A chance to see : The Solomon Islands A chance to meet : Melanesians A chance to learn : The life and faith, challenges and hopes of the people of these islands
Two weeks in Guadalcanal and Nggela Islands.
Visiting : Four Religious Communities in their households (Melanesian Brothers and Sisters; Franciscan Brothers, Sisters of the Church), villages, schools and local sites.
Tuesday September 15th to Thursday October 1st 2020.
For many this may be a ‘once in a lifetime’ visit to the far side of the world, so we are suggesting everyone makes their own way to and from Honiara (via Brisbane, Port Moresby or Nadi) – you may wish to visit India, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, China , Philippines, USA, New Zealand en route. The choice is yours! (We will certainly help search for flights if you wish!).
Accommodation : Chester Rest House in Honiara, Religious Communities’ and Mothers’ Union Guest Houses.
Travel : Public Transport in Honiara district is by mini-bus and ship.
The Religious Communities have their own ‘trucks’ which may not be very comfortable, but very memorable.
The Church of Melanesia owns the ‘Southern Cross’ ship, which it may be possible for us to use, depending on its September schedules.
15-seater Mini-bus if and when needed.
Cost : Depending on your route, you should be able to get to Brisbane and back for around £750. The Air Fare from Brisbane to Honiara is about £400 return.
Travel costs around the Solomons are impossible to calculate. A Self-drive 15-seater would cost about £150 per day + fuel.
Tony and Alison Sparham spent two years in Melanesia in 1998/99 working at Kohimarama Theological College. They have agreed to lead this proposed group.
At present, we would like to know who is interested – we can arrange a meeting(s) to go over more details in the New Year.
Be warned!! Anyone who has visited the Solomons Islands has become very committed to developing relationships with them. The people and the places grow on you – life will never be the same again!
Please contact MMUK to receive more information. Numbers will be limited.
We have had a busy time since the beginning of September when we welcomed back our Sister Kristy who spent six months in the UK. We were invited to the enthronement of the new Archbishop of Melanesia and then had our Provincial Chapter beginning with the welcoming of our new Mother Superior, Sister Marguerite Mae, to the Province.
In October, Marguerite and Veronica were invited to lead a workshop on Empowering Women. Ironically Veronica was not permitted to celebrate the Eucharist or preach as the women had hoped. We had the blessing of Sister Emily into her third term as Assistant Provincial on All Saints’ Day. We have had the Men’s Fellowship for a weekend at TNK recently and will have the electoral board for the new diocesan bishop of Temotu later this month.
Our Sisters and Associates are fully engaged with preparations and fundraising for the celebrations next September.
We had hoped to complete the dining hall and kitchen of the Retreat House which was blessed in April this year. Unfortunately, we have had some unexpected expenses. Our novitiate dormitory has started to shift on its foundations and serious cracks have started to appear. We are afraid that if there is an earthquake before we can repair the building it may collapse. We are hoping to start work on it as soon as possible. We estimate that it may cost $200,000 SBD or more. The architect and builder are doing the final estimates for repairs now. Our old generator broke down completely during Chapter and we have been without power since then. With the electoral board coming, we needed to replace the generator which is $90,000 SBD. Fortunately, half the cost has been met by St Andrew’s, Ham. Our solar water pump has been out of commission because of oil contamination of the ground water. We have obtained estimates of $44, 400 SBD for the re-routing of the controls and cabling to enable us to use the solar power with the other bore hole.
Next year we will be having two life professions, 3 more Junior Sisters, 2 novices and 2 new women coming to join the Community.
On 6 June 2020 the Community of the Sisters of the Church will be celebrating 150 years since its foundation in April 1870. Then in September we will be having our General Chapter at TNK and celebrating 50 years of CSC in the Solomon Islands.
After a long journey it was great to be greeted by Father Rayner in Port Villa. After settling into our hotel, we were visited by Karen Bell the new High Commissioner for Vanuatu. Karen explained her new role as there hasn’t been a HC in Vanuatu for fourteen years. It was interesting to note that with Brexit looming the British Government were setting up fourteen new High Commissions in the South Pacific, the West Indies and in Africa. Karen explained that she had three main roles; Working with the Government on issues of democracy, World relations and especially trade with Britain, and Climate Change. We introduced her to the work of MMUK and the schools and links programme as well as promoting the Article One project. Karen has a limited budget for projects but would be interested in a proposal from Article One. She was also interested in being introduced to Bishop James and I have forwarded his contact details. She saw that the three important and leading groups in the Vanuatu life were the Government, the Chiefs and the Church.
The next day we departed early for Espiritu Santo where we were met by old friends Joses, Diocesan Secretary, though recently retitled Operations Manager and Augustine, Director of Education. We later met with Bishop James and his staff at the Diocesan offices. We were able to explain a little about ourselves, they were shocked that as a Rural Dean I had responsibility for oversight of 32 parishes, and our project. The next few days were spent visiting school and a report has already been made.
We were invited to a special service at the Cathedral on the Sunday for a Mother’s Union Service where 10 new members were admitted by Bishop James. It was a wonderful, joyous service and an honour to be present.
Before leaving Santo, we visited a Rural Training Centre which had been relocated from Ambae, they were struggling in the limited facilities. They we pleased to receive visitors but looked forward to returning to Ambae.
Finally, we met with members of the Mothers’ Union who explained their work. We were particularly interested in their work around gender-based violence. Much good work is being carried out by the MU.
Leaving Vanuatu, we departed for the next leg of the project to Honiara to start the school visits etc. a separate report is available.
We were honoured to be part of the Enthronement of Archbishop Leonard and took the greetings from Bishop Robert and the Diocese of Exeter as well as greetings from ASM associates and people of Feniton. Following the 4-hour service and speeches we were invited to lunch, presentations and entertainment.
The highlight of the afternoon was the Cathedral Sunday School’s presentation of a worship song by dance and drama. They were inspirational and certainly raised the roof.
The next day Rev Cate travelled out to Verana’aso to visit the Sisters, see separate report and Daphne spent time in the Education Office. The Sisters are struggling to raise funds for a new chapel as theirs is unsafe. Sadly, it feels that the Sisters are the “poor relation” and receive little support and guidance.
During our stay in Honiara we also visited the Mother’s Union Headquarters and received updates on their work. They were preparing for a grand celebration of 100 years of Mother’s Union later that month.
We also visited the Christian Care Centre, at present there are 40 residents including children and many of these residents were teenage girls who had escaped their abusive homes. The Sisters of the Church and the Melanesian Sisters work together at the CCC to provide a safe and homely environment. We were very impressed by the facilities in a beautiful setting. On arrival we met Sister Veronica who was visiting as well. Most residents are only there for a couple of weeks before they return home if it is felt safe. Sadly, many return again later.
During our stay we made a courtesy visit to David Ward the British High Commissioner to explain our project. It was interesting to meet up with him before he departs for Samoa and to hear more about the political situation in the Islands.
After negotiation we were invited to tea at Government House to meet Sir David and Lady Mary Vunagi, the recently appointed Governor General of the Solomon Islands. It was lovely to meet up with old friends, who certainly were having to get used to a very different way of life.
Eventually it was time to return home. It had been an exhausting but interesting and enjoyable 3 weeks. We hoped that we have made some significant contributions in education and relationship building. We thank MMUK for all their support and look forward to further engagement.
The theme of the retreat & training was “Women on the Frontline for Reconciliation and Restoration”.
The aim was to empower women leaders in ACoM, especially Bishops’ and Clergy wives and women lay leaders to be equipped to become peacemakers, and to have courage to make steps to be at the frontline to become ambassadors of peace.
Mrs Caroline Welby the wife of the Archbishop of Canterbury and three staff from the Lambeth Palace, Mrs Sarah Snyder, Mrs Jane Namurye and Mrs Keren Lewis convened the retreat and training.
When Archbishop Justin Welby became the Archbishop of Canterbury, Mrs Welby had a vision to visit all Bishops’ wives within the Anglican Communion to encourage them in their role as they share the same calling and challenges.
The Anglican Church of Melanesia was the third province the team had visited to conduct the retreat and training.
The retreat was conducted for Bishops’ wives for two and half days and the second part of the programme was the training which included clergy wives and women leaders in ACoM. A total of twenty-eight women attended the training.
In his opening address, the Most Reverend George Takeli, Archbishop of the Province of Melanesia said this is the era of renewal and restoration in our society, and women must be in the frontline to lead. He views the training of women as a priority and is taking steps to make it happen. This includes:
Increasing the enrolment of girls in ACoM Schools
Increasing the number of women in the 2020 General Synod and Executive Council
Awarding of scholarships for women in theological training
The Importance of Retreat and Training:
The programme was unique, in that all participants were able to freely share and talk about their experiences and challenges. The method used at both the retreat and training was unique and of a high level with each session based on scripture, in which participants either used imaginary creative art or role-played characters from the chosen texts. These activities allowed participants to make connections to real life situations.
Participants who felt touched by what was being delivered and shared, were given opportunities to pray and share individually with Mrs Welby and her team. An opportunity was also given for anyone to have time with Sr. Veronica, the Sister Provincial and the only ordained woman in Melanesia. Seeing women queuing at the Sisters’ chapel to have their turn, speaks a lot on the Ordination of Women. Women share freely with women. Peace of Christ in our hearts was experienced by most of the women that attended this programme.
The programme was very effective like no other, because of the simplicity of Mrs Welby and her team and the process in the delivery method. Above all, the encouragement given in prayer life for the journeys we make in life.
“How are we going to make steps forward in the implementation of what we have acquired?”, was the question at the last day.
Participants were divided into three groups to discuss what will happen next after this training. They resolved to take steps to be ambassadors of peace in their families, communities and country:
Bishops’ wives to meet once every year
Awareness to be carried out in each diocese
Diocese of Central Melanesia to be a pilot diocese to carry out training
Revise the position of Women’s Desk at the ACoM Headquarters by a six-member committee
A follow up visit by Mrs Welby and Team in the future
First of all, we thank God for his grace given to women to be at the Frontline for Reconciliation and Restoration
We give thanks to God for calling Archbishop Justin Welby and Mrs Welby to shepherd the Anglican Communion
The love and passion that has brought Mrs Welby and her team to share with us and the humility and simplicity to be able to adjust to the life style so different from theirs. Also, for their commitment to prayer and encouragement to pray as a tool really stood out
For Archbishop George and Mrs June Takeli making this possible through their invitation to Mrs Welby to visit Melanesia
For the General Secretary and ACoM Administration for the support rendered
The Committee through the Provincial Mothers’ Union Office, who facilitated the visit in consultation with Archbishop George and Mrs Takeli
Sr. Veronica for celebrating for us daily and the love and care the sisters at Tete-Nikoli-Vuti (TNK), we couldn’t have chosen a better place. Just the right place for the Retreat and Training
‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulders: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.’ Isaiah 9:6-7.
A Merry Christmas to you all from the Community of the Sisters of the Church. It is a great joy for me to share with you the ministry and the mission of this Holy Child given to us over this year. I will share with you the significant events that have happened this year.
On 14th – 15th January 2018, I led a Retreat for the Provincial Mothers Union in the Solomon Islands. It is a privilege to work closely with this large organisation that has many members and they are in every single village in the country. The new year begins with people seeking the Holy Child to lead them to what is ahead. The Sisters of the Church and the Mothers Union work closely in the Anglican Church of Melanesia in many ways.
From 9th – 11th February 2018, the Sisters of the Church hosted the Religious Life Sunday at Tetete Ni Kolivuti (TNK). It is a moving event for Sisters and Brothers who live in the Religious Life to share, pray, celebrate and to learn from one another. We are partners in Mission although we approach ministry differently. This diversity as well as what we have in common among us brings richness to ACOM. We were grateful to Br Christopher John, the SSF Minister General who joined us. It makes a lot of difference when a worldwide leader is present among us.
On 28th July 2018, the land where St Scholastica House is located in the Diocese of Ysabel is now owned by the Community. For the past 12 years, we lived illegally on unregistered land and the landowners were wondering whether or not, the Community would ever do the traditional ceremony. Yes, after having several meetings with the landowners, the Associates and the Community finally registered the land under CSC. The Associates in the Diocese of Ysabel advised us on what items to prepare and led us in the ceremony. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their commitment and dedication to the Community.
From 9th – 14th September, we had the honour to host the Women on the Front Line programme. Mrs Caroline Welby, Mrs Jane Namurye, Mrs Karen Lewis and Canon Sarah Snyder from Lambeth facilitated this programme for the Bishops’ spouses, the Mothers’ Union and the female Religious Communities in Melanesia. Mrs Welby and her team were invited by his Grace, Archbishop George Takeli of the ACOM. It was the first time in our history that such a distinguished team has come to the Solomon Islands.
On 30th September 2018, two weeks later after the women programme, we had the blessing of late Sr Kathleen Kapei’s headstone, as well as celebrating Michaelmas. TNK was bursting with thousands of people, but everybody worked together and so the preparation went smoothly. That day many groups from different Parishes, Schools and people living in the planation came with their entertainment and we all enjoyed the celebration so much that we forgot when to stop. However, it was 5:30 pm and we were still sitting under the trees in the feasting area. I suggested we had Evensong at that spot, before everybody went home. That day we began the Service in the Chapel and then ended the day with an Evensong under the trees.
On 20th October at Evensong, we had the Acceptance of Jacklyn, Noelyn, Naomi and Yvon as Junior Sisters. Then on 21st October 2018 we had the Life Profession of Sr Mary Gladys. One of the moving moments at the Service was when her family escorted her into the chapel to pronounce her vows. They danced a Tikopian traditional dance and chant as they led her up to the altar, and then handed her over to me to be presented to the Bishop Visitor. That day was so lovely and a great blessing as we learned more about Tikopian culture. Again, the Evensong took place at the same spot under the trees before the crowd dispersed to their homes.
We have now completed the first part of the Retreat House at TNK. We will be doing more fundraising to complete the rest. Although this part will be blessed, at present there is no dining room, nor kitchen and no office yet. Retreatants will still join in the Community for meals in the refectory.
Mother Emily’s kindergarten is doing well and progressing. However, they have been disturbed a number of times, as we needed TNK to be quiet and silent. When groups come during the week for retreat, we asked the teachers to cancel the classes which was not right for the children’s education. The teachers are always annoyed with us regarding this issue. However, we are thinking of moving the School a little further from the Retreat House, so there will be no interruption to the school.
Please remember our Sisters on mission to Lord Howe islands during this Christmas Season. They are spending Christmas with our Christian people there, doing teaching, dramas, singing choruses and Christmas Carols, taking part in Worship and the celebration of the birth of Christ.
Sr Emily and I are in Canada as I write this letter. We came here to attend the Blessing of our new Mother Superior Sr Marguerite Mae and then the Provincials’ Meeting. It is good to be here and to have space before going back to our busy life in the Solomons.
‘For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulders: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.’
May I wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year 2019.