In October the new Governor General of Solomon Islands, the Right Reverend Sir David Vunagi, was in London to be knighted by the Queen. During the visit, MMUK trustee, the Reverend Catherine Duce, hosted a reception for Sir David and Lady Mary Vunagi at St. Martin in the Fields.
It was a lovely opportunity for old friends to welcome the Governor General and his wife back to London. Sir David has been a servant of the Church of Melanesia for many years, serving as headmaster of Selwyn College, Dean of Honiara and Archbishop of Melanesia. In retirement David returned briefly to his home island of Santa Ysabel where he realised a long ambition to plant an arboretum, but was then called back to be headmaster of Selwyn College. Mary, meanwhile was back in Honiara as President of the Mothers’ Union. Earlier this year, David was elected Governor General.
At the reception, Canon John Pinder was able to hand over the Solomon Islands flag which was carried in procession and laid on the altar of Westminster Abbey at the independence service in 1978. He assumed that it would reside in the office of the Solomon Islands High Commission in London, but the head of protocol, Trevor Ramoni, claimed it for the Governor General’s residence in Honiara where it will have a place of honour.
There was a happy reunion between the Solomon Islands High Commissioner in London, Eliam Tangirongo and the Reverend David Wippell. Eliam was a prop forward in the Selwyn College rugby team that was brilliantly coached by David, beating all the other rugby teams in Honiara in 1971.
John Pinder was able to introduce the Governor General to Professor Nick Stanley who is writing a biography of Robert Codrington, apart from Patteson, the most famous and respected of the early missionaries. Nick was delighted when Sir David agreed to write a foreword for his book.
The afternoon ended with a short act of worship and an address by Sir David.
His Royal Highness Prince of Wales Prince Charles will undertake an official visit to Solomon Islands from Sunday 24th to Monday 25th November 2019 at the invitation of the Solomon Islands Government. This will be The Prince of Wales’ first visit to this country.
Prince Charles upon arrival on Sunday afternoon will receive an official welcome ceremony at the Government House and meet with the recently knighted Governor General Sir David Vunagi. As outlined in the short visit, His Royal Highness will attend a number of public engagements including a reception. His Royal Highness’ programme will focus on climate change and ocean governance where he will have the opportunity to launch “Solomon Islands National Ocean Policy” and the “Malaria Elimination Roadmap.” While in Honiara Prince Charles will visit Parliament where he will make a brief address and meet with the Speaker of Parliament Mr. Patteson Oti as well as the Honourable Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare. After he will then attend a State Luncheon hosted by the Governor General. His Royal Highness will also attend a brief program to honour the service men and women including Solomon Island Scouts and Coastwatchers who had served during Pacific War campaign (World War II) in Solomon Islands. The Prince will also spend time learning about sustainable fisheries management in the Pacific Ocean with a visit to the Forum Fisheries Agency Surveillance Centre.
The visit coincides with the Royal couple Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall Camilla Pacific tour to New Zealand from 17th – 25th November 2019. Camilla will return to the United Kingdom after the New Zealand tour whilst Prince Charles will continue on first to Tuvalu before coming to Solomon Islands to celebrate the Monarchy’s relationship with these Commonwealth Realms.
His Royal Highness Prince Charles is the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and is currently heir to the British throne. Review of the Royal Family visits here saw Queen Elizabeth II herself visit Solomon Islands twice – in 1974 and 1982. And the recent Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and wife, Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton in 2012 as part of their Asia tour.
The nation of Vanuatu in the Pacific Ocean is an archipelago of 83 islands, over 100 languages and a highly diverse and endemic flora and fauna. Paradoxically, Vanuatu has been described as being both the most naturally hazardous place on earth whilst also hosting the happiest people on the planet. It is also a nation facing changes; changing climate as the world warms, and changing social and economic futures driven by increased connectivity with the global community.
In August of this year, the University of Southampton funded a trip to Vanuatu with the help of the Melanesian Mission and Anglican Church of Melanesia. The aims of the visit were to build links with organisations in Vanuatu to learn more about the challenges and choices faced by the people, but also to better understand how natural hazards are transferred into changing risks to local communities. A third goal was to recover samples of lake and swamp sediments, that can be used to reconstruct changes in the natural environment and climate over timescales longer than monitored records. Some 23 hours of travelling and 11 time zones later we arrived in Vanuatu. For David this was the third trip to Efate and Port Vila, but for Chris and Sally it was their first time in Vanuatu and Melanesia.
Day 1 was all about recovery! This was made possible thanks to the very kind hosts Hugo, Fabienne and Marcel at Aquana Beach Resort. Day 2 and we were off to core swamps and lakes. We visited Emoatfer swamp in Eretap, an infilled lagoon containing over 4000 years of environmental and climate history, including evidence for the arrival of the first people on Efate. We were keen to get stuck in – which we did quite literally. After a walk up and over the former coral reef (now a low ridge) we descended through the Pandanus swamp forest and out into the sedge of the swamp. We recovered 4m of mud with a series of peat layers distributed down the core showing periods when the climate was drier. Thoroughly soaked, muddy but delighted, we moved on to Lake Emaotul. Getting to Emaotul involves a track that with increased use of 4WD has almost become impassable. We met up with Pastor Peter Kolmas – who is building a small church in the bush to serve his parishioners. Peter set about cutting us a trench through the road cutting so we could sample the lake muds that were exposed 22m above the current lake level. Local stories tell of an earthquake and the sudden draining of the lake about 2000 years ago. Peter and his family live up near the lake, care for the local community and grows some crops and tends his forest garden. His church is a simple breezeblock barn like structure with a tin roof, a few benches and a simple table festooned with flowers for the Altar.
During our time we met up with a range of wonderful and interesting people, including the UK’s new (1 month in post) High Commissioner Karen Bell and Deputy High Commissioner Paul Lawrence. They are part of a wider UK ‘Pacific Uplift’ policy that is seeing increased presence of the UK government in the Pacific with Samoa, Tonga and Solomon Islands receiving new High Commissioners this year. We were also able to give a presentation and meet up with the team in the Vanuatu Government’s Division of Meteorology and Geohazards. These are part of a wider Disaster risk management and climate change group whose job is to monitor and respond to natural hazards such as Cyclone Pam in 2015 and the recent eruptions in Ambae. We are hoping to develop more formal links with VMGD.
A key part of our trip was to deliver a workshop on multiple hazards with ACoM. Selwyn Leodoro, former speaker of the Vanuatu Parliament, and Joses Togase (Secretary to ACoM) helped organise the workshop under the leadership of Bishop Tama and hosted at the newly built Vanuatu Christian Council Centre. This centre is a fantastic resource as proven by its hosting two workshops – our one on Multihazards and across the grassy square another on the Theology of Disasters. At lunchtime we all met up where I met Father Nigel from the Solomon Islands who was due to host Marie Schlenker a PhD student co-funded by the University of Southampton and Melanesian Mission who is working with Rob Nichols, Ivan Haigh and David Sear on coastal erosion and community impacts of sea level rise in the Solomon Islands. A small world indeed but meeting him gave me great hope for Marie’s visit.
Back on Vanuatu, our workshop attracted a range of stakeholders from Government, Communities, different islands, educators and students and NGO’s with experience of disaster management. We worked them hard – asking them to identify pathways along different hazards propagated into communities. We then asked them to identify the different scenarios for the future of Vanuatu. This prompted lively debate, but we agreed in the end on two major axes of future choices for Vanuatu – one that saw a traditional future at one end, and a highly ‘westernised’ future at the other. The other axis had a sustainable future at one end and an intensive industrial/agrobusiness future at the other. This provided lively debates and groups clearly had different perspectives, based on their backgrounds and nature of work. We then asked the group to explore how different factors would change along each axis – for example how might agricultural practices change in a sustainable traditional future vs an intensive westernised future? We had already seen evidence of changes when we passed the new shrimp farming lagoons built on the floodplain of the Teouma River in Eratap. This floodplain is subject to intense flooding during Cyclones – construction of shrimp farming ponds may not be sustainable in the long term.
In the afternoon after a fantastic lunch of Melanesian and Solomon Island dishes we asked the group to identify where in the possible future scenarios for Vanuatu each main Island lay – Tanna for example was seen to be largely traditional and sustainable whereas Efate was seen to be moving towards an intensive/westernised future. In our final session we asked delegates to return to their multiple hazard pathway diagrams and to highlight the changes that would occur under the different futures they had identified. In this way we were able to show delegates how the decisions made on the future direction of Vanuatu could impact communities during natural hazards. We found differences between islands, and this understanding is important for development planning, and in response to disasters (which directly relates to Sustainability Development Goals). For all delegates this was a new way of thinking and helped them to see how important it is to develop joined up planning for disaster management. What we learned was how most people wanted to retain a traditional, Christian community ethos – valuing strong community and family bonds. However, clear areas of change were also identified as necessary, including preserving sustainable livelihoods, whilst increasing gender equality and opportunity.
In our final day we explored Port Vila. There has been quite rapid change since David’s last visit in 2017. Roads were newly repaired and surfaced, and new building works were evident, largely funded by Chinese investment. In the market we met a woman who was weaving. We struck up a conversation with her and it turned out she was one of the many people evacuated form Ambae in the recent eruption. Although recently removed from her home, she seemed at peace with the events. Her explanation was down to the welcome she had received from the community in Pentecost Island who welcomed her and her children into their homes when hers became uninhabitable. Subsequently, she had been able to make her way to Efate and was schooling her children whilst working in the market. That said she wanted to return to her home, where her husband is buried, and where her family is slowly returning. This conversation clarified for us the outcomes from the workshop, whilst answering the apparent paradox of Vanuatu. It is those family and traditional bonds with home, coupled with a life that despite its apparent simplicity is nevertheless fulfilling which together enables the Ni-Vanuatu to be both happy and resilient in the face of natural disasters.
Our thanks again to Bishop Tama, Joses Togase and Selwyn Ledoro of ACoM, Alan Rarai of VMGD and all those who attended the workshop. A huge thanks too to the Melanesian Mission and the Vanuatu Christian Council. We look forward to reporting back and working with you again.
Notes from a recent visit hosted by the Anglican Church of Melanesia and the Melanesian Mission
David Sear, Sally Brown, Chris Hill – University of Southampton
For six weeks this summer, I travelled to Solomon Islands to experience the Anglican Church and religious orders on the other side of the world. Having left Europe only once before in my life there was little that could prepare me for this life-changing experience.
Before leaving home, I felt trepidation; would I be safe? Would I enjoy myself? How homesick was I going to get? I didn’t expect to see a whole new perspective on my faith and the church into which I will be ordained in 2 years.
Week One: I stayed in Verana’aso with the Melanesian Sisters. Living without running water or electricity was a shock at first, but the wonderful hospitality of the sisters eased the transition! I was delighted by the fresh fruit such as mangoes straight from the tree, and the wonderful sunrises, sunsets and starry skies.
The offices were the rhythm of each day for me, interspersed with attending the Youth Convention at Selwyn College. I’m currently a student at Selwyn College, Cambridge so it was a great experience to attend bible studies and worship at our sister institution!
I sometimes struggled with the theology taught in the bible study classes, mainly because it was a lot more conservative than I am used to. This was a consistent paradigm shift for me over the course of my trip: namely, what does it mean to be ‘in communion’ with other Anglican churches, and how can the worldwide church live together with our differences in integrity? I believe I have a much better idea of what binds us together as an Anglican communion due to my time in Solomon Islands.
I spent week two in Tabalia with the Melanesian Brotherhood. This week was quieter than the week at Verana’aso, but the worship was louder! I loved to wake up for morning prayer and then to be truly woken up by the singing there.
I enjoyed chatting to the novices and walking along the beach with them. I visited Kohimarama and chatted to students, I edited Brother Christom’s thesis from which I learned a lot about the challenges facing those brothers who transition from life in the order to life in the laity.
Week Three was spent at TNK with the Sisters of the Church. Meeting Sr Veronica was wonderful and talking to her about the joys and challenges of being a woman who is ordained to the priesthood in Solomon Islands was very illuminating.
Week Four on Ysabel was a real highlight of my trip, from the beautiful location of the rest-house where I stayed in Jejevo, to the amazing hospitality I received from local people, inside and outside the church.
I went to an ordination in a town called Nareabu, followed by a feast. This amazing community event was a tremendously spiritual experience for me, reminding me of our call as Christians to serve and be served by one another.
Finally, I spent a week in Honiara, visiting the local schools, the cathedral, attending a celebration for Makira day, and saying goodbye to the friends from the religious communities that I had made during my stay. I also managed on a free day to go scuba diving which was incredible!
My time in Solomon Islands was life changing. I loved to see how others live their lives in such a different way to the one I am living, and yet we are joined together in the Anglican Communion, and the Christian Church. The friends I made will remain in my heart forever, and the experience will inform my ministry. I have learned the benefits of living slowly, welcoming openly and worshipping loudly!
Thank you MMUK for this opportunity, and for all your help and support throughout this once in a lifetime experience.
I was asked to return again to the Solomon Islands last year specifically to lead workshops, presentations and programmes on a variety of issues including deepening spirituality, creative prayer, experiencing new liturgies, creative worship, affirming women in leadership roles in their culture and Thy Kingdom Come. I worked mainly with women for the first time.
Another was to identify and explore the possibility of Spiritual Directors/mentors/soul friends who could listen and enable. The system of support in many areas is priest based (so male only) and Catechist based. This is an ongoing work for me. Australian impetus seems to have been side-lined, but people were initially at least, very open.
I went with my trusty Churchwarden and great traveling companion Sue and together we were away for 3½ weeks including travelling.
I took single copies of work to make up 40 packs for ‘delegates’ coming to TNK from the Melanesian Sisters, Sisters of the Church, Mothers Union and other island representatives.
We photocopied, collated, and produced packs for everyone to take back to their own communities, shopped and catered for ourselves (based at Chester Rest House) but travelling also to the Brothers at Tabalia.
I have left many books in many libraries.
Workshops at TNK included making Anglican Prayers beads, studies on Fearless known and unknown, Biblical women (!) and looked at similarities in Melanesian culture, studied and practised different ways of praying, worshipped using new, very unfamiliar liturgies based on climate change, an Agape and Celtic liturgy.
Of deep interest to them was a timeline of our Christian roots from a Celtic perspective.
The hope is that these ‘delegates’ will take all the prayers, liturgies and creativity back to their communities that were in their packs and then feed back to me by e mail.
This is already starting to happen in some islands.
I met old friends on the streets and villages and had a wonderful time with visitors who came especially from Isobel with one of their children (Kayla Susan Beth) for us to meet!
We went to ACoM, met Dr Abraham and other clergy and spoke to them to about Thy Kingdom Come.
He was hoping to instigate it especially at the Cathedral were we also went.
We brought goods for the women and children in the Christian Care Home after going and seeing for ourselves what was needed. Our parish helped with that.
It was wonderful for me to find out from the USP that the literacy diploma for Melanesian culture, that I created and delivered in 1998 is still being used… modified and updated and delivered in the islands still. I still have it on my computer!
Thank you to you all if you funded, prayed or supported me in any way at all… I am so grateful.
Visiting four religious communities, four schools and St Barnabas Cathedral in Honiara, talking with clergy, Mothers’ Union and the brothers and sisters occupied nearly all of my time in the Solomon Islands very well! George enjoyed engaging with clergy undertaking their Bachelor of Theology degrees at Tabalia where the Melanesian Brothers offered us wonderful hospitality. Out of all my experiences, I thought you might like to hear about the visit to the cathedral.
On June 16th we attended the cathedral in Honiara: it was a celebration of Trinity Sunday, St Barnabas and their 50th anniversary of the cathedral.
We arrived at 7.30am for the main service of the morning at 8.00am. There were 200 people attending the earlier 7.00am Eucharist and we waited until they left. They all left very quickly because there are many openings alongside the cathedral for them to use as an exit. The cathedral was decorated with vibrant flowers and the service was led by a choir of 70 with no organ. The Eucharist, celebrated by the Senior Bishop, was conducted with dignity and reverence and the Bishop of Ysabel preached on the theme of ‘love one another’. There were about 1000 people present with many young families: the overflow was catered for with extra chairs outside at the back of the cathedral. The Melanesian Brothers sang and danced traditional tribal dances bringing up the gospel in a small canoe which had, ‘Christ in culture’ written on the side. The Bishop read the gospel from the Bible which was open in the canoe.
The offertory of bread and wine was also carried up in a canoe accompanied by a vigorous and colourful dance by the Sunday School (selected from its 200 members). I thought you might be interested to know that the congregation bring their own hymn books to the service.
After the service there were speeches and then everyone went to the covered area next door for lunch. 800 were served lunch with a system of efficiency only to be admired. Meanwhile groups from the cathedral sang or danced on the stage enthusiastically and with joy. The groups included Sunday School (who sang the Lord’s Prayer), Mothers’ Union, Men’s Fellowship Group (who were mostly female!), the choir, the Melanesian Brothers and more. The Dean cut a cake for the 50 years of the cathedral – even though the cathedral intends to celebrate the 50 years properly in 2020. It was a wonderful day and I can’t see how they can improve on the celebrations next year. We finished at 3.00pm.
Thank you to you all for your prayers while we were there.
The small fragile islands of the Pacific are in the front line when it comes to climate change issues. Over the past year, MMUK has been actively working to promote research from this country which we hope will be of real benefit to the people of Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
Last June, Adam Bobette, a research student from Selwyn College, Cambridge, was in Solomon Islands setting up a research project, working alongside church people in the villages, to collect data on the impacts of climate change, including sea levels and coastal erosion. MMUK contributed to his funding and his work was warmly welcomed by the Church of Melanesia. The methodology is very simple and it is hoped that with accurate record keeping over many years, an accurate picture will emerge which will provide conclusive evidence of what is happening to the islands of the western Pacific as a result of climate change. Adam will re-visit the Solomons later this year to check on the progress of this project.
Katie Drew has also been working with members of Southampton University’s engineering, geography and oceanography departments who are involved in climate change research in the western Pacific under the direction of Professors Robert Nicholls, David Sear and Dr Ivan Haigh. One of their research students, Marie Schlenker, will be travelling to the Solomons later this year, to pursue research into the changing pattern of coastal margins, going back over thirty years. She will also be visiting schools to talk about climate change research. David Sear has been collecting core samples from the bottom of lakes, which provide the history of weather patterns and volcanic activity over the last 2000 years. Robert Nicholls and Ivan Haigh has been examining rates of sea level rise over the 20th and early part of the 21st century, and changes in the frequency and magnitude of coastal flooding.
The research so far shows oscillations in climate over many years and a much more complex pattern of change than was previously thought. The El Niňo effect causes rising and falling of water temperature in the Pacific Ocean. When the temperature rises, cyclone activity increases in frequency and intensity. While sea levels are undoubtedly rising, most of the damage is caused by storm surge events.
All agree that sea levels and cyclones will become critical over the next few years. Our researchers are also keen to study what can be done to mitigate the effects of climate change. Mangrove swamps and coral reefs are a vital part of the islands’ defences and must be preserved. Unrestricted logging activity unfortunately damages these defences.
So far this year, there has been severe flooding on Guadalcanal, causing devastating damage to food gardens and Cyclone Oma has caused severe damage to the outer eastern islands. MMUK has recently contributed over £1,000 to the church’s disaster fund.
The artificial islands of Malaita and the atolls of the Reef Islands and Ontong Java are most threatened. Walande Village, which once had a population of over 1,000, has been abandoned.
The maximum height of most atolls is six feet above sea level and when there is a storm surge the whole island can be swamped. The underground aquifers which are the only source of drinking water, are compromised and become brackish. This has happened to Ontong Java which has a unique Polynesian culture going back over 1,000 years. The inhabitants are being evacuated and face a very uncertain future.
We are fortunate in this country where the effects of climate change will not be seriously felt for many years. But in the Pacific the effects of global warming are already destroying cultures and communities. MMUK will continue to do all it can to help the people of Melanesia with disaster relief funding, supporting vital research and raising awareness of these issues.
In February, the Rt Revd James Tama, Bishop of Vanuatu and New Caledonia, and the Rt Revd Rickson Maomaoru, Assistant Bishop of Malaita visited the UK. First they attended the ‘New Bishops’ course in Canterbury with visits to Lambeth Palace and the Anglican Communion Office.
The Bishops went on to visit Wycombe Abbey, one of MMUK’s oldest supporters, which is also linked with St Patrick’s College in Vanuatu. The Bishops were interviewed by pupils and were able to give an update on St Patricks College, which was evacuated from the island of Ambae last year.
In Exeter Diocese, the Bishops met Rt Revd Bishop Robert Atwell, Bishop of Exeter and the Dean of Exeter Cathedral, the Very Reverend Jonathan Greener. Walking in Patteson’s footsteps, the Bishops also visited the home of Bishop John Coleridge Patteson (first Bishop of Melanesia), his family’s church, the church where he was curate, and memorials to Patteson’s ministry and martyrdom.
The Bishops then went to the Diocese of Chester, which is officially linked to the Province of Melanesia. They met representatives of local schools which have partnerships with schools in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. They visited the retreat house at Foxhill, where they saw the new cross which has been made and presented by the Melanesian Brothers, and the Sisters of Jesus Way, who are now linked with the Sisters of Melanesia. They spent a day looking at mission projects across the diocese, ending with a dinner hosted by Bishop Peter at Bishop’s House, attended by many friends and supporters.
Both Bishops enjoyed a ‘quiet day’ on the Saturday, with Bishop James meeting up with family and Bishop Rickson spending the day with Reverend Jacky Wise, who had worked alongside him at Selwyn College, as part of the Chaplaincy Team. The two visited Liverpool Cathedral and Jacky was delighted to be able to return in some small way something of the generous hospitality that she had received in the Solomon Islands. The Bishops also took part in the Sunday morning Eucharist at Chester Cathedral, where Bishop James preached and Bishop Rickson gave the blessing.
Reflecting on his visit, Bishop Rickson said: “We learnt much about our historical links and connections. It was indeed a worthwhile visit in terms of the creative response towards climate change and holistic mission in our Anglican Network and how to address these issues globally with sustainable means for the future.
“God continue to sustain MMUK with his wisdom as it becomes a medium for transformation in our Anglican world today. God bless you all,” said Bishop Rickson.
Due to fly out this week, Rachel Crossley, Christine Calderwood and Clem Noble report on the latest stage of Human Rights training in the Solomon Islands.
“We are all born free and equal. We have our own thoughts and ideas. We should all be treated the same way”
Article 1 United Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
In November 2016, we travelled to Honiara as part of the project ‘Article 1: Free and Equal’ to deliver Human Rights Education training to teachers from ACoM Solomon Island secondary schools. ‘Article 1’ is a project to introduce human rights to the Solomon Islands, to increase understanding of human rights and how this integrates with existing Christian beliefs and values. Thereby helping to support efforts being made by Solomon Island Citizens to create peaceful and stable communities, and particularly to help reduce gender inequality and violence against women. We firmly believe that all learning and change starts with Education.
“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause”
The workshops were attended by eleven teachers from six schools across the Solomon Islands. All of the teachers engaged enthusiastically with the workshops and successfully completed them, becoming ‘Human Rights Champions’ with a commitment to pass on their learning to colleagues and their wider communities.
Whilst there we were generously welcomed by both the Community of the Sisters of the Church and the Melanesian Brotherhood. Meetings also took place with a number of stakeholders (including the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development, the Ministry for Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs, the Solomon Islands Police Force, and the President of the Mothers Union). The project was positively received by all, and all agreed that national implementation of some form of human rights education would be beneficial and a positive contribution towards ongoing efforts to promote gender equality.
Since returning the team were pleased to receive very positive feedback and encouragement to apply for further funding by the British High Commissioner’s (BHC) Office, to continue and expand the Human Rights Education programme.
Having secured further funding we are due to return in March of this year. The second stage project aims to extend the training to primary school teachers as well as providing further training for secondary human rights champions. The project was also picked up by the British High Commission in Papua New Guinea and we are delighted that we have teachers from PNG joining us for this stage. We have a total of 29 confirmed attendees and will also be holding at their request a one-day workshop for the four Anglican religious orders and the Mothers’ Union.
We are very grateful and thankful for the support of MMUK, ACoM and the British High Commissions in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, without whom this project would not be possible.
Dear Lord We ask your blessing on Christine, Clem and Rachel as they travel to the Solomon Islands. May their work be filled with your wisdom. May those who they work with be inspired by your Holy Spirit and may they all work for the furtherance of your Kingdom. May all be encouraged to obey your commandment of love and may there be respect for all in every part of society. We ask your blessings and encouragement in Jesus name. Amen.
Christine and her team will be taking out with them letters and art projects from UK schools linked with schools in the Solomon Islands, as part of the ongoing school partnerships which MMUK facilitates. UK pupils are looking forward to seeing what Christine brings back from the pupils at the partnered schools.
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