Exeter and Tavistock Companions

Report of the Companions of the Melanesian Brotherhood (COMB) in the Diocese of Exeter 2018/2019

The Melanesian Links group, although not ostensibly a Companions Group but made up of Companions and Associates, has met five times during the year to discuss programmes and visits in which Companions are involved.

The visit of Sister Veronica in May was much appreciated by Companions and Associates who met her and gave her hospitality during her stay and enabled her to see the groups in both Ottery St Mary and Tavistock.

In June Companions met at Exeter Cathedral for their annual commemoration of Ini Kopuria with a Eucharist in the Lady Chapel followed by a picnic lunch in the gardens of the Old Deanery.

One of the highlights of the year was the visit of Head Brother Nelson and Elder Brother Michael. They were able to visit Church schools which have partnerships with schools in Melanesia. The staff and children at Feniton, Tipton St John and Payhembury made them very welcome and gave them time to speak to the young people and be shown around the schools with very proud enthusiasm from the pupils. An evening at Ottery began with a short service followed by supper with Companions and much discussion. A Quiet Day at Buckfast Abbey led by Brother Nelson was much appreciated by Companions and gave time for reflection and prayer stimulated by the addresses. Moving on to Tavistock Brother Nelson presided at the Eucharist which was followed by supper and the following day the brothers were able to see the Food Bank in the town before climbing the hill to see Brentor church. A Family Fest on the edge of Dartmoor with 150 people of all ages welcomed the brothers who were able to join in the worship and activities and camping out overnight. The following day they went to Lyme Regis where they were able to see the sea and eat fish and chips on the beach with Cate Edmonds and her husband. Brother Nelson preached at the Eucharist in the Cathedral on the Sunday after which there was a lunch for them in the Deanery where Dean Jonathan welcomed the brothers warmly.

The visit of two Sisters of Melanesia in September, Sister Priscilla and Sister Mary Gladys, enabled some Companions and Associates to meet them at a supper at the home of Katie Drew.

The Feast of SS Simon and Jude is very special in the life of the Brotherhood and we have tried to mark this over the years. There was Choral Evensong at Tavistock which was an ecumenical service, as it was Bible Sunday as well, and members of Tavistock Area Christians Together (TACT) joined the parish church congregation and Companions for a very special occasion at which Prebendary Cate preached.

In November a Charity Lunch at Escot raised money for the Brotherhood and the groups at Tavistock and Ottery also provided funds to assist with the dreadful situation in Ambae and the relocation of the Brothers. Fr Steve Martin (Tavistock Curate) walked the Abbots’ Way across Dartmoor and raised a considerable sum to add to other assistance given to the Brothers.

The visit of two Melanesian Bishops who were in UK for the New Bishops’ Course was not specifically a Companions’ event but many were involved in welcoming Bishop James Tama and Bishop Rickson Maomaoru who were very touched by being in the places around Ottery where Bishop John Patteson had lived and ministered and the cathedral where his martyrdom is depicted. They made a brief visit to Tavistock and were delighted to share in the Eucharist as well as having a meal with Companions in the local fish and chip shop. They were greeted, too, by Bishop Robert who welcomed them to his diocese and discussed with them the challenges facing their dioceses in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. After a tour of the cathedral and archive they were entertained to lunch by Canon Chris Palmer and Companions.

In early April Katie and I met the new Bishop of Crediton to explain to her the link, albeit informal but very dynamic, with the Church in Melanesia and our diocese. Bishop Jackie was very keen to know about the link and especially the contact we have with the religious orders, peace and reconciliation ministry, and the visits made in both directions. Not only were we able to speak about the visitors from the Solomon Islands in recent years but those who had gone from here; Fr Steve, Revd Cathy, Preb Cate and Katie with the hope that she might be able to go herself sometime.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to Companions who have welcomed and accommodated visitors during the year.

Sadly, this last year has seen the death of some Companions; Lady Coleridge (Pam), Enid Williams and Ursula Bennett and we pray that they may know the fullness of life in God’s love on another shore and in a greater light.

John Rawlings – Southern Section Leader UK COMB