The Melanesian Brotherhood commemorated the Seven Martyrs and St Marks day on April 23rd and 24th respectively at the Central Headquarters of the Melanesian Brotherhood.
The celebrant for these two events was the Father of the Brotherhood, the Most Reverend Leonard Dawea. The preachers were Revd Br Nelson Bako on Seven Martyrs’ day and the Principal of BPTC Revd James Fakafu on St Marks day.
The festival day was packed with people attending the events. At Tabalia there were eight Aspirants who became Novices and three Novices being made professed Brothers.
In other sections of the Melanesian Brotherhood there were also Novices being admitted into the order of the Melanesian Brotherhood. This year 2022, there were 80 Aspirants who have been admitted as first year Novices.
We are delighted to be welcoming the Archbishop of Melanesia, and some of the Melanesian Bishops and their wives to the Lambeth Conference from 26th July to 8th August. Convened by The Archbishop of Canterbury, the 15th Lambeth Conference is a gathering of bishops from across the Anglican Communion for prayer and reflection, fellowship and dialogue on church and world affairs.
With the theme of ‘God’s Church for God’s World – walking, listening and witnessing together,’ the conference will explore what it means for the Anglican Communion to be responsive to the needs of a 21st Century world.
The Archbishop of Canterbury writes –
“It’s my prayer that, inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Lambeth Conference will reinvigorate the Communion with the vision and resources to bring the transforming love of Jesus Christ to every level of society across the world. It will be a time of addressing hurts and concerns; of deepening existing relationships and building new ones; of grappling with issues that face the Church and the world. We will listen to each other; we will seek God’s wisdom to find ways to walk together; we will build each other up as leaders.”
After the Conference, our guests will make visits to various dioceses, meeting supporters and friends. For some of the Bishops and wives, this will be their first visit to the UK. The programme of visits will be announced in June.
MMUK Festival Day
On Saturday 13th August Archbishop Leonard, his Bishops and their wives will be the guests of honour at MMUK’s Festival Day at St Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square London. The day will begin with a Eucharist at 11am in the church, followed by a bookable lunch and presentations in the afternoon from our guests. Please register your place with the charity.
Melanesian Spirituality part of the Lambeth Chaplaincy
Revd Sr Veronica CSC, Solomons Provincial Sister of the Community of the Sisters of the Church and Revd Br Nelson, Secretary to the Melanesian Brothers, will be part of the Lambeth Chaplaincy Team. Both Sr Veronica and Br Nelson have been part of the Lambeth preparations for the last few years and contributed to Listening Together – Global Anglican Perspectives on Renewal of Prayer & the Religious Life, one of the Conference’s preparatory books.
We are hoping that Sr Veronica and Br Nelson will also have time after the conference to make some visits before returning to Solomon Islands.
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
On 30th October Companions of the Melanesian Brotherhood in the Diocese of Exeter organised a service for St Simon and St Jude at St Andrew’s Feniton and then walked the new Patteson’s Way pilgrimage route.
The Melanesian Brotherhood is an Anglican religious community based primarily in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Papua New Guinea. The Brotherhood aims to live the Gospel in a direct and simple way following Christ’s example of prayer, mission and service. The Brothers take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. These are not life vows but for a period of five years, which can be renewed. They train for three years as Novices and make their vows as Brothers at the Feast of St Simon and St Jude. Companions, who promise to pray for and support the Brotherhood, held their service as 52 Novices became Brothers at the religious community’s headquarters at Tabalia in the Solomon Islands. There are 30 Companions to the Brotherhood in Devon and 80 more across the UK.
After the service the Companions and supporters walked the 8-mile circular Patteson’s Way led by Companion Simon Franklin, visiting Alfington, Ottery St Mary, Patteson’s Cross and back to Feniton.
One of the pilgrims, Mary Lorimer from Tale, said: “We really enjoyed our walk along the Patteson’s Way on Saturday. It was lovely to have the opportunity to take some time out from our usual everyday lives to spend a few hours appreciating our beautiful East Devon countryside, meeting other people and learning about – and from – the life of Bishop Patteson. When we returned to Feniton we felt as though we had been away much longer, as we had had such an informative and interesting afternoon. It really was a very refreshing break.”
Earlier in October Chester Companions gathered at Foxhill for their Eucharist, meeting and to admit three new Companions.
A prayer for the Melanesian Brotherhood –
ALMIGHTY God, your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, by obeying you and offering himself, has shown us the true way of service; may the men of the Melanesian Brotherhood serve you in the way that he did, showing faithful love and being true to you alone, so that, by your power, the work they are called to do may bear good fruit, and make your loving plan for all mankind come true, to the glory of your name; through the same your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
A prayer for Companions to the Melanesian Brotherhood –
Strengthen, O God, we pray you, all Companions of the Brotherhood, here in this place, around the UK and across Melanesia, that we may faithfully keep our promises and daily service to you in good works. Make us to be of one heart and mind, and to show others the love that comes from you. Let all that Jesus commanded his Church to be to us as a light that never goes out, And our glad obedience as fire that is always burning, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour Amen.
For more information on the Melanesian Brotherhood or on becoming a Companion, contact the charity.
For me, gratitude for the life of John Coleridge Patteson started soon after I was lucky enough to become Vicar to Ottery St Mary, and St James & St Anne, Alfington. I can remember the moment when standing in that majestic church of Ottery St Mary, a humble and much loved retired priest, Bill, handed me a little, very old and worn pamphlet for me to read. He said rather fiercely that he wanted it back and for me to look after it well as it was the only copy he knew of. It looked as though it had been produced in the 1950s – with sketchy line drawings of a bearded man in a top hat wading ashore a palm fringed island.
So I began to learn just how privileged I was as priest in charge of Alfington and Ottery, being a successor to this extraordinary man of God. Like so many others, my life has been so deeply enriched in a way Bishop Patteson would have been astonished and when I get to see him, as I hope I do, I will join the long queue to shake his hand or even give him a hug – presuming that his Victorian reserve has been softened by heaven’s graces.
Following up the story of that battered pamphlet ended up for me in 2004 with the experience of retracing his steps as also a priest from Alfington, visiting the Solomon Islands. My visit happened when ‘the Tensions’ were just finishing and the martyrdom of the seven brothers was still an open and shocking event. It was paradoxically such a privileged moment to be in the Solomons. I became so impressed with the sheer bravery and integrity to the gospel that the Melanesian Brotherhood maintained even when their own friends and brothers had just been brutally murdered. Being shown round by the assistant head brother who had to be held back from going straight to find and bring back the bodies of his friends and brothers with no thought of his own safety: being taken to where the front lines of the fighting and killing had been and then being shown where the brothers had set up camp directly in the line of fire between the two so that their bodies could stop the bullets before they injured others of their countryman: here was evidence of the transformative effects of the gospel seeded by that rather gauche man from East Devon some years before.
One of the most poignant moments for me was holding the Bible given to Patteson by the grateful people of Alfington as he left for the Pacific Islands and to touch the matting he was wrapped in when he had been freshly killed. I understood the power of relics in that moment…
My role in going out there was partly to take a gift from the people of Alfington to present to the Brothers. It was a wooden cross carved by Henry, a local craftsman and church musician from Alfington, who had placed at the centre of this carving a piece of fallen oak from Alfington which would have been growing when Patteson lived there. In return Richard Carter, the then Chaplain to the Brothers, gave me a carving which had hung in the chapel at Tabalia, the Brotherhood Mother house, depicting the handing back of the body of Patteson by the three islanders. What is so poignant is that it was carved from wood from the very island of Nukapu where Patteson took his last breath. There it is now hanging in the church of St James & St Anne in Alfington, facing the pulpit where Patteson preach his first sermon, close to the door where he wept after that first service, with his family, at the privilege of stepping into his vocation as parish priest in Alfington.
So out of tragedy comes connection. The blood of this martyr has not separated but bound two cultures, two peoples, two churches together. It has set up a conduit of blessing. And for me as I greet Bishop Patteson with such gratitude when God willing, I meet him, that gratitude will be for the way that Melanesians have taught me about graciousness, generosity and godliness which has become infused into their culture by this one man from East Devon.
Companions to the Melanesian Brotherhood will be gathering online on 5th June to commemorate the founder of the community, Ini Kopuria. Revd Richard Carter invites supporters to join a number of events on this day. –
“It has been our tradition to remember the life of the founder of the Melanesian Brotherhood, Ini Kopuria, by making the pilgrimage across the sands to Holy Island in Northumberland in the footsteps of our own saints, Aiden and Cuthbert. Over the years we have been blessed in this pilgrimage by the company of Melanesian Brothers and Companions. Though we are far away from Melanesia it is a powerful witness to the sea, the elemental forces of nature and the faith which connects us.
“Sadly because of the pandemic we were unable to gather last year as we had hoped, and this year restrictions will still not have opened-up for large gatherings. Nevertheless a small group of us will be following the pilgrim path across the causeway on 5 June, and sharing this experience online.”
If you would like to join the walk to Holy Island at 8am and the Eucharist at 12 noon (BST) online, please contact MMUK for the details.
“COME, the Church needs you and me, all of us,” said Fr. Nigel Kelaepa, Mission Secretary to the Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACoM), in his sermon at the feast of Saint Mark at Tabalia, the Headquarters of the Melanesian Brotherhood (Tasiu) located close to Bishop Patteson Theological College (BPTC) Kohimarama, west of Honiara.
Saint Mark is the patron saint of the Chapel at the Melanesian Brotherhood (MBH) Headquarters and the commemoration of the day is usually celebrated with the Admission of new Novices or Bothers, renewal of promises, the release of Brothers, a Holy Eucharist, and feasting and entertainments at Tabalia.
In his Sermon, Fr Nigel reminded the congregation that the goal of Christian Mission is attaining spiritual maturity, for the building up of the Body of Christ, the Kingdom of God, here in Melanesia and beyond in the world.
“So, do not wait to see what your spiritual gift will be before joining any church ministry or groups near you. No, the church needs you today. Go and join the Religious Orders, Companions, Catechists, Mothers’ Union, Girls Friendly Society, the Sunday School, Youth and Men’s fellowship, and you will realise the gifts and talents that Jesus gave you,” Fr Nigel told the congregation.
As he concluded his sermon, Fr Nigel said:, “We need everybody in the church to work together. We need captains and navigators, who can direct and guide us to the right fishing grounds, even into deeper waters and uncharted territories. We need fishing masters who can teach us the proper methods for luring and catching more fish. The church needs more spiritually mature leaders, more well-trained fishers of men and women, to help bring in a greater catch into the kingdom of God here on earth
The days program ended with feasting and entertainments.
May I preach in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Happy are those who work for Peace, they will be called the Sons and daughters of God”, Matthew. 5: 9.
On accepting the Pacific Human Rights Award, Former Head Brother Jude Alfred said these words, “Today as I accept this award, I accept it on behalf of all those who have worked and longed for peace, but especially on behalf of our seven (7) Brothers who are no longer with us but died wanting peace and happiness to return to Solomon Islands.” Indeed, this is a profound way of paying respect and tribute to the 7 martyrs.
Besides there are far greater spiritual ways of tributes to them; they have been canonised as martyrs, appointed 24th April their feast day, and each annual commemoration, not just here but through ACOM and abroad. All these and others are honours and tributes the seven martyred Brothers receive.
So our gathering today is the Church’s ongoing tribute to their discipleship, witness and martyrdom. Each year as we gather around them in worship, we are reminded of their discipleship and witness for our own, members of Religious Communities and Christians. Each year we are joined by many Christians throughout the Anglican Church of Melanesia and abroad to honour and respect the seven martyrs: Brothers Robin Lindsay, Francis Tofi, Alfred Hill, Tony Sirihi, Ini Paratabatu, Patteson Gatu and Nathaniel Sado.
These were brave and faithful young men who were friends, colleagues and relatives of some of us here today. Some of us ate, played, worked, prayed and shared mission and the simple life of the Brotherhood together with them. It is a special relationship and each year as we commemorate their lives that relationship of belonging grows.
They gave up their whole for the sake of peace and harmony in Solomon Islands during her dark chaotic day. They shared the brutal and fatality of many loved and dear ones during the tension. They shared in the passion in Christ. They were inhumanly killed and disposed of as though they were animals.
But thanks to RAMSI and SI Field Force for recovering and returning their bodies to their beloved home, Tabalia for the reverend and dignified Christian burial they fully deserved.
Today’s celebration we acknowledge the intervention power of God in ways we cannot fully comprehend in Solomon Islands, once full of darkness, fear, violence, hatred and killing for pleasure.
The martyrdom brought ACOM and MBH a lot of confusion, suspension, questions about the holiness and purity of the Brotherhood. Their home coming and funeral contained the pain of the brutal killing, but also the shame MBH and Companions’ encountered from Christians trying to deface the Brotherhood. There were in indeed more questions than answers as day by day the Brotherhood was continually accused of being spies, of being government agent, being partiality, and being providers food supplies to militia groups.
But on that solemn day, the Brothers and Novices together with members of other religious Communities in their best, stood at the bottom of hill leading up to the Mother House, Tabalia. The MBH Chaplain then, the Rev. Richard Carter wrote,
“They were supported by a large crowd, ragging from the Governor General to village children, waiting for the final homecoming of their beloved Brothers. One by one the coffins were unloaded from the trucks which simultaneously increase the wailing of the crowd as they pushed towards the coffins. The Brothers, with dignity and inner strength, carried the coffins in long procession up the hill and into the chapel of St. Mark. In front of each coffin, there was banner with the words, ‘Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the children of God’ and the name of the Brother who had given his life for the cause of that PEACE”.
Such expresses the pain and suffering of the death of the seven Brothers; how inhumanly the cruel killing took place, but also the inner strength of the Brotherhood. Their martyrdom appeared a total defeat of the mission of the Church during the conflict. It seemed a sad and shameful end to a fairy-tale of miracles and wonders by the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood was scathingly accused of messing around with their vocation and alleging that MBH has lost her power to work miracles. It was, as claimed, why the bullets did not diverge from them as the arrows and spears as held by oral history and tradition of MBH.
The big question then was why they went knowingly too well that Brother Nathanael has been murdered. Was it safe to go in search for him? What inspired them to take on the risky mission that cost their lives?
There are a lot of reasons which people are entitled to in answering the questions; answers that would help us look deeply into the heart of their mission. Some are based on guess work and may not be true to the context of the Brotherhood for which they went, others maybe reasonable. I wish to share on two points today to assist in the ongoing vocation, discipleship and mission and ministry of the Brotherhood.
The first point is on Discipleship.
Speaking to his disciples, Jesus said, if any of you wants to be my disciple, he must first take up his cross and follow me, Mark 8: 34. In biblical tradition, the cross pictures suffering and death.
Two things are important in the call to discipleships; 1. Taking up the cross and 2. To follow Jesus. In taking up the cross, one must be aware of the weight of the cross; it might be heavier than expected, it might be rough causing wounds on the shoulders, or it might be too long to carry. These are things that one must calculate before actually stooping down to take up the cross. These summarise the difficulties, hardships, sufferings and death in discipleship.
The six Brothers knew very well the dangers awaiting them at the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal; they knew that Br. Nathanael had been murdered. As claimed they should not have gone; but theirs was a complete obedience to their call to discipleship. They took up the cross having worked out the cost; they followed Christ to the hot spot of militants. They never turned back.
In search of their murdered brother, the six brothers were prepared to do as Christ does; they were prepared to turn where Christ turns; there were prepared to go where Christ goes. He wants us to follow where he goes. Where did Christ go when he took up the cross? When Christ took up his cross, he went to Calvary where he was crucified. Not all disciples will receive the crown of glory as martyrs; not all will go all the way to Calvary; but the seven martyred Brothers were granted the rarest privilege of grace in their discipleship to walk the walk of Christ.
Through their suffering, pain and death the Brothers went all the way in their discipleship. They walked the walk of Christ, not just to the weather coast of Guadalcanal, but to Calvary. They died as their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; theirs was a discipleship in its fullness.
By the martyrdom of the Brothers, the reality of discipleship in the words of Jesus in Matthew 16: 24-26 dawns on the Brotherhood. In the past it was ‘no Brother would be harmed’; they were protected by the power and mana of God. In the martyrdom of the Brothers, Christians believe that the spiritual mana that protected them from physical attacks had left them. But Jesus was very clear about his call to discipleship. He called people to take up their cross, hence the claim that their mana/power of God has left them was an ill-reason. The truth is that they entirely walked the walk of Christ who called them.
Very true the Brotherhood has a strong oral history of miracles as cover guards for the Brothers; they were never physically harmed, but what happened? Today we are commemorating the martyrdom of the seven brothers. The miracle for the Brotherhood today is not the miracle of protection, but the fullness of discipleship in death. A miracle of that encompasses full understanding of discipleship in the Brotherhood. A miracle that ripples multiple miracles. You need to stand back from the pain, loss and grief of their loss to see the multiple miracles emerging from their sad brutal death.
We have the intervention of RAMSI We have the unconditional laying down of arms and surrender of militants We have the arrest of the leading instigators on both sides We have freedom to speak out openly for justice again We have enemies being able to see each other in the face as friends We have forgiveness and acceptance each other as one people
These are signs of miracles of new life and in our nation, communities and families. God makes miracles through death. Resurrection is the name of the miracle. In 2003, Easter day was on 20th April; pointing the Brothers were suffering as their Lord during Holy week; four days after the resurrection they died. It may be coincidence, but God works in mysterious ways, his ways not our ways. In the event of new life Christ won for the world; the Brothers’ death four days after Easter was an event of new life for our nation Solomon Islands.
Christ went to the very end of life before he was able to redeem the world. The Brothers went to the very end to liberate Solomon Islands. Christ’s resurrection brought new life to mankind; the martyrdom of the Brothers restored peace and new life in our nation. When the Roman soldiers thought that they have succeeded in removing Christ from public domain by crucifying him, it was then that new life dawns. When the militants thought they have succeeded in murdering the Brothers, it was then that restoration of peace, new life and freedom for Solomon Islands dawns.
Just as Christ died on the wood of the cross, the Brothers died under the barrels of high-powered guns. Christ who called them to take up their cross and follow him lead them in the true way of service. They followed him with profound dedication, a challenge for our discipleship. We may all not end in martyrdom, but at least we must take up our cross and follow him with genuine loyalty.
The second point is love for each other in the Community
This is from an anthropological point of view which concerns with human beings, their relationship and behaviours in their families, communities and the society at large. In any family, either nuclear or extended, there is always concern for one other.
During the tension, the Brotherhood remained intact despites diverse representation of Brothers from different islands of origin. Brothers from Guadalcanal and Malaita were posted in households together or even at the camps. But there was never any hatred, there was no nepotism or wantok business, and no favouritism. We all love each other as family. There was total unity. Love was a condition or requirement for selection to go on the frontline mission.
It was this love (agape) that spurred the six Brothers to go and look for their Brother Nathanael, whatever the cost. It was a bit difficult to explain from outside perspective; it is deep within the life of the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is a family of young men caring and loving each other. It was that LOVE that gave them confidence to go forward. It is clear because it was the Assistant Head Brother Robin who led them. Bishop Desmond Tutu describes love perfectly by saying that Love is stronger than hate.
The fearlessness of the Brothers reflected their inner Love for each other and for the nation they loved so much. Their death, like Christ’s brings resurrection to a nation full darkness and fear. But resurrection is meaningless without the darkness and death which preceded it. It was in darkness the resurrection took place. Their love led them into the darkness and evil spot of the conflict on Guadalcanal; it is what give sense and meaning to the Brothers being martyrs today. It was why the gospels intentionally direct Christians to the earthly Jesus and his experiences before his resurrection.
Their love for each other translated well into their martyrdom; thus, giving the Brotherhood renewed love, care and fulfilment of their biblical motto, “I am in the midst of you as he that serves.” It is the Religious Communities royal law of liberty, “perfect selfless love.” The Brothers were told to go ashore some distance away, but they went straight to the stronghold of the militants. Was this disobedience? Literally, yes, but deep down it was a way of unlocking the love of God for this nation; something that pushed them on. The Brothers had primary knowledge of the impending dangers awaiting them on the ground.
One can argue whichever way; or their death can be contradicted, but one must also see that they were disciples called by Christ to take up their cross and follow him. Brothers and Sisters, the cross is not ‘a past experience, but a present reality’. It is the experience of our own societies today. In the abandonment of Christ by God on the cross, He (God) gives himself fully to Solomon Islands.
Friends and members of Religious Orders, we are not talking about something foreign or history. It the life that you have accepted to live by when you left your homes and families. It is the life the early missionaries to Melanesia, including Bishop Patteson accepted in spreading the gospel to our Islands. It is a life that means either life or death. Speaking of the death of St. Stephen said to his friends that it might happen to any of them. And as they went ashore at Nukapu, it happened to him.
Friends, the seven martyred Brothers left a legacy for us; not all are called to be martyrs, but faithfulness and dedication is key to graceful suffering and pain. Suffering gives birth to renewal of our vacation and ministry. We must live by the lessons of the martyrs, their faithfulness in discipleship and love beyond the bounds of nothingness.
Goodness is stronger than evil Love is stronger than hate Light is stronger that darkness Life is stronger that death Victory is ours through him who loves us The Lord be with you.
The Most Rev Leonard Dawea, Archbishop of Melanesia
On the 24th and 25th of April the Melanesian Brotherhood celebrated the feast of the seven martyred Brothers and St Mark’s Day. These two days were marked with the celebration of eucharist, feasting and fellowship with companions, supporters and friends throughout the three regions of the Melanesian Brotherhood in Solomon Islands, PNG and Vanuatu.
On 24th April the Brothers remember the death of the seven brothers who were killed on the Weathercoast of Guadalcanal in 2003. In history it is remembered as one of the darkest events, but also the day of victory for the nation of the Solomon Islands. Their death was not a defeat, but an event which brought resurrection and light, as peace was regained for the people of Solomon Islands (due to the intervention of a peacekeeping forces from across the Pacific – RAMSI). Happy are those who work for peace for theirs is the kingdom of God.
On 25th April, St Mark’s Day the chapel at Tabalia celebrates its Patron. It is also the day in which the aspirants are admitted into novitiate and the senior novices to become professed brothers. This year, the seven sections within the region admitted eight novices each, which gives a total of 56 first year novices within Solomon Islands region.
At Tabalia the central headquarters of the Melanesian there were thousands of companions, relatives, friends and supporters of the Brotherhood, who comes from every corner to have fellowship with the Brothers for the weekend. Some even there for a whole week. During the evensong on 24th of April, they witness the admission of eight aspirant and the ordination of Br. Martin Luza to the office of the diaconate. Br. Matrin comes from Russel Islands in the diocese of Isabel. On St Mark’s (25th April), the day began with the admission of three novices as professed Brothers by the Vicar General of the diocese of Central Melanesia The Rt Rev Alfred Hou.
At Fox Section Headquarter Poronahe, in the Diocese of Hanuato’o, the activity on Sunday went on till late in the evening. People travelled from near and far from the corners of Makira Island, and even from the outer islands of Santa Ana and Ulawa. It was a day of celebration and fellowship commented one of the teachers at Waimapuru NSS.
The Melanesian Brotherhood through these events pulls people from every corner, to come and have fellowship together. With no attractive material riches, but yet it attracted people to its event. The only gift the MBH can offer is the value of unity, peace and fellowship. So, in remembering the festivity of the seven martyred brothers, St Mark’s Day and the admission and ordination of these our MBH Brothers, let us all join our hands and be the witness of Christ in the World.
The Brotherhood renders our thanks to the companions, the Anglican Church of Melanesia, the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, IFI in Philippines, the churches in Australia and New Zealand, the MMUK and companions in UK, friends, supporters and all who support the MBH in kindness.
Revd Br. Nelson, MBH
Alphonse Garimae adds: “Thank you to the Anglican Church of Melanesia, friends, supporters and Companions for your trust and confidence for the financial support to MBH which has enabled Br. Nestor Nacionales to complete his studies and graduated on 16 April 2021. We hope he will serve Palawan Diocese in the years to come. We pray for more young men to join the Brotherhood in Palawan.”
Chairman, and members of the Melanesian Mission United Kingdom. Greetings to you all, from the Melanesian Brotherhood and may the Lord’s Grace be upon you in all deliberations in this very important meeting.
An overview of the Melanesian Brotherhood mission 2020;