As a form six student from Selwyn College, Honiara and originally from the island of Nukapu, where the first bishop of Melanesia shed his blood, I would like to share some of the historical story of Bishop John Coleridge Patteson, which my Grandmother has shared with me.
This short brief knowledge was passed to me, through my family from my great, great, great Grandmother whose name was Nivai from the island of Nukapu. On September 20th 1871 the Southern Cross (mission boat) sailed to Nukapu Island. During that time a village chief came down to the beach and welcomed Bishop John Coleridge Patteson into the village. He took him to a single house and let the Bishop rest while he went to the neighbouring villagers to explain to them who Bishop Patteson was.
In his absence the Chief told a young boy to take care of the Bishop while he rested. During the Chief’s absence some of the villagers were angry due to five of their young men from the Island being stolen or taken away by a blackbirding ship a few days before the Southern Cross arrived at Nukapu. The young men’s relatives were still angry so they decided to kill any white men that arrived on their shores. As soon as Bishop Patteson was resting in the house, a man named Teadule came creeping in and hit the Bishop’s head with a heavy stick. The Bishop died instantly. The other angry young men took their arrows and shot them at the ship. The arrows hit Stephen Taroniara as well and he died.
The Chief and his relatives were very sad. A woman named Nivai, my relative, dug a hole to bury Bishop Patteson. She took the body and wanted to bury it, but then they called from the ship that Bishop Patteson’s body must be taken back to them. So my relative put the body of Patteson on a wooden craft and pushed it out to the ship. The crew took the body and buried him at sea.
I am sad that the Bishop’s body was not buried safely on the island of Nukapu. Today if you go to Nukapu Island you will still see the hole which my relative had dug and the cross to remember the Bishop’s death. The Bishop’s death on Nukapu led many people on the island and across the region of Temotu to become Anglicans. Also, most Nukapu people and the diocese of Temotu have put Patteson saints into their local churches.
I have great pride that my tribe has passed down to us, the younger generations, this historical story and my relative’s part in caring for Patteson’s dead body.
I offer this short prayer;
Thank you for Bishop Patteson’s parents, for allowing their son to be the first Bishop of Melanesia. Without them there would be no Christianity on the islands of Melanesia.
Thank you Lord for Nukapu people and forgive their past sins.
Let us always remember Bishop Patteson. It was a sign of peace and love that he shed his blood on the island of Nukapu.
Let the Church of Melanesia continue to grow because of Bishop Patteson.
Let the people of Melanesia live an example of the first Bishop of Melanesia. Continue to band us together to carry out the work Bishop Patteson has set before us.
Give peace, love and hope in memory of Bishop Patteson.
Be with the Church of Melanesia Lord, so that the seed Bishop Patteson planted be a light to us, a light that never goes out
Through Christ our Lord. Amen
Laden Kopuria Yr12 Student Selwyn College