It is with great sadness and concern that we start the year by sharing with you the news that Solomon Islands now has COVID spreading within the islands. In just two days of the first case being identified, the 56-bed ward designated for COVID cases in Honiara is nearly full of patients, and further contact tracing is being undertaken across the islands. With only 8% of the population having received two doses of the vaccine and many people traveling after their Christmas breaks, there is a great concern for the spread of the virus. Honiara is in lockdown until Saturday and the new school year will now not begin next week.
In December, the Right Revd Ben Seka, Bishop of the Diocese of Central Solomons officially laid down the diocesan Pastoral staff, that was originally handed to him when he was consecrated Bishop of the diocese on 20th February 2011. Bishop Ben was the second Bishop of the diocese succeeding the late Bishop Charles Koete.
The Archbishop of Melanesia, the Most Revd Leonard Dawea in his acknowledgment speech after the ceremony, thanked Bishop Seka for his enormous contributions to the ACoM as a Priest and Bishop.
“Bishop Ben participated in various provincial decision-making bodies of the Church including the General Synod, Executive Council, Council of Bishops (CoB), Diocesan and Provincial electoral boards. Given his heavy involvement in these important decision-making bodies, it is not hard to see the extent of Bishop Ben’s influence in the life of the ACoM over the last 11 years,” the Archbishop said.
During the laying down of the Pastoral staff, the Retired Bishop said; “In compliance with the requirements of the Laws of the Anglican Church of Melanesia, I do hereby relinquish the authority vested upon me as the Diocesan Bishop of Central Solomons, by laying the Pastoral staff of this diocese on the Altar of this Diocesan Cathedral.”
“To my diocesan staff who have been with me in the past and those who have just came into the diocese, we have shared, worshipped and celebrated together in the past 11 years. I thank you for your unceasing love and support in one way or the other. It’s time for me to move so that another Bishop will come and continue the work that God has chosen him to carry on.”
The Archbishop calls on the whole church to pray for Bishop Ben and his family as they take on a well-deserved retirement.
Bishop Seka will be succeeded by Revd Stephen Koete (Bishop-Elect) who will be consecrated bishop on 27 February 2022. The Archbishop will be the supervising bishop of the diocese during this period of transition.
Reflecting on an eventful 2021 and looking forward to 2022, ACoM released a number of addresses over the Christmas period. Here are a few of them.
New Year’s Day reflection by Reverend Dr. Atkin Zaku
“How faithful have we been through 2021 with the responsibilities entrusted upon us on personal, family, community, nation, region and global bases?” – this was the question asked by Reverend Dr Atkin Zaku in his New Year’s Day sermon at the St Barnabas Provincial Cathedral.
Speaking to the hundreds who congregated at the cathedral to welcome in 2022 in church, Reverend Dr Zaku asked the people celebrating the New Year, to reflect on the doings of 2021 and their aspirations for 2022.
Reverend Dr Atkin Zaku preached: “Whatever responsibilities we were entrusted with in 2021, these were all given responsibilities entrusted to us by none other than the Name Jesus. So have we done them with the authentic power and authority under the Name Jesus?
“The sin of corruption does not involve national issues alone, that involves what we normally termed as millions or thousands or hundreds of dollars or ill-decisions of high levels. The sin of corruption involves as little as 10cents within our own families. The little decisions we make in the affairs within our communities that interferes and denies improvement and progress of community life socially, religiously and economically.”
Reverend Dr Zaku also asked “With these responsibilities, have we held them with total love, mercy and grace? If we have done so, we would be a family and community of social, political and economic abusive-free. We would be a family and community of hatred-free. We would be a family and community of discrimination-free. We would be a family and community of acceptance and toleration of each other,” he said.
“Reflecting on the past year we should be able to see our failures and weaknesses and make new resolutions for 2022. But we cannot do these if we forget the Name Jesus. Today we are called to a New Year resolution, to seriously consider and reflect on the Name Jesus with all our hearts, with all our souls and with all our bodies. There is no half-truth in the Name Jesus. There is no half-power in the Name Jesus. There is no half-life in the Name Jesus and there is no half-love in the Name of Jesus. Total life, love, power and truth is found and can only be found and experienced in the Name Jesus,” he said.
“This comes to us with God’s blessings – a promise in return for our pronouncement of his Name. Only then as God commanded Moses to bless the people, as read in the book of Numbers 6:22-27, can also be applicable to us.
“That blessing says: ‘May the Lord bless you and take care of you. May the Lord be kind and be gracious to you. May the Lord look on you with favour and give his peace’, Reverend Dr Zaku concluded.
Thursday 3rd February at 10am – 11am (and 7pm – 8pm) GMT
On Thursday 3rd February at 10am – 11am and repeated again at 7pm – 8pm GMT, I will be hosting an online event to share the latest news from the region. The event will run for about 45 minutes to 1 hour with a short briefing from me, a time to ask questions, and finish in prayer for our friends in Melanesia.
If you would like to attend and or know others who would like to join us, please let me know and I will send a link. Do also let me know if you have any particular questions / topics you would like me to cover.
Many thanks for your continuing support and I hope to see you online soon.
The Diocese of Central Solomons Electoral Board has elected the Reverend Charles Stevenson Koete as the third Bishop for the Diocese of Central Solomons (DoCS) in the Central Islands Province.
He was elected on Wednesday 24th November 2021 at Tetete Ni Kolivuti (TNK) the headquarters of the Community of the Sisters of the Church at Tenaru area, east of Honiara.
Revd Charles, 43, will succeed the Right Reverend Ben Seka, who will officially retire on the 1st of December 2021.
Currently, Revd Charles is serving as the Principal of Bungana Ministerial Training Centre, a Catechist school in the Diocese of Central Solomons, a post he has held since 2017. Prior to that, he was the Deputy Principal, Dean of Studies and Lecturer in Biblical Studies at Trinity School of Theology and Ministry at Airahu in the Diocese of Malaita from 2013 to 2016.
Revd Charles was ordained as a Priest on the 14th August 2005 at St. Peter’s Church, Polomuhu Village, Big Gela, and holds a Bachelor of Theology from Bishop Patteson Theological College (BPTC) in 2012 and a Diploma of Theology with Distinction, also from BPTC in 2004.
Originally from Polomuhu village, the Bishop Elect is married to Mrs. Eileen Mary Rona Koete from Dende Village, small Gela and they have four children.
The consecration will be held at the diocesan Cathedral, Christ the King Cathedral, Tulagi in February next year 2022. The Archbishop calls on all members of the Anglican Church of Melanesia to uphold Rev. Steven and his family in prayer as they prepare to take on this important responsibility in the church.
This was the message the Anglican Church of Melanesia’s Archbishop Leonard Dawea preached on Sunday as the church commemorated the first Sunday of Advent.
Members of the ACoM Council of Bishops were assigned to different parishes in Honiara with one message – to condemn all evil activities that happened on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week and to call for repentance and respect for all people.
Archbishop of the Church of Melanesia, Leonard Dawea, told the congregation at Saint Barnabas Cathedral that he could not believe how humanity in a so-called happy isles or Christian country has gone to such an extent.
“How Christians were able to put behind them the love of God and choose to walk in darkness.
“God who creates us all, regardless of (who) we are, hates to see his creation destroying each other.
“His heart bleeds for those who have been left homeless, who in the blinking of an eye lost everything they had,” Archbishop Dawea said.
He went on to say, what happened since Wednesday last week tested our true nature as Christians and Disciples of Christ.
“…unfortunately, we have failed yet again as a Christian nation, a happy isles.
“A lot of people, good Christian people found themselves caught in these unchristian actions and behaviours,” he said. “Christianity is not spoken, it is a lived reality; not theoretical, it is practicality,” he said.
Therefore, he urged Christians not to be misled by the pleasures and excitements of this world. It is so sad that a lot of Christians became too occupied with greed and hatred and cannot resist the temptation to looting those who are already victims.
“We have not been good neighbours, we have all acted as the priest and Levite who walk by the man on the road. We have not been the Good Samaritan,” Archbishop Dawea said.
He said the unfortunate events last week indicated that to some Christians, God is a temporary entity for good days.
Archbishop Leonard then challenged the church to ditch all ungodly behaviours, not just of the rioting and looting but in all areas of life.
“The Advent of Christ should open our horizons to see and value people as they are regardless of colour, language, race, ethnicity, social standing, gender and religiosity.
“It is most clear that we are all God’s handmade, underneath the physical differences lies the red blood of commonality.
“It is what speaks to each other of our common value, not only as Christians, but as people, human beings,” Archbishop Dawea said.
He said now is the time to be neighbours to the victims of fire, rioting and looting.
“We can pray, but our prayers need to be accompanied by genuine actions,” concluded the Archbishop.
Prayer for our Nation Solomon Islands O eternal God, bless Solomon Islands, guide our rulers, guard our people and give us peace. Grant to all our leaders a desire to serve and lead our country in ways of justice and peace. Help us to love and serve one another and unite us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
STATEMENT FROM THE OFFICE OF THE ARCHBISHOP OF THE ANGLICAN CHURCH OF MELANESIA, THE MOST REV. LEONARD DAWEA.
The Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACoM), the Most Revd Leonard Dawea, is calling on all members of the ACoM in Honiara and throughout the country to refrain from participating in illegal activities including the wanton destruction of property and looting of businesses.
The Archbishop is very concerned about the destruction of both private and public properties as witnessed last week and pleads with ACoM members, in particular our youths, to respect one another and remain at home in this very volatile situation.
He also calls on all Church and Community leaders in and around Honiara to advise your youths against these activities.
Involving in violence can only hurt ourselves as we are now experiencing with the sudden lock down of Honiara which has now resulted in many struggling to survive.
The Archbishop acknowledges that people may be frustrated by what is happening in our country regarding our political leadership, but there are more peaceful means of resolving these than resorting to violence.
At the same time the Archbishop is calling on the political leadership of this country to listen to our people’s concerns and to appropriately address them.
The Diocese of Central Melanesia has elected Revd Othnielson Gamutu to become the first Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Central Melanesia (DOCM). Rev Gamutu was elected by members of the Diocesan synod of DOCM at a special Synod sitting held at Transfiguration Church, Vura Parish on Wednesday 3rd November 2021.
Revd Gamutu, who is 52 years old, is the currently the Private Secretary to the Archbishop of Melanesia. Revd Othnielson Gamutu comes from Samasodu village in the Diocese of Ysabel and is married to Mrs. Jenny Philistus Gamutu also from Ysabel and they have four children.
Revd Gamutu was ordained as a diaconate at Saint Barnabas Provincial Cathedral on 21st January 2007 and later to the Priesthood on 27th December the same year at Saint Peter’s Church, Samasodu, in the Diocese of Ysabel. He holds a Master’s in Biblical Studies from the Pacific Theological College, Suva Fiji, and a Bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies from Bishop Patteson Theological College BPTC, Kohimarama.
The role of the Assistant Bishop involves assisting the diocesan bishop of DoCM who is also the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Melanesia, in the episcopal oversight of the Diocese of Central Melanesia.
The consecration will be held at Saint Barnabas Provincial Cathedral in February 2022. The Archbishop calls on all members of the Anglican Church of Melanesia to uphold Revd Othnielson Gamutu and his family in prayer as they prepare to take on this important responsibility in the church.
At this year’s AGM and Festival Day, Revd Richard Carter, the Archbishop of Melanesia’s UK Commissary, vicar at St Martin in the Fields, London, and former Melanesian Brother was asked to speak about Patteson’s Life and Legacy –
The first Anglican missionaries to Melanesia were men and women with whom one could feel proud to be associated. The word missionary today often conjures many negative associations in the western world, men and women who crossed continents and oceans in the name of God and left behind the very conditions in which material interest, colonialism, exploitation, and white superiority could flourish. Yet in the Solomon Islands the islanders themselves still talk with love and pride about their early missionaries who established a model of sacrificial service which still inspires the young and old. Bishop George Augustus Selwyn who became the first Bishop of New Zealand in 1841 believed there should be “an episcopate of love as well as authority.”
“Missionaries must be ready at a moment to put their lives in their hands and to go out and preach the gospel to others with no weapon but prayer and with no refuge but in God.
A student at Oxford John Coleridge Patteson, from Feniton, near Ottery St. Mary in Devon, heard Bishop Selwyn speak and his message inspired him. Patteson had not been a particularly outstanding student at either Eton or Oxford and in fact, apart from moderate success at cricket, his youth seemed quite unexceptional. Once Patteson joined the Melanesian Mission as a young priest his gifts were seen to flourish. He was noted for his sailor’s gift for enduring hardship, his Christian gift for deep friendship and his compassion and a linguist’s gift for being able to master many different languages of the Pacific. We sense a man who had become animated and fully alive in this mission.
What was remarkable about his ministry, and which emerges in all his writings, is the quality of his connection with the people of Melanesia and the genuine trust and respect he gave to them: he developed a relationship with the indigenous people that challenged the whole foundation of colonial prejudice.
I have for many years thought that we seek in our mission a great deal too much to make English Christians of our converts. We consciously and unanimously assume English Christianity to be necessary. We seem to denationalise these races as far as I can see; whereas we ought to change as little as possible; only what is incompatible with the simplest form of teaching and practice… Christianity is the religion for humanity at large. It takes in all shades and characters of race.
The secret of these islands is to live as equals. Let them know that you are divided from them but united in Christ’s love. I do not want to make English Christians but Melanesian Christians dressed in the rich warm colour of their own native skin.
Patteson also began to question the whole position of the European missionary in relation to potential converts.
The pride of race which prompts a white man to regard Melanesians as inferior to himself, is strongly ingrained in most men’s minds, and must be wholly eradicated before they will ever win the hearts, and thus the souls of the people.
His sermons express this inclusiveness: a God who loves without prejudice irrespective of colour, tribe or creed, a God whose love knows no boundary:
And this love (of God) once generated in the heart of man , must need pass on to his brethren; that principle of life must needs grow and expand with its own inherent energy… No artificial or accidental circumstances can confine it, it recognises no human ideas of nationality or place but embraces like the dome of heaven all the works of God. And love is the animating principle of all.
Patteson believed passionately that the initiative for mission should come from the Melanesians themselves and committed himself to their preparation and training, which must involve equality and mutual respect. Patteson was convinced that Melanesians could not only become priests but better priests than many of their European counterparts:
I solve the difficulty in Melanesian work by saying ‘Use Melanesians.’ I tell people plainly: ‘I don’t want white men!’ I have no intention of taking any more (clergy) from England, Australia or New Zealand. I sum it up thus: They cost about ten times as much as Melanesians (literally) and but a very small portion do the work as well.
While Patteson may question the way in which the Christian faith is expressed, never does he doubt the relevance of the Christian message itself. In all of his letters there is a constant longing that Melanesians may know Christ and experience God’s promises. Charles Fox notes “the spirit of prayer” and “thanksgiving” which pervades all his writings. He is rigorous in his faith too, fearing sentimental attachment which would patronise the converts and overlook the need for “true religion, sound learning and useful industry.” Neither does he glamorise Melanesian culture or overlook the reality of blood feuds, tribal wars, head-hunting, and pagan practices: he remains totally committed to the mission to bring the Gospel of Christ
What becomes increasingly obvious however is how personally and intimately he becomes involved in and respects the lives of those he seeks to convert and teach: his missionary methodology is the result of that deep care. For example in 1863 while he was training Melanesians at St. Andrew’s Kohimarama, New Zealand, there was an outbreak of dysentery which took the life of six Melanesian students and made twenty others seriously ill.
Even harder for Patteson to accept was the death of two of his most devoted Norfolk Island assistants in 1864, when they were fatally wounded in an arrow attack while returning with Patteson from the shore to the ship in Graciosa Bay, Santa Cruz.
It was relationships of genuine care and concern which had the power to convert. George Sarawia, who was to be the first Melanesian priest to be ordained, describing Patteson and the missionary example, wrote in his autobiography:
This is what they did for the sick. They were not ashamed to carry the bucket of waste matter and take it to the sea, they washed out the bucket and brought it back into the sick room. Then I thought they were doing what the Bishop had taught us in the school, that we should love one another and look after each other with love, without despising anyone, we should help the weak. All this they did to those who were sick. Then I thought it was true, if anyone taught…the things that Jesus did he must follow it himself and humble himself.
Patteson’s own death became a parable for the people of Melanesia, perhaps even more powerful after his death than before it. Before he died there is the sense of premonition of the event to come. On board the mission ship the Southern Cross he is said to have been teaching about the death of St. Stephen and to have said: “This might happen to any of us, to you or to me. It might happen today.” They reached the island of Nakapu near the Reef Islands in Temotu where Patteson requested to go ashore. It was 20th September 1871.Four men rowed him ashore but the tide was too low for them to cross the reef in the boat so the Bishop got into a canoe and went on without them although they tried to persuade him against this. He lay down to rest in the canoe house almost like sacrificial offering. While he was lying there he was beaten to death with a club used for making bark cloth. His body was wrapped in a mat and put into a canoe and across his breast had been laid a palm branch with five knots in the leaves which led to the belief that his death was carried out in vengeance for five native men that the ‘black-birder’ slave traders had carried away from the island. Indeed in accounts we are told that Patteson’s body received five wounds, like the wounds of Christ, and only his face remained untouched. It was also told that after he died darkness covered the islands and people went about with torches even at noon.
Some men then attacked the four others in the boat who were anxiously waiting for Patteson just beyond the reef: Joseph Atkin was hit by an arrow in his left shoulder, John Ngongono one in his right, Stephen Taroaniara had six arrows in him. Joseph Atkin reaching the Southern Cross immediately requested “I am going back for the Bishop who will come with me?” Then Joe Wate a boy of fifteen stepped up and said “Inau” (I), and also Charles Sapi, another fifteen year old. They discovered the body of the Bishop floating in the canoe, one of the boys crying out “those are the bishop’s shoes.” The body of John Coleridge Patteson was buried at sea. Atkin wrote:
“It would only be selfish to wish him back. He has gone to his rest, dying as he lived, in his Master’s service. It seems a shocking way to die; but I can say from experience that it is far more to hear of than to suffer. In whatever way so peaceful a `life as his is ended, his end is peace. There was no sign of fear or pain on his face-just the look he used to have when asleep, patient and a little wearied. What a stroke his death will be to hundreds! What the mission will do without him, God only knows Who has taken him away. His ways are not our ways.”
Patteson’s followers we are told by Yonge “had deeply to drink of the cup of agony” Atkin was to die on the 27th from tetanus “his whole nervous system being jerked and strained to pieces” and his last words “I want nothing but to die.” Stephen lingered on in agony with an arrow wound in his lung, dying from tetanus on 29th of September. Bishop Patteson was 44 years of age, Atkin was 29, and Stephen about 25.
It was the news of the martyrdom of Bishop Patteson which stirred the British Government into passing laws to control the labour trade for the Queensland and Fijian plantations in the South Pacific. Professor Max Muller predicted in a letter to The Times in 1872: “In the distant future, depend upon it, the name of Patteson will live in every cottage, in every school and Church of Melanesia, not as the name of a fabulous saint or martyr, but as the never to be forgotten name of a good, a brave, a God-fearing and God-loving man.” This was not to prove an exaggeration, rather Muller had underestimated the legacy of his friend. Today not only do hundreds of Melanesians name their children after him but also their churches. Thousands attend his feast day and by the people he is remembered as both saint and martyr. The cross in Nukapu which marks the place where he was killed reads “His life was taken by those for whom he would gladly have given it.”
As I re-read the accounts of this story I am struck by two things. Firstly, how prophetic Patteson was to predict the indigenous growth of the church and secondly how closely the shape of this story of these missionaries’ deaths is to be repeated one hundred and fifty years later, this time by a group of indigenous missionary Brothers. Their death will also be an offering: there will be first the death of one and then the still more agonising death of those who risk their lives for him. There will be sacrificial courage, and a tragic and seemingly futile loss of innocent lives. It will seem that prayer has failed, and even God abandoned them. Their deaths will also rock the church and the nation, and shock all with the sacrilegious brutality of the murder of men of peace. Their deaths will seem to defeat everything they have strived for- and yet these men will also become catalysts for peace and symbols of hope. “God’s ways are not our ways” Is it simply the way we tell the story that gives it meaning and creates its shape? Or can we see something more? That here are the marks of the incarnation, and that the shape is the shape of the Gospel -Christ, his love, his death and resurrection, revealed in our own lives?
Revd Richard Carter
 Sermon of George Augustus Selwyn delivered at University of Cambridge 1854
 Charlotte Yonge 1874 Life of John Coleridge Patteson. Vol.2. London. Macmillan. 164-167
What a pleasure to be able to visit schools again to talk about the care of creation and climate change in Melanesia. On 1st November I was able to visit Christ Church Chelsea & Holy Trinity Church of England Primary Schools in the Diocese of London with Revd Sam Rylands. You may remember that Revd Sam was on a placement with the Melanesian Brothers in 2019 at the beginning of the COVID pandemic and had a bit of a challenge to get home – Now The Adventure Begins.
The children at both schools listened intently as Revd Sam talked about his time in the Solomons with the Brothers and I talked about what is happening to the islands due to climate change. The children asked some very thoughtful questions, including – why is God letting this happen?
During COP26 the children will be writing their prayers and reflections for a Creation Care Compline at St Luke’s on Friday 12th November at 6pm. This will be a short and interactive service of prayer with contributions from the Melanesian Brothers, music by St Luke’s choir, and led by our youth group (many of whom went to CC). Bishop Graham will also be attending. After the service the children’s prayers will be sent to the Brothers and Bishops in Melanesia.
If you would like some resources and the PowerPoint presentation to give a similar talk to your local primary schools or children’s groups, please contact MMUK.
More on the service at St Luke’s
Creation Compline (Friday 12 November, 6pm at St Luke’s):
The UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) is being held between 31st October and 12th November. During this period, in our schools and in the parish, we will be focusing our prayers and reflections on the issue of climate change.
On Friday 12th November, 6pm at St Luke’s, to mark the end of COP26 we will be a holding a youth-led Creation Compline. This will be a simple, reflective, and interactive service of prayer and music, as we ask God to give us vision for how we might play our part in stewarding and caring for God’s good creation. This will also have contributions from the Melanesian Brothers, whose Islands are being depleted by ever rising sea-levels.
So, please do join us for this! All are very welcome!