Reflecting on the past year for the Brothers in Melanesia
Although I haven’t been able to visit the Solomons since my return to Stroud NSW in March 2020, I’ve been in regular touch by Messenger, WhatsApp, phone and email. We currently have about 16 postulants, 21 novices, 27 first professed and 13 life professed brothers. Those in initial formation are at Hautambu in West Guadalcanal, Year 3 novices are posted to the other friaries for practical experience. We have nine friaries currently occupied with brothers. Although most friaries are thinly staffed, the brothers are always hoping to expand. Vanuatu is still on the cards.
The public events for the SSF 50th anniversary celebrations were postponed from September this year to September next in the hope that some SSF / CSF from overseas can be in the Solomons then. We’ll see! Although the celebrations have been postponed the brothers have been busy with some practical projects including building a retreat house at Hautambu.
Over the last few months a small group of 2-3 brothers, as well as a young lawyer boarding at Patteson House, have met regularly (electronically) with the Asia/Pacific representative for Franciscans International and myself. Our task has been research into the legislation concerning logging in the Solomons and the effects logging has on village life—not just environmental, but also social and religious. Brother Lent and Geoffrey (the lawyer) produced reports which went to Franciscans International. FI have now taken this information and converted it into the format and style for the United Nations. It will form a submission to the UN Human Rights Commission when Solomons is reviewed in next year’s periodic review of human rights.
The submission to the UN, to which the Solomons is required to respond, puts the matter into the public arena. The next stage will be to work with a variety of other organisations such as environmental and human rights NGOs and also faith-based organisations, each able to put pressure at different levels: internationally, nationally in the SI and provincially. And also there will be village level programmes for education about logging and its effects. I can see that the religious communities (and their associates, tertiaries, companions, etc) , along with groups such as Mothers’ Union and clergy can have a very useful role here since they can operate very effectively at village level and are well trusted. This relies on good communications and I’ve been working with ACoM and SSF at Patteson House to try to get SSF’s internet access improved to the point where we can have video conferencing. This is a work in progress.
I’m frustrated with this virus and not being able to travel and help things at a local level in the Solomons. The planned conference for formators (novice guardians, etc) in the four religious orders in ACoM, and also Visitation Sisters in PNG, is on hold. I’d made the suggestion in my visit in March of Patteson Theological College hosting a conference commemorating Bishop Patteson and looking at issues of mission, etc. today. I don’t know where this has got to, but the virus has disrupted many plans I suspect. And this virus stalks around—still hopefully only among those in isolation. I’m thankful that a number of church leaders have been promoting good practice about physical distancing. I know we’re all concerned about the potential for a major spread and the result of that.
On behalf of SSF in Solomons I wish you well. May MMUK and its supporters continue to flourish and lead to ever deepening partnership and sharing between our parts of the Anglican Communion.
As UK Companions to the Melanesian Brotherhood were unable to gather for this year’s St Simon and St Jude services due to COVID-19, UK South West Companions organised an online service and meeting on 28th October. Seventeen Companions from across the UK were joined by Revd Br Nelson, MBH, who is currently studying in Fiji. During the service, led by Ven John Rawlings, the Lord is My Shepherd was sung by the congregation at Tabalia.
At the meeting Companions shared news from their regions and from the Brotherhood, and watched the Address given by the Archbishop of Melanesia, the Most Revd Leonard Dawea.
Watch these films and revisit the slide content shared during the online service and meeting;
At Tabalia, the Headquarters of the Brotherhood, 41 Novices were admitted as Brothers, 12 Brothers renewed their vows, and 8 were released.
The Melanesian Brotherhood (MBH) was formed by Ini Kopuria, a policeman from Maravovo village, Guadalcanal in 1925. Brothers take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for three years, which can be renewed. They train for four years as Novices and normally make their vows to become Brothers at the Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude.
Today, the work of the Brotherhood has reached out to other countries beyond Solomon Islands, including Vanuatu, the Philippines, Australia and Canada. Companions around the world support the Brotherhood through prayer and financial support. For more information on becoming a Companion, contact MMUK.
This year SSF and CSC were due to hold services to celebrate 50 years working in Melanesia. Postponed due to COVID-19, it is hoped to have these events in 2021. In the meantime, MMUK’s Archivist Canon Brian Macdonald-Milne, looks at the history of the religious orders in the region.
The earliest Religious Order to arrive in the Solomon Islands was the Order of Friars Minor or Franciscan Brothers who came with the first Spanish exploratory expeditions in the 16th century. They however did not stay. Other Roman Catholic Orders came in the mid-19th century. The Pope had asked the newly founded Society or Mary or Marist Fathers, with its Headquarters in France, to undertake work in the central, southern and western Pacific islands, including New Zealand. They tried to establish themselves in the Solomon Islands, but their bishop was killed on Santa Isabel and others had a difficult time on the island of Makira (San Cristoval), so they withdraw for a while. However, they returned in the late 19th century and have been working there ever since. The Dominican Order later arrived to work in the Western Solomons. The Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary (SMSM) arrived as well.
The first Anglican religious community was established by Mother Margaret and Sister Gwen in 1930, and they called it the Community of the Cross. They had previously worked with Indian Orthodox Sisters in India and had been invited by the Bishop of Melanesia to come and establish a Community, which Melanesian girls could join. They established their base at Siota on Gela, and then moved to Bungana island in the Gela group. After disagreements with two subsequent Bishops, Mother Margaret joined the Roman Catholic Church with most of the Sisters, and some of the Solomon Islander and New Hebridean Sisters joined the RC Daughters of Mary Immaculate, a Community of ‘native’ Sisters founded by the SMSM.
When Bishop John Chisholm became Bishop of Melanesia in 1967, he was determined to ask two Communities to come to the Anglican Church of Melanesia, the Friars and Sisters of First Order of the Society of St Francis. He had seen the work of the Friars in Papua New Guinea and wanted them to work in urban areas in his new diocese as well. The Franciscan Sisters said that they did not have enough Sisters to answer his call, so instead he turned to the Community of the Sisters of the Church, which had been established in London in the 19th century to do social work, but had later extended its work to Australia, where the Bishop came from. They were now looking for new work, having decided to give up their educational work among girls in Australia.
The Melanesian Brotherhood had been established by Brother Ini Kopuria of Guadalcanal island in 1925, and there was some speculation about how the white Brothers and Sisters of the two other Orders would be received when they arrived in 1970. However, these Orders now have many professed members and novices in their Solomon Island Provinces, all indigenous. Later, Nester Tiboe of Guadalcanal, a woman catechist, became convinced that there should be a Community of Sisters along the same lines as the Melanesian Brotherhood, whose members do not usually take life vows, which the members of those other two Communities do. There are therefore now four communities working in the Solomon Islands, and the Melanesian Brotherhood and the Sisters of Melanesia also have houses in Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. The four Communities work together in many ways, and also co-operate when appropriate with the Roman Catholic Orders. Some members of the Brotherhood also work in the Philippines and Australia.
The Anglican Church of Melanesia has more members of Religious Orders compared with the overall membership of the Church than any other part of the Anglican Communion, and they do key work in evangelism, social and pastoral work, and community education. They need and desire our prayers and support.
Canon Brian Macdonald-Milne Melanesian Mission Archivist
If you want to find out more about the four orders and their work, watch our films on the religious orders here – www.mmuk.net/films. If you would like to support the Brothers and Sisters, do consider becoming an Associate or Companion. Groups across the UK meet to pray for the communities, consider how best to support them in prayer and giving, and gather for services and pilgrimages.
Many enjoyed Sam’s talk at our AGM in September about his time in the Solomon Islands in March of this year. Although this article appeared in our summer 2020 magazine, here it is again with more pictures from Sam’s trip.
On Holy Saturday I arrived back to a much changed and much quieter London than the one I had left a month before. Having confirmed my safe arrival in the Solomon Islands in an email exchange with Katie Drew (MMUK Executive Officer), who had been kindly helping me to organise the trip, she replied, “Now the adventure begins!” Neither of us knew at that stage how accurate her response would prove to be!
As an ordinand in the Church of England, I was eager to experience the life of the Anglican Church and the shape of formation in a very different context before being ordained deacon and beginning my curacy this summer. I am also currently researching for a PhD thesis exploring how the church engages faithfully in politics and so found myself particularly drawn to the Melanesian Brotherhood’s recent history in their pivotal role as peacemakers during the ethnic tensions at the turn of the millennium. Particularly striking is the Brothers’ distinctive and committed pattern of prayer and worship, which is not a retreat from the world, but the structure and life source that enables them to live fully for the world, serving their local communities and wider society so faithfully.
I was initially intending to visit for a couple of months, throughout Lent, Holy Week and over Easter, with the purpose of participating in and learning from the communal life and worship of the Brothers. Immersing myself in the community at Tabalia as much as possible gave me a chance to experience their beautifully simple but varied life together. And I loved all of it– from daily attending the very early First Office, (walking to the chapel in the dark, dodging frogs along the way!), to eating kasava and kakake (affectionately known as “swamp taro”), attempting to fix the waterpipe after heavy rain fall but spending most of the time swimming in the river, as well as several logging trips with the Brothers to collect firewood. It was a real privilege to be welcomed in by the Brothers, Novices and Aspirants and to be allowed to join them in their everyday lives. I was also given the privilege of preaching on Mothering Sunday, where Novice Patteson very kindly helped me to write and deliver sections of the sermon in Pijin, as well as narrating the Passion play on Palm Sunday, which thankfully was in English!
However, during this time with the Brothers, I was also becoming increasingly aware of the spreading pandemic of COVID-19. Thankfully because of internet access at Kohimarama Theological College I was able to stay relatively up to date as things changed across the world. Yet, because of the rapid speed at which things changed, I was not able to move my flights forward quickly enough to avoid being stuck in Solomons indefinitely, as Australia, and then the Solomon Islands too, closed their borders!
Being stranded in Solomons felt very surreal. On the one hand, I was in paradise with beautiful idyllic surroundings, as life continued pretty much as normal at Tabalia and across the Islands. Yet every time I would walk up to “Kohi” to speak with friends and family back home, I would be updated on the worsening spread of this deadly virus. This led to a time of uncertainty, for me, but perhaps primarily for my family back home, as I had three flights cancelled in my attempt to return to the UK. With things changing not just daily but hourly, and no clear indication of how long the lockdown would last, it was unclear just how long I would be stranded in Tabalia. But I was reassured by the Brothers that I was welcome to stay with them for as long as necessary, even if that meant being there at Christmas, and being ordained whilst I was out there! Though they also knew my need to get back to my wife Lily, and so continued to pray for me.
Having been back to Honiara a couple of times to speak with the British High Commissioner, however, it became clear that there was little that could be done in terms of arranging travel home other than praying and waiting for things to open up again. Ultimately though, it was hard to become overly anxious about my situation partly because of where I was stranded. I remember one Sunday afternoon messing around in the canoe in the sea with some of the younger boys and one of the Brothers, and just thinking how fortunate I was to be doing this whilst everyone back in the UK was stuck inside! But also during this time, the rhythm of prayer and worship at Tabalia really gave me a sense of peace, as well as learning from and being held by the Brothers’ own deep trust and reliance in God that all would be well.
Of course, we were also aware of the potential threat and impact of COVID-19 arriving in the Solomon Islands, not just on the limited health resources but also the social and economic implications. We began to discuss some of the ways the Brothers needed to prepare practically, in modelling good hygiene both for their own sake, but also for all the communities across the islands. But most importantly, the Brothers continue to prepare spiritually, to be there for the people of Melanesia, shining the light of Christ in the darkness, knowing that whatever comes their way God is with them. Or as the Pijin version of John’s Gospel beautifully puts it; “nao matta stay dark… erytime get light.”
Eventually I was able to be squeezed onto a US repatriation flight as the 200th and final passenger on the plane. The circumstances of the last-minute flight meant I sadly missed Easter weekend at Tabalia and had to say very rushed goodbyes, but perhaps not having long drawn out goodbyes was more appropriate as I very much hope to return. The flight itself left Honiara, the first time there had ever been a plane of that size on the runway, to head to San Francisco via Hawaii, before I caught my onward flight to London. By the time I arrived back in the UK I had completed a round the world trip, just not in the circumstances I had quite imagined!
It is very hard to thank the Brotherhood, and all those I met, enough for their hospitality, generosity, and kindness throughout my time with them, particularly under such uncertain circumstances. During my stay I was struck by their warmth but also their sense of fun. Their commitment to God and to one another is dedicated and sincere, yet at the same time full of life and laughter! I have left with much to be thankful for, but also much to learn from them, and I am certain that this experience will continue to shape my own life of faith and ministry for the rest of my life.
We pray for Sam and his family as he begins his curacy in the Diocese of London.
The Right Reverend Alfred Karibongi officially retired as the Bishop of the Diocese of Hanuato’o (DOH) at a Liturgical Farewell Service in August at the Saint Peter Diocesan Cathedral, Kirakira. Bishop Karibongi turned 65 on the 9th of June and had served the diocese for 13 years since his consecration on 30th September 2007 at the same Cathedral.
“The Liturgical Farewell service as such is an important occasion in which the Church celebrates the gift of leadership and service and today we gather here to give thanks to God for calling Bishop Alfred, and his good wife and children to take on the episcopal leadership of God’s sheepfold in this diocese in the last 13 years. We are here to celebrate a successful mission of leadership and service for God’s people in this great land of Hanuato’o,” the Rev. Dr. Ben Wate said in a farewell address at Saint Peter’s church.
“Prior to becoming the Bishop of the diocese, Bishop Karibongi has held various posts as a clergy including Dean of the Saint Barnabas Provincial Cathedral,” Chief Operating Officer of the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACOM) Mr. Peter Pitia said in his farewell address.
“As a priest and Bishop, he served on many important decision-making bodies of ACOM and his contribution has been immense given his wealth of experience and wisdom,” Mr. Pitia added.
“On taking office after his consecration on September 2007, the first situation he encountered in office was that the Diocese was at the brink of collapse financially,’ Diocesan Secretary, Mr. Silas Hulanga said in his farewell speech.
“With the financial difficulties experienced by the Diocese at that time; the main concern then during the 6th Diocesan Synod at Ngorangora, and also at the bishop’s first synod in 2008 was to re-afloat the diocese financially rather than making a lot of wishful promises. Later on, it was a Mission decentralization program passed and implemented with Mission Field officers stationed at each of the four (4) four zones setup around the diocese to carry out mission work and training in their respective zones.” He added.
‘With the implementation of the partnership network or Parish Strengthening Concept, the diocese successfully established 5 Parish Headquarters namely: West Wairaha Parish HQ, West Haununu, East Arosi, Ugi, Oa Riki,’ the Diocesan Secretary stated.
Mission work over the last 13 years then was on decentralisation of mission coordination, down to the parishes; self-reliance on parish and diocese, strengthening and empowerment of people to participate fully in mission through training.
The Premier of Makira Ulawa Province, Hon. Julian Maka’a in his address acknowledged the unity that brought together all who have come to witness the Liturgical farewell service of Bishop Karibongi.
“We cannot go on our separate way to look after our people. We must hold hands together to serve our people effectively. And I thank you Bishop Karibongi for that unity rendered to the Province through the successive Governments as well as to other stakeholders, churches, house of chiefs and others.” The Hon Premier said.
In his final speech, Bishop Karibongi acknowledged the Anglican Church of Melanesia, Makira Ulawa Provincial Government, Ecumenical Partners, Chiefs and elders, friends and family members for their support and working together over the 13 years when he was bishop.
He also reminded clergy about their mission and ministry in his farewell address.
“A priest is a person who offers intercession and sacrifice, and hence should be at the sanctuary at all times. Therefore, we must be committed to our work, set godly example to people around us, live a life of prayer and keep oneself spiritually and physically clean.” The retiring Bishop called on the clergymen.
The Vicar General of the Diocese, Rev. Canon Clayton Maha will look after the welfare of the Diocese during the transition period under the supervision of the Archbishop of ACOM, the Most Rev. Leonard Dawea until the election of a new Bishop which will take place before the end of this year after the diocesan synod.
The Archbishop calls on the whole church to pray for Bishop Karibongi and his family as he takes on a well-deserved retirement.
THE Diocese of Hanuato’o (DOH) was inaugurated at St. George Church now renamed St. Peters Cathedral, Kirakira on 29th day of June 1991, at the feast of St. Peter’s.
The first Diocesan Bishop was The Rt. Rev. James Philip Mason who came into office on 29th June 1991 followed by The Rt. Rev. Jonnie Kuper on 10th April 2005, and the retiring Bishop, Rt Rev. Alfred Karibongi from 30th September 2007 to 16th August 2020.
We were delighted to hear that five ACoM participants from the Solomon Islands and one from Vanuatu will be attending this new online course designed and facilitated by the Anglican Alliance and Episcopal Relief and Development. Please pray for the participants and their trainers as they journey together over the next year.
Relief and resilience are one of the Anglican Alliance’s key pillars, with an increasing emphasis on resilience as it becomes ever more apparent how critical resilience is in a world experiencing increasing numbers of disasters.
With Melanesia facing climate change, environmental and natural disasters, and the threat of COVID-19, this course will build a network of Anglican leaders with greater capacity for response and resilience and with better understanding of basic humanitarian concepts.
Dr Janice Proud, Anglican Alliance Disaster Response and Resilience Manager said of the course: “We cannot prevent disasters, nor can we remove all threats and hazards from our lives. But we can increase our resilience to them – our capacity to absorb, mitigate, adjust to and recover from adverse events and circumstances”
Nagulan Nesiah, Senior Programme Officer in Disaster Response and Risk Reduction at Episcopal Relief & Development, added: “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and in other emergency situations, we have seen that the more resilient a community is and the better prepared it is for a disaster, the better able it is to respond, cope and survive when a crisis hits. We have also seen the power of accompaniers – people who have themselves come through a disaster and offer to walk alongside a community going through one” –.
The martyrdom of seven Melanesian Brothers in 2003 sent shockwaves through the world church. Attempting to make peace in a violent conflict on the island of Guadalcanal, Brothers Nathaniel Sado, Robin Lindsay, Francis Tofi, Alfred Hill, Ini Paratabatu, Patteson Gatu, and Tony Sirihi were brutally killed. Today, we still remember their sacrifice and reflect on what their example teaches us about Christian discipleship in the modern world.
Chester Cathedral has re-dedicated one of its chapels to commemorate the lives and examples of Christian martyrs from down the centuries. In recognition of the long-standing link between the Diocese of Chester and the Anglican Church of Melanesia, an icon of the seven brothers has been installed in the chapel, together with an altar cross made by the brothers themselves. The icon was painted by the Revd Christopher Perrins and funded by local Companions of the Melanesian Brotherhood.
The icon was received at Chester Cathedral in September, with a short service of prayer and blessing. Pictured are (left to right): John Freeman (Companion), Mark Tanner (the new Bishop of Chester), Jane Brooke (Vice Dean and MMUK Trustee), Tim Stratford (Dean), Barbara Molyneux (Companion), Christopher Perrins, Mike Gilbertson (Archdeacon of Chester and MMUK Trustee), Willie Pwaisiho (Honorary Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Chester and former Bishop of Malaita), and Kate Pwaisiho (MMUK Trustee).
Ven Mike Gilbertson, Archdeacon of Chester & MMUK Trustee Pictures; Chester Cathedral
Hi, my name is Rev Bobby Chuchuni. I am currently the Chaplain to seafarers, Honiara International Seaport.
Upon taking up my Mission to Seafarers (MTS) duties in January this year, maintaining pastoral duties was my first priority. My first immediate task in office was providing pastoral care to a Chinese national working on board Cargo vessel Uni Harmony who was receiving medical assistance at the National Referral Hospital, Honiara, Solomon Islands with a fractured limb. The office of the MTS, with the minimum resource we have, supplied the seafarer with newspapers and fruits during his healing process.
Pastoral ship visiting was ongoing on-board domestic and international vessels. On early March this year the MTS had been through a challenging situation with the impact of COVID-19. The Solomon Islands Government ordered a mas repatriation of all citizens from Honiara to their home islands. In that exercise, the MV Taimareho, owned by the West Areare constituency was carrying more than 700 passengers caught up in Tropical Cyclone Harold. We lost 27 people at sea when the ferry was nearly capsized. The 27 people who fell off the boat all died and only 6 dead bodies were recovered. An investigation was carried out on the T27 tragedy. The MTS is currently in the process of organising trauma counselling for the sailors.
I am currently working on securing land for our two MTS centres, at Noro Fishing industrial Town and Honiara. The development of these centres will provide required services for sailors.
We celebrated Sea Sunday in honour of the seafarers on Sunday July 5th. This was broadcast live on our national radio (SIBC). Sailors were able to join us on their HF radios throughout the country.
The MTS is greatly affected by the impact of the COVID-19 preparedness plan, although we are still COVID free. Currently boarding is restricted for international boats, travel only possible on domestic vessels.
Visiting, Praying and Sharing is my daily responsibility, however, lately there was a challenge with the MTS 7 year-old vehicle which is now experiencing weekly mechanical failure, undergoing regular weekly maintenance. This is costly for the mission. I am anticipating a new van to ease my mission for the Seafarers, but I don’t know who will come to the rescue.
On Monday 21st September, the Melanesian Mission held its first online AGM and Festival, with over 70 attendees from across the UK, Australia and Melanesia.
The event was due to have taken place in London in July with all the Bishops from Melanesia, just before they were to attend the Lambeth Conference. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and postponed Lambeth Conference, plans were changed and the event went online.
The evening began with worship led by Trustees Canon Daphne Jordan from the Diocese of Blackburn and the Ven Mike Gilbertson, Archdeacon of Chester. A recording of the congregation at Tabalia singing the Lord is My Shepherd (Psalm 23) hymn was played, and the collect for Patteson Day read.
The Ven Mike Gilbertson was re-elected as a Trustee for three years, and Canon Jane Brooke from Chester Cathedral was elected as a Trustee for three years. Mr Andrew Cartwright stepped down as Trustee and was thanked for his many years of service.
At the Festival there were presentations from MMUK Trustee Kate Pwaisiho on ‘village life and climate change’ and from Sam Rylands who stayed with the Melanesian Brothers in March. There was also an opportunity to hear from Revd Sr Veronica CSC, joining the meeting from Honiara, and Revd Br Nelson MBH who is training in Fiji. In a pre-recorded address, the Archbishop of Melanesia thanked members for their ‘unwavering support to Melanesia’.
The Archbishop went on to speak about the current COVID-19 situation in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, the importance of climate research in the region and his church’s priorities for mission, including the reintroduction of ‘health ministry’.
Archbishop Leonard ended his address by saying: “I wish you all God’s blessing on your work and our partnership for the Kingdom of God. It is good to talk to you. Though we missed out a lot on the face-to-face communication, may I assure you that ACoM holds you and your families and the work you do to heart. And most especially during this time of extraordinary uncertainty and fear. May God bless all the Trustees, supporters, your families, and our partnership in mission. Thank you.”
The Rt Revd Mark Rylands, Chair of MMUK, finished the evening by sharing the charity’s priorities for the year ahead, recognising that events and visits in both directions will probably be impossible. The charity will continue to facilitate climate change research in the region, and review how it communicates with supporters, and create more online resources and events, including online coffee mornings.
Finally, the date and venue of the 2021 AGM and Festival was announced. It will be on Saturday 18th September at Exeter Cathedral, where the charity will celebrate the life and ministry of Bishop John Coleridge Patteson, first Bishop of Melanesia, on the 150th anniversary of his martyrdom.
Hear more from Sam Rylands in our Summer 2020 Magazine on his time spent with the Melanesian Brothers;
The Most Revd Leonard Dawea, Archbishop of Melanesia, gave this address at the Charity’s AGM in September.
It is good to talk to you at this Annual General Meeting. It is a shame that we cannot see each other more often, however we applaud this technology, and how it enables us international communications which, though virtually, is still helpful. I commend you for the invitation to give a brief address to your meeting.
First I convey greetings to you from the Anglican Church of Melanesia, the members of the Council of Bishops, Clergy, Administrators and General Laity. Grace mercy and peace to you from God our father.
Appreciation – On the outset let me on behalf of ACoM convey to you our deepest acknowledgement for your unwavering support to Melanesia, for all that we do together as mission partners, and that includes moral and spiritual support. On our side this partnership is so valuable, a one that we embrace to heart, a partnership that has lived through centuries. It grows stronger with the new emerging issues affecting us.
I particularly want to convey our heartfelt appreciation and thank you too for supporting us after Cyclone Harold earlier this year. The Diocese of Vanuatu, which was mostly affected, is gradually coming back to normal, although Bishop James’ home and the Diocesan Office are still in temporary residence. We appreciate your ongoing support in this rehabilitation process.
It is also important for me to particularly offer words of acknowledgement and thank you to Andrew Cartwright for being a Trustee of MMUK for the past years. Thank you Andrew. I understand that Canon Jane Brooke will succeed him, and I welcome and congratulate Canon Jane Brooke for her appointment. Having met and talked with Canon Jane, I see a growing love and passion for Melanesia. Thank you and welcome Canon Jane.
COVID-19 – As we speak the two countries maintain their COVID-19 free status, however nobody can be certain about what tomorrow brings. There are now cases as close as Bougainville in the western border, placing Solomon Islands vulnerable as a high-risk nation. Even with the COVID-19 free status both countries are feeling the socio-economic impacts. More and more employees are losing their jobs as a result of scale down of most private companies and government ministries. Where life in Honiara appears normal, there is growing unemployment. We are praying that your scientists will quickly provide a vaccine.
Worship life throughout the province remains the same, but with ongoing awareness and preventive measures in churches and other related gatherings. Lately the Council of Bishops agreed on a paper outlining possible changes to worship in the event COVID-19 enters our countries. You know too well how we Melanesians look to faith; it is what our people still holding on to. That said, we educate our people to be careful and that our faith should lead people to act with responsibility.
Climate Change – In recent years, this has topped the chart of issues, until COVID-19 interrupted our attention. However COVID-19 is an outbreak, and will through the grace and love of God, cease in time. Climate change issues will persist and our partnership on this issue should continue its momentum, if not further improve. We are well ahead with our response, for the example, the setting up of the Church Observatory project in Malaita and Guadalcanal to provide scientific data. At this stage it is too early to have any tangible results from the observatory, resulting from inconsistent data collections due to the public state of emergency and the tropical Cyclone Harold. We trust our combined effort on this project will continue to bear fruit.
ACoM – I have some updates for you on ACoM administration and leadership. Bishop Alfred of Hanuato’o Diocese, officially retired on the 15th August, and the Bishop Nathan Tome of the Diocese of Guadalcanal had his liturgical farewell on the 20th September, being the day of Bishop Patteson. Elections and consecrations for their successors will be later this year and early next year. The Diocese of Ysabel has given Bishop Ellison an extension of five years in office after his 60th birthday this year.
Having served two terms, I am delighted to inform MMUK that Dr Abraham Hauriasi, the General Secretary of ACoM, has agreed and signed another term of five years. We all appreciate the huge impact Abraham, through his sound knowledge and experiences, humility, and thoughtfulness, has contributed to ACoM efficiency in administration, operation, and the training of green hands for finance.
The global pandemic has disrupted some of our scheduled programs for this year. The General Synod which was scheduled for November has been deferred to next year. Five dioceses have also decided to defer their Synods to next year.
The Southern Cross – After almost a year of huge refurbishment work, ACoM’s mission flagship the Southern Cross is now back on mission. According to our finance manager the refurbishment cost around 2 million Solomon dollars. We render massive appreciation and acknowledgement to MMTB in Auckland, for facilitating resources for the renovation. We hope she can further serve ACoM mission for some more years, after which a new and bigger vessel can be considered. And, as the saying goes, the sooner the better.
ACoM PHQ – Since relocating the Provincial Office by the main street of Honiara in 2019, actual work on the new complex has not yet started. That said, a committee consisting of PHQ staff has been setup to oversee the initial planning stages. It is going to be a huge project, so we are concerned about securing maximum funds to ensure that initial plans are correct. It is hoped that this project will begin next year.
John Coleridge Patteson University (JCPU) – It has been a long overdue project of ACoM. However, in terms of academic programs, a diploma in primary school teaching has been introduced and is gradually attracting enrolments, not just from ACoM, but from other churches. One of the huge steps forward to this program is that the South-Western Commission has accredited the programs offered. A concept implementation plan has been designed, for land east of Honiara, further inland from TNK. According to the document 80% of the university’s income will be locally generated, by allowing some hectares of the land for farming. Definitely support for tools and machineries for the proposed farm will be welcomed.
ACoM Health Ministry – In the early days of our core mission, health ministry was strongly linked with education. It lost its grip, probably when the government of Solomon Islands and Vanuatu started improving their health services. Now there is a huge realisation resonating with the climate change experiences, for the need to re-engage in this ministry, most probably on a higher level. To that end a resolution was made in the 2018 General Synod in Port Vila to revive ACoM’s heath ministry, first by establishing a position of a Health Coordinator in the administration office. That has now been done and the pioneering work is in place to scout opportunities to gradually rollout this ministry. Sadly only two ACoM clinics survive, the Epiphany Clinic at Fauabu on Malaita, and the St. Clare Clinic at Taroaniara on Gela. Unfortunately both clinics are now in dilapidated stages.
With those brief remarks, I wish you all God’s blessing on your work and our partnership for the Kingdom of God. It is good to talk to you. Though we missed out a lot on the face-to-face communication, may I assure you that ACoM holds you and your families and the work you do to heart. Most especially during this time of extraordinary uncertainty and fear.
May God bless all the Trustees, supporters, your families, and our partnership in mission. Thank you.