, East Devon, Amanda Parsons