Tag: Melanesian Brothers

Melanesian Brothers

Solomon Island Flag

Solomon Islands’ Independence Day

The 41st Solomon Islands’ Independence Day was remembered on Sunday July 7th, not only in Solomon Islands, but across the UK. At Ottery St Mary Parish Church, in Exeter Diocese, the Ven John Rawlings, Leader of the Companions of the Melanesian Brotherhood in the South West, preached this sermon;

Trinity 3 – Ottery St Mary

I wonder how many people in the town or in Feniton or Alfington would know why there are street names and even a junction on the A30 which bears the name Patteson? Yet for a long time men and women from Melanesia have been making pilgrimage to these places and Exeter Cathedral to honour the memory and see places associated with Bishop John Coleridge Patteson, the first Bishop of Melanesia.

You, I am sure, are familiar with his story; being born in London in 1827 ; schooling at Kings in Ottery St Mary, Eton and studying at Baliol College Oxford; then ordination in Exeter and the cure of souls at Alfington. He had been influenced by Bishop George Augustus Selwyn in his school days and Selwyn wanted him to go to the Melanesian Islands and extend the Church Selwyn oversaw in New Zealand. Patteson’s ministry was exceptional and as a result the Church of Melanesia was founded and flourished. He learned many of the languages of the islands he visited and wanted the new Christians to express their faith in worship which used their indigenous music and dance and not be a transplant of the Gothic church buildings and Hymns Ancient and Modern. He also set up educational institutions. As many of you will know, he was martyred on the Island of Nukapu, either being mistaken for a slave trader or in revenge for the white men who had taken slaves from the islands to work in plantations in the Colonies. His martyrdom is depicted on the nave pulpit in Exeter Cathedral and when I have taken Melanesians there to see it they have always been profoundly moved.

The Melanesian Mission was set up in 1849 and still facilitates a very special link with Melanesia and is growing in its organization of visitors to and from Melanesia. The current Executive Officer of the Mission, Katie Drew, lives and worships in this Mission Community and the chairman is Bishop Mark Rylands who is now the parish priest at Ashburton.

The Diocese of Chester has had a special link with the Church there for a long time and when Bishop Michael came to be our diocesan bishop, having been a Suffragan Bishop in that diocese, he encouraged a similar link to be formed here. He had been out to Melanesia and was also a Companion of the Melanesian Brotherhood. The Brotherhood was founded in 1925 by Ini Kopuria, a former policeman in the Solomon Islands. It is still the largest Religious Order in the Anglican Communion and takes young men as novices who after their time of training become Brothers making vows for five years which are renewable. Unlike many orders the vows are not for life and Brothers can and often do return to their homes after five years and marry or assist their families.

Bishop Michael had been asked by the then Archbishop of Melanesia if he could find a placement for one of the Melanesian Brothers to have some time in an English parish to broaden his experience after being ordained and studying for a degree. Bishop Michael asked if I would take Brother George as I was in between curates in Tavistock at the time. Brothers always live and work in pairs or more when out on mission and so another brother would join Brother George and we would set up a House of the Melanesian Brotherhood in Tavistock. The brother who joined George was Leonard who has also been back to UK to study for a degree then be ordained. In 2017 he returned having been elected Bishop of Temotu diocese in the Solomon Islands and only a few weeks ago he was elected to be the next Archbishop of Melanesia. Sadly, Brother George died a couple of years ago but had exercised a remarkable ministry. In Tavistock both brothers were very much loved and admired for their simplicity of life, deep and prayerful spirituality and an ability to enable people to see what the Christian faith is all about. Some of you will have seen the brothers at work, as it were, when a large number of them came to the diocese in 2004 for the great mission or pilgrimage where they travelled round a number of places performing their dramas which depict elements of the Gospel together with their infectious dancing, singing and music on bamboo pipes. As a result of that and the time Brothers George and Leonard had in Tavistock, a number of people became Companions of the Melanesian Brotherhood based here and in Tavistock mostly. They support the work of the Brothers in prayer and financial aid especially when disaster strikes as it so often does.

They were joined by a number of Sisters as there are other religious orders in the Islands – The Sisters of Melanesia, The Sisters of the Church and the Franciscans. Again, some brothers and sisters came back to this diocese for what was called ‘Simply Living’ – a time of prayer, discussion and mission to encourage the Church here in its own mission. It is no longer a case of the Church in UK sending missionaries to the Islands of the South Pacific as in the 19th century but a two-way traffic of people from the islands coming here to encourage and support us. It is very special to be able to meet Sister Kristy here this morning.

All the religious orders in the Solomon Islands are engaged in work of reaching out to their communities and the islands, of which there are many. Some, especially the women’s orders are engaged in work with those who suffer domestic violence, other kinds of abuse, and have set up a women’s refuge. Education is also high on their agenda. The Mothers’ Union is very strong in the islands and has set up educational and parenting programmes. There is a huge need to combat the political instability and prevalent poverty and challenge the industry which has deforested so much of the islands and made them even more vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In past ethnic and tribal tensions and recent riots in the Solomon Islands the Brothers were the people most trusted to seek reconciliation. In 1999-2000 the Brothers worked on the Townsville Peace Agreement to enable working towards a better understanding in their Islands. But there is always at a cost and many of you will remember the seven brothers who, at a time of conflict with warring factions in the islands, were captured and martyred. Harold Keke, a rebel leader, would not comply with the agreement. Brother Nathaniel tried to reason and negotiate with him but was killed. Other Brothers went to find him and were also murdered. The martyred brothers have been remembered throughout the Anglican Communion and particularly at the last Lambeth Conference where a large icon was blessed and is in Canterbury Cathedral.

In the last few years a number of people, both ordained and lay, have gone from this diocese to the Solomon Islands and people from there have come here. There are schools which have special links with schools in the Solomon Islands which are proving beneficial in both directions. A PhD researcher is looking into the effects of climate change and the rising sea levels around the area as this is affecting so many communities who are very vulnerable.

In the Gospel Jesus sends out the 70 disciples two by two to proclaim the Kingdom, restore human dignity to the suffering and possessed; to show the face of God to the world. But they go with every vulnerability like lambs amongst wolves but need to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. That was not just the challenge to those early disciples it is a challenge to all of us now, whether in UK or Melanesia. One of the bishops from the Solomon Islands was asked what was the greatest priority for the Church in the Islands? His answer, given that at the time 95% of the population there was Christian, was mission and evangelization. He pointed out that God has no grandchildren. Every new generation needs to be confronted with the Gospel afresh.

The early disciples of Jesus were sent out in simple trust. They were not to be hampered with baggage. But they were to make a difference to the lives of those they encountered. They returned to the Lord rejoicing that their ministry and message had been effective.

Today we have been reflecting on the life of the Church in Melanesia on what is Solomon Islands’ Independence Day and we thank God for what the Church there is doing. It was recently announced that a previous Archbishop, The Most Reverend David Vunagi, has been appointed by the Queen to be the next Governor General of the Solomon Islands. The Church there and especially the religious orders are making a difference to the lives of people living in a very different kind of society from ours. But we, too, are called to make a difference in our society. As Jesus says, ‘the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few’. We need to ask ourselves this week, will my life, my witness to Christ through what I do and what I am, make a difference to the life of someone else?

Ven John Rawlings

Chester Companions

Companions of the Melanesian Brotherhood – Report from Chester and the North Section to Companions and Associates Meeting at St Martin-in-the-Fields – 4th May 2019

In 2018 our Diocese remembered the 30th Anniversary of our Diocesan Link with the Anglican Church of Melanesia. Head Brother Nelson Bako and his Section Elder Brother at Tabalia, Brother Michael Bosawai visited the UK to meet and inspire Companions and friends and were present at our celebration day at Foxhill, our Diocesan Retreat Centre. Our Chaplain Father Richard was also present, along with members of the Pwaisiho Family and two Sisters of the Church. All these Solomon Islanders, I include Father Richard as a Solomon Islander, brought their love and joy of living with them. Father Richard celebrated the Eucharist and Head Brother spoke to us. The Brothers brought a gift of a large cross, constructed by a Brother, for this anniversary at Foxhill. Father Richard interviewed our guests and we has some lovely Melanesian singing, a special day for all at Foxhill. Our two Brothers spent a week in Chester and were able to visit Bishop Peter and Head Brother Nelson visited the University of Chester, from where he graduated in 2011. Section Elder Brother Michael, who has studied agriculture in the Western Province was very happy when Revd Canon Ian Davenport arranged a visit to a farm and a primary school in Malpas, Cheshire. They worshipped at the Cathedral and fitted in visits to St Bridget’s Primary School, West Kirby and Woodchurch High School, with a urban farm situated on a housing estate, both schools being linked with schools in the Solomon Islands. In addition, they visited the Sisters of Jesus Way who are supporting the Sisters of Melanesia. Our Sisters have recently sent books to the Sisters and tools to the Brotherhood which have been much appreciated. The Brothers were able to come to Holy Island on our annual pilgrimage to remember Ini Korpuria, their founder. The Brothers and 20 Companions were led across the sands by our Chaplain.

Chester Companions are able to send funds to provide lunches for Novices at Tabalia every quarter. We aim to meet close to those Feast Days that the Brothers remember. Our best attended meeting has always been on the Feast Day of SS Simon and Jude because for many years this has been hosted by Bishop Willie and Mummie Kate at Gawsworth. Bishop Willie retired at the beginning of this year and they have moved a mile or two down the road to the village of Henbury. The Pwaisihos have been so generous in their friendship, advice and feasting and we wish them a happy retirement and are glad they are still nearby.

We are grateful to Bishop Peter and our Diocese who have been able to help when crises arise as in Vanuatu when the regional HQ has to evacuate their beautiful island of Ambae and relocate at Beau on the island of Malo, where they started with nothing.

The Companions were pleased to welcome Bishop James Tema of Vanuatu and New Caledonia and Bishop Rickson Maomaoru of Malaita and Bishop Peter hosted a supper party for his senior staff and Companions. The two Bishops met with former Dean Stephen Smalley who opened Chester Rest House in1994 and has corresponded with Bishop Rickson since then.

Plans are in hand to have a Martyrs Chapel in Chester Cathedral; this is for modern martyrs and Companions and Brothers are working with the Cathedral.

Three Companions have passed away in the last 12 months, namely Revd Margaret Jones, Jane Bartlett and Sally Spencer, our Chester Companions Secretary. Sally died suddenly and was well known by Brothers who came to UK and all our Companions. A very keen MU member, sang in her church choir, helped at Messy Church, gave lifts, and hosted Bishops and Brothers. She was never late and never too busy to lend a hand, helping to pack and transport boxes for shipments, a perfect friend, sharing joys and sorrows. She is much missed. In addition, we have mourned the sudden passing of Sister Marie, one of the founder members of the Sisters of Jesus Way. She was very happy to give me books to send to the CSM sisters only last December.

We give thanks to our Chaplain Revd Richard Carter for his example and his encouragement.

We thank God for our Melanesian Brothers and Sisters, from whom we can learn so much.

For these and all his mercies may God’s holy name be praised.

Barbara Molyneux

Exeter and Tavistock Companions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Rawlings – Southern Section Leader UK COMB

Companions and Associates Meeting

Companions and Associates Meeting at St Martin-in-the-Fields – 4th May 2019

Fifteen Companions and Associates gathered together in the Austen Williams Room of St Martin in the Fields, London with representation from North, South and East Sections of the UK. Revd Richard Carter gave us all a warm welcome and we made our way to the Dick Sheppard Chapel in Sr Martin in the Fields. Revd Catherine Duce presided at a very moving service of Holy Communion to remember the seven Brothers who were martyred 2003. Photographs of the Brothers were placed on the altar and Revd Richard gave very moving tributes to each Brother as Companions lit candles for each Brother.

After the Service we returned to the Austen Williams Room, where we enjoyed a delightful lunch cooked and by our Chaplain. In the absence through illness of the Venerable John Rawlings, Katie Drew read his report of the activities of the South Section and Barbara Molyneux read her report from the North Section. These reports are being circulated to all Companions.

News shared at the meeting and latest news:
We are asked to pray for candidates for the election of MBH leaders on 19th October at Tabalia HQ Solomon Islands: PNG Region – Br Martin Ogoba, Br David Igara, Br Rodney Gearua. South Region Vanuatu – Br Ennis David, Br Felix Raymond, Br Franklin Sale, Br Abraham Huri. Solomon Islands Region – Br George Bugoro, Br Augustin Paikeni, Br Jairus Houniseu, Br Alistair Knights. These candidates were nominated at Regional Conferences. A final list will be revealed at the Brotherhood Council in July. In addition, we are asked to pray for the Bishops and senior priests in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu as they prepare to select a new Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Melanesia.

Four Brothers, two from PNG and two from the Solomon Islands are setting up a new Household in Shepparton, Victoria, Australia, one of these Brothers being former Head Brother Matthias Tovotasi who was a member of the Simply Living Mission to England.

Head Brother Nelson Bako and MBH Secretary Alphonse Garimae were recently invited by the Rt Revd Keith Joseph, Bishop of North Queensland to accompany him on his first visit to small islands in his diocese. This has been an interesting experience as they met many of their countryman and people from PNG who have settled there.

Head Brother Nelson Bako is at present in Nairobi taking part in an intercontinental conference organised by the Anglican Communion in London, on the theme ‘Prayer and Renewal of Religious Life’. This is the third of three conferences based on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s three priorities, the first being on ‘Reconciliation’, held in Jerusalem and the second on ‘Evangelism and Witness’, held in Dallas. Head Brother Nelson wrote a paper on prayer and religious life in the Melanesian Brotherhood and is presenting it along with a power point presentation. Theologians from around the world are also giving presentations. This is all going to be put together for a book in readiness for the Lambeth Conference next year and I understand that Archbishop Justin is attending this conference. Head Brother Nelson studied at the University of Chester graduating in 2011.

Meantime, Alphonse Garimae is in Palawan in the Philippines visiting the Brotherhood Household which in a poor area and is giving much needed support and encouragement to Brother Jack and our Brothers and Novices.

Regional Head Brother Chilion Mongagi Of Vanuatu has sent reports of the major task of setting up a new HQ at Beau on the island of Malo after having to evacuate the island of Ambae.
Several Companions are visiting the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu this year and we wish them well.

Dates for our Diaries:
Saturday 15th June 11.00am Exeter Cathedral – Service for Ini’s Day. All Companions and Seekers and Associates are invited to join our Exeter Companions, who are offering accommodation on the Friday evening for those travelling a long distance. Saturday 21st September MMUK AGM and Festival St Mary Redcliffe Bristol.

Barbara Molyneux Secretary UK Companions of the Melanesian Brotherhood May 2019.

MBH Australia

Melanesian Brotherhood News

MBH Australia
Br. Augustine Paekeni and Br. Matthias Tovotasi

The Melanesian Brotherhood (MBH) opened a new household in Shepparton Parish, Wangaratta Diocese in Australia in April.

Br. Matthias Tovotasi from Guadalcanal and Br. Augustine Paekeni from Isabel, joined two Papua New Guinea Brothers to serve in the household.

The extension of the MBH mission to Shepparton Parish came following a request by the Diocesan Bishop of Wangaratta Diocese, the Right Rev. John Parkes for Melanesian Brothers to serve in his diocese.

The Rt Rev. John Parkes in his letter to the Melanesian Brotherhood in July last year stated a need to have the Brothers in his Diocese.

MBH Australia - Keith Joseph
Rt. Rev. Keith Joseph – Bishop of Northern Queensland

“We see the Brothers joining us as equal participants with the existing ministry team of the Shepparton Parish; to fulfil their apostolate of prime evangelism to the untouched multicultural population of Shepparton. This is a mission the current parish ministry finds it difficult to do because of some barriers; to give a wholeness to the ministerial team which is a gift those in religious life traditionally bring and to enhance holiness of the community by their participation in the daily round prayer within the Parish and to provide for training opportunities in both secular and religious fields”.

The MBH Council agreed upon the request in July last year and arrangements were made. A total of eight Brothers from Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, including the Head Brother, Br. Nelson Bako and Regional Head Brother of Papua New Guinea region, Br. Joe Narui, witnessed the opening of the new household in Shepparton Parish, on 7th April.

Before the opening, the Brothers attended the consecration service of Fr. Keith Joseph as the 11th Diocesan Bishop of Northern Queensland on Sunday 31st March. Dr. Aram Oroi, Principal of Bishop Patterson Theological College preached in this consecration service.

On 4th May Companions to the Melanesian Brotherhood from across the UK, will meet in London to pray and give thanks for the Brotherhood and plan their activities for the next 12 months.

News story and pictures from ACoM Communications

Flooding

Flooding in the Solomon Islands

The MMUK office was saddened to learn on reopening in early January, that the Solomon Islands had suffered from heavy rain over Christmas and new year. An estimated 100,000 people across six of Solomon Islands’ eight provinces had been affected by two weeks of torrential rain and strong winds.

FloodingSecretary to the Melanesian Brothers’, Alphonse Garimae reported: “Rain and wind on New Year’s Eve has badly affected the Melanesian Brotherhood Head Quarters. Flooding has damaged again food gardens and other crops, according to reports received from Head Brother. Gardens were swept away by rivers and some bush garden houses were damaged due to fallen trees.”

The Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACoM) has received numerous requests for assistance with food from various communities throughout Guadalcanal. The ACoM Disaster Committee met last week to look at the situation and coordinate with other relief agencies and the National Disaster Council to respond accordingly. Donations to support this work, can be sent to MMUK, with the reference 2018 SI Flood Appeal.


Community of the Sisters of Melanesia Flooding Report
Date: December 2018 – January 2019

Damage report from the headquarters of The Community of the Sisters of Melanesia in Verana’aso. Sisters, Novices and Staff have been affected, especially their daily food sourced from the root crop gardens. This will probably last for another four to five months whilst they begin to plant their food crops again. A few of the community’s temporary buildings also had their roofs blown off.

The pictures below show the major damage to the CSM food crops, vegetable and staff gardens.

News story and pictures courtesy of Companion Charlton Thegu – 1st January 2019 at Verana’aso

Br Nelson At Chester Link Anniversary Celebrations

Interview with Head Brother Nelson

By Reverend Richard Carter and Reverend Jacky Wise

RC: How many Brothers and Novices are there currently?

In Tabalia there are 138 Novices in training and there are 300 Novices and 200 Brothers across the seven dioceses, including Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.

Five novices accompanied four brothers in one area, Nikoyu, in Malaita, and they are developing a brand new area of mission. We are building seven new houses and a chapel and actually making a new village. They baptised five families last month.

Br Nelson, TabaliaRC: Would you say that the brothers still playing a major role of evangelism across the Solomon Islands?

Yes, I think we are in the front line. This year ACOM has launched the Decade of Evangelism and the Brothers are in the front line of this work.

It’s the same mission strategy. The Brothers are the people who are prepared to stay, do practical and tough work, whereas some missionaries just visit and then go.

RC: Could you tell us a bit more about the new decade of evangelism?

Jeffrey, the former Chester student, is coordinating the strategy. We want people within the different Anglicans sectors or groups can relate to each other and to understand each other better. We want to empower them all, including the Mothers’ Union, the Companions and the parishes.

RC: Why are the Brothers such effective evangelists?

The Brothers go and live among the families and get involved. We then show them what to do. The former Archbishop, David Vunagi, said to us that the mission of the Brothers and their communities is successful partly due to the fact that the people will obey the Brothers but they won’t necessarily obey the parish priests.

RC: Does singing, music and drama still play a big part in your missions?

The dramas are so important. Always. The youth want drama. This year the Passion Play has been important in communicating to young people, and we appreciate being able to use the dramas that you prepared with us too.

Br Nelson, TabaliaRC: How does it feel to the leader of such a big community?

I have seven section elder Brothers and they take a lot of responsibility too. It’s not just me doing the work. If there is something really hard for them to handle then they call on me, especially in disciplinary cases.

RC: I remember when Chester Rest House was built. How important has this been? It’s generated quite an income over the last fifteen years hasn’t it?

It plays such an important role in what we have been able to do. The profit from the Rest House has allowed us to buy so many things. It funds 60% of all our missionary activity.

It’s not just the Rest House; the Brothers who have studied in Chester have been such a blessing to us all after their studies. One of them is a Bishop, Leonard, who is helping the whole church, and Jeffrey is now coordinating a major strategy and there is Jonathan too, who is now a chaplain again. They’re making a huge contribution. My own time in Chester exposed me to many different people and I have a better understanding of difference.

RC: What attracts young people to this tough way of life?

The Rule is tough but they want experience, and they know that tough things will be good. You do what others do and they like it. We always get many more applications than we can take.

Steve Martin with Fr Richard Nokia

Boiled Eggs, Custard Creams and Coconut Juice

I am the assistant curate of Tavistock, where we are fortunate to have a faithful group of Melanesian Brotherhood Companions. In 2001 the late Fr George Elo and Bishop Leonard Dawea (then both Brothers) came to Tavistock to work and live in the parish under the guidance of the then Vicar, Fr John Rawlings. Since then we have maintained strong links and, earlier in 2017, Bishop Leonard came to visit Tavistock to see old friends. I was invited to become a Companion and was soon gently ‘encouraged’ by Katie Drew (let the reader understand, and be warned—her enthusiasm is infectious) to visit the Solomon Islands to see and experience the Church there for myself.

I spent my three-week trip on Guadacanal, first at Honiara, before travelling to the Brotherhood’s Headquarters at Tabalia, working my way westwards to the Franciscan community at Hautabu, visiting the Community of the Sisters of Melanesia at Verana’aso on the way. I also paid a call to see the Project Trust students working at St Nicholas’s School and Selwyn College. It was good to see the students so well received and integrated into the communities they serve.

I ended my trip back in Honiara, from there I visited Norman Palmer School and the Community of the Sisters of the Church at Tetere Ni Kolivati (TNK). I led a study day for priests in Honiara, gave lectures at Bishop Patteson Theological College and at the various communities I visited, and was honoured to be invited to preach and celebrate services for my various hosts.

Steve Martin with The Melanesian Brothers
Steve Martin with The Melanesian Brothers

The trip was full of rich and wonderful experiences. I was fortunate to be present at Tabalia for the Ss Simon and Jude festivities. The Chapel and surrounds were richly decorated with beautiful orchids and fragrant frangipani blossom. I arrived on Saturday afternoon, the before the big day, and attended Choral Evensong. The singing was superb: the Psalms and Canticles are sung in blazing four, six and sometimes eight-part harmony. The music is based on Anglican chant, so it is easy to join in – familiar, but different, and certainly very exhilarating to be a part of.

At the Eucharist the following morning Bishop Sam Sahu presided at the installation ceremony where thirty-six novices became brothers, and three brothers (Brothers Thomas Suia, Mark Tafodi and John Alley) renewed their vows. The community said goodbye to seven Brothers: Nathanial Tagoa, Albert Iroga, Culbert Moana, Mostyn Tugu, Winston Heke, Lazarus Vavaha and Francis Mauru, the second-oldest member of the Solomon Island Brothers. Brother Francis entered the novitiate in 1984, became a brother in 1986, and served in Australia and Fiji as well as in the Solomons. It was clear that many novices and brothers will miss his wise support and guidance. Like many leaving brothers, he became a Companion later in the week, before he prepared to return to Makira.

The Chaplain, Fr Richard Nokia, kindly invited me to celebrate and preach at several Eucharists during my stay, and to officiate at Choral Evensong on my final Sunday, which was a huge honour. Fr Nokia has a great rapport with the novices and brothers, which is not surprising as his motto is: ‘give them everything!’. Mrs Veronica Nokia is also a much-loved member of the community and gives an incredible amount of time and energy to running a successful literacy course for the novices. During my stay, I was privileged to attend the Literacy Awards Ceremony, which was organised by Veronica and the Mothers’ Union, represented by their president, Pamela Abana and her colleagues Emily Pengalo and Adriana Estrada who are based at St Agnes Rest House in Honiara (an excellent hostel where I stayed towards the end of my trip).

The celebrations around Ss Simon and Jude’s Day lasted a week – lots of feasts, dancing and general socialising. It was wonderful to see thousands of supporters and Companions, many of whom stayed for the week, helping to prepare meals and tidy the site as they waited for boats to take them back to their islands.

My flying visit to the Sisters of Melanesia was a treat. After speaking to the novices and sisters, I was invited to sit down to a lavish tea, complete with boiled eggs, custard creams and coconut juice straight from the husk – an unusual teatime combination, but it worked for me!

I then travelled to see Noah and Ultan at Selwyn College. Like their colleagues Juliette and Flora at St Nicholas’ in Honiara, Noah and Ultan had settled in extremely well and had been welcomed wholeheartedly into the communities. It was wonderful to see all four of the Project Trust students at the various services and celebrations, in Honiara, at TNK and Tabalia – they had clearly become part of the Anglican family. There is also a bit of cultural exchange going on, as they had begun teaching the Solomon Islanders Scottish Country Dancing…

During my second week, I stayed with the excellent Brother Jonas and the community of Friars at their beautiful hillside home at Hautabu. Any nerves I felt about giving my theology talks here were soon forgotten as our friendly discussions continued in our outdoor classroom under the shade of palm and mango trees, looking out over the Pacific Ocean.

Steve Martin with Revd Sr Veronica
Steve Martin with Revd Sr Veronica

Once I got back to Honiara, I travelled out to see the inspirational Sister Veronica and the Community of the Sisters of the Church at TNK. Their work building up the kindergarten and women’s refuge is truly inspiring, and it was a huge privilege to attend Sister Kristy’s life profession there just before I flew back to Britain.

My trip was a hugely encouraging experience. The hospitality I received from everyone I met was truly incredible; all the clergy and religious communities work as part of a big family and work hard to support each other. All were present for Sister Kristy’s profession, so I could say goodbye to almost all the people I had met over the past weeks. I owe so many people a debt of thanks for making my time in Melanesia so fruitful and enjoyable, but I must thank Fr Nigel Kelaepa especially for his organisation, kindness and hospitality.

Steve Martin

Novice Sister Mildred and Cathy

A Melanesian Pilgrimage

As a Companion and Associate, I’ve long wanted to spend time and experience Solomons life with the Brothers and Sisters of Melanesia. This summer I experienced both joyful pilgrimage and a great adventure of faith that continues to enrich my faith and Curacy.

My first night in the Solomons was spent at Chester Rest House which helped me to get my bearings in Honiara and appreciate how much the Brothers’ guest house is valued by all who stay there.

It was so good to be met by Sr Veronica the next day, who drove us to TNK for an overnight stay. The Sisters and Novices of the Church of Melanesia were very kind and sensitive to my jetlag! The beauty and peace of TNK is complemented so well by the worship, hospitality and ministry to the local community and wider church. It was delightful to meet Tina and David Arnold who kindly facilitated my trip back to Honiara, stopping at the Christian Care Centre en route to see their hugely important work.

The Sunday service at St Barnabas Cathedral became an unforgettable experience of worship – as swifts flew around the Chancel and a pair of Mynah birds showed off their nesting skills.

The following day I was met by Flory and her husband Charly who are such good advocates for the Sisters of Melanesia. We set off for Verana’aso where I experienced the most incredible welcome and hospitality from the Sisters and Novices during the following five days. Being invited to teach the Novices was a great privilege and joy as we shared experiences, worshipped together and got to know each other more. Visiting neighbouring Franciscans at beautiful La Verna was a precious time, hearing stories and seeing the lasting legacy of Br Giles.

After a moving farewell at Verana’aso, I set off for Tabalia, blessed with the joyful company of Franciscan Br Clifton – also a great truck driver, skillfully negotiating huge pot holes.

At Tabalia I continued to experience the precious worship and partnership in the Gospel that I’ve always found through the Melanesian Brothers ministry. It was wonderful to see Head Brother Nelson leading Evensong in his home setting. The beautiful peace of Tabalia, being near the graves of the Seven Martyred Brothers, the worship and hospitality of the Brothers and Novices was humbling and profoundly moving.

Returning to Honiara, I stayed at St Agnes Guest House, a lovely place, run by the Mothers Union. MU President Pam and team are doing such great work with the Anglican Church. We visited two satellite church communities and also spent time with the MU at All Saints Church in Honiara. The MU are incredibly inspiring, speaking out for justice through practically helping families to flourish through educational and life skills programmes.

I’ve learnt so much from the witness of all those I met, experiencing how much goodness and flourishing the religious orders and local churches bring to their surrounding communities. Melanesia is very beautiful and life incredibly fragile. The people value and do so much with so little, in comparison to what we have in Western Europe. It was a real lesson in life to value every drop of water and realise how many people throughout the world really do live without running water or electricity.

This Melanesian pilgrimage has shown me the true Agape love of God, which I’ve always experienced through times spent with Melanesian visitors to the UK. Agape love as joyfully knowing ourselves part of the global Christian community, drawn together through the depth of God’s love. I thank God for our Brothers and Sisters.

Revd Cathy Scoffield – Curate at St John the Baptist Churches, Bishops Tawton & Newport, Barnstaple, Diocese of Exeter.

John & Rachel from the UK with Saint Nicholas students (Head Boy & Girl)

Woodchurch Church of England High School visit the Solomon Islands

John & Rachel from the UK with Saint Nicholas students (Head Boy & Girl)

John & Rachel from the UK
with Saint Nicholas students (Head Boy & Girl)

My name’s Rachel and I work for St Mary’s Church Upton as a Youth Worker. As part of our ministry we provide the Chaplaincy Team at Woodchurch High School, an exciting opportunity and privilege which we love. Woodchurch High School, a CofE Academy, was lucky enough to develop a partnership with St Nicholas High School in Honiara, Solomon Islands earlier this year. To enrich the link and develop the relationship between the schools, we dreamt of being able to make a personal connection with teachers and students and find a way of bringing the link alive. Our dreams became a reality as we organised a trip for myself and an old Woodchurch student John, who also used to attend St Mary’s (now a freelance film maker and photographer) to travel out to Honaira. We spent two weeks in Honaira meeting staff and students and doing as much filming as we could so, now that we’re back, we can show the pupils at Woodchurch what their partner school looks like, introduce them to life in Honiara and Solomon Island culture.Pupils At St Nicholas

Neither of us had been to the Pacific before so the whole trip was novel and exciting and we had the most fantastic experience. We were met at the airport by a group of students from St Nicholas School who had prepared frangipani garlands for us and on the drive back into town we chatted and got to know them, whilst trying to take in the environment outside as we drove through Honiara for the first time.

We had a brilliant welcome from the school. In addition to being met at the airport we were also invited for an Opening Ceremony where we were adorned with more garlands and took our seats on the stage of St Nicholas’ open-sided assembly hall. We were introduced to the school and welcomed by the Principle and introduced ourselves, bringing greetings from Woodchurch High School. We were amazed and awed by three groups of students who came and performed cultural dances in traditional dress. The dances were absolutely brilliant and there was a great atmosphere in the Hall; the whole school was enthusiastically cheering and clapping their support of their fellow pupils.

A timetable was organised for us by two teachers at St Nicholas which allowed us to travel around Honiara and Guadalcanal and capture lots of different aspects of life on the Solomon Islands. We also wanted to be able to embed some of the things we filmed into the curriculum for our students here at Woodchurch. So, we visited a Museum and interviewed a local artist so that when Woodchurch students study Art, they will be able to see and think about the kind of art produced in the Solomon Islands. We interviewed a Geography teacher at St Nicholas and several individuals so that when Woodchurch students study Climate Change in Geography, they will be able to see and hear the stories of real people whose lives and homes have been drastically affected by rising sea levels. For History, we visited the American and Japanese War Memorials, Bloody Ridge (the site of an intense battle during the Second World War) and Vilu Museum where many of the artefacts found on Guadalcanal have been taken, including old guns and parts of planes. And we visited and attended many churches and services, so RS students can see the differences and similarities between Christian worship in the Solomons and here in the UK.

We visited Konguli Water Source (which supplies 95% of the capital city with their water) and Point Cruz, Honiara’s busy dock. We wandered round the Central Market and city centre and enjoyed visiting local hotels and watching more performances of traditional dancing (although none was as good as the performance from St Nicholas students!).

Woodchurch Exploring SavoIn our own time we stayed on Savo Island for a night which was an incredible experience. The volcanic island, about 2 hours boat journey away, is a must-see for visitors to Honiara; it’s a beautiful island on which locals bring up hot water from many of the wells which has been heated by the volcanic activity.

We trekked up to Mataniko Waterfall with a wonderful guide. It was great to get away from the sounds and dust of the city and spend some time in the rainforest and enjoy the natural beauty of Guadalcanal.

We also visited Tabalia, the central Headquarters of the Melanesian Brotherhood, and were there for Palm Sunday which was a great celebration. We attended Evensong on the evening we arrived and were greeted warmly and asked to introduce ourselves at the end of the service; they welcomed us by singing two brilliant songs – the brothers don’t hold back when they sing; the wall of sound that hit us as we stood at the front of the chapel was astonishing. We ate a delicious evening meal with the community of guests who were visiting for the weekend, food prepared by lots of different members of families and friends who often visit Tabalia together. We participated in the Palm Procession, the brothers, novices, priests, and all the guests; men, women and children, had a freshly cut palm branch and palm cross which they wove into the leaves of their branches. There was a great swell of song as the crowd sang in beautiful harmony “Lord we lift up your name, Lord we lift your name on high, Lord we lift up your name! To the king of kings, all glory! Glory, glory to the King of kings! Hosanna, hosanna in the highest!”  and clapped, whooped and cheered as we made our way to the chapel for the service.

We had a very comfortable stay in Chester Rest House, run by the Brothers and named after Chester Diocese) and were well looked after by both the school and the Brothers, who helped organise our trip to Tabalia. We had a fantastic two weeks learning about this part of the world, the rich culture and wonderful people. Two weeks wasn’t long enough!

At the end of May we launched the St Nicholas Link at Woodchurch with a number of introductory videos shown in form time and in the year group assemblies every morning for two weeks. We’re excited about what the future of the link holds for the two schools and to see all that can be learnt and shared through our global link.

 

John & Rachel from Woodchurch School, UK