Category: News

Solomon Islands Medal for Canon John Pinder

Solomon Islands Medal for Canon John Pinder

To my amazement, it was announced in the 2017 Solomon Islands Independence Day awards that I had been nominated to receive the Solomon Islands medal. I feel it was totally undeserved and I know of several other former missionaries who deserved the award far more than I.

By chance it was the 50th anniversary of my first contact with Solomon Islands, arriving at Pawa School in 1967. In 1970 we moved to Guadalcanal, combining with Pamua Girls’ School to form Selwyn College. One of the new teachers was Jenny who was later to become my wife.

After I returned to the U.K., I was asked in 1977 to be the English Secretary of the Melanesian Mission, and eventually combined that with being a parish priest in Oxfordshire. During my time as English Secretary, we gave hospitality to many visitors from Solomon Islands and Vanuatu and looked after all the bishops and their wives during two Lambeth Conferences. Over all that time Jenny was a tremendous support and I certainly could not have managed without her.

It was a joy to receive the medal from the Governor General, Sir Frank Kabui, supported by Jenny, our daughter Eleanor and Richard Carter. Sir Frank was on a farewell visit to the U.K. before he steps down next year.

At the ceremony, the private secretary, Rawcliffe Ziku gave a brief C.V. ending with the official citation: ‘For distinguished service and commitment to the government and people of Solomon Islands in human resources and community development.’

Over refreshments that followed there was an opportunity for reminiscing and making further acquaintance with the new High Commissioner in the U.K. who turned out to be an old student of mine from Selwyn College days.

Canon John Pinder

A Christmas Message

Community of the Sisters of the Church – Christmas Letter

‘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.

Women on the Front Line Programme
Women on the Front Line Programme

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.

Blessing of late Sr Kathleen Kapei’s Headstone
Blessing of late Sr Kathleen Kapei’s Headstone

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.

Retreat House at TNK
Retreat House at TNK

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.

God Bless.

Sr Veronica CSC

Vanuatu, Ambae Volcanic Ash

Request for prayers and assistance from the Bishop of Vanuatu

Following ongoing volcanic activity and falling ash from the volcano on the Vanuatu island of Ambae, the government has ordered a complete evacuation and the permanent closure of all institutions. This has made over 9,000 people homeless and also the loss of a Melanesian Brothers’ Household and the Church flagship school St Patricks.

The Rt Revd James Tama, Bishop of Vanuatu and New Caledonia has made this appeal to UK friends.

Please pray for our situation here and the displaced families from Ambae, over 2,000 in Maewo, over 7,000 in Santo and over 2,000 scattered all over the islands in Vanuatu with immediate family members. I have

over 40 families, a total of 110 staying with me at the bishop’s residence. I do sympathize with them and had to organise fundraising for them, since the government is still to respond with immediate needs. We are looking for some plots of land, somewhere suitable for farming and the stronger men will then go there and begin clearing the bush ready for farming. The women will stay back with the children who are attending school. We have partitioned part of the Diocesan office into 3 rooms where the children of over 5 schools from Ambae attend daily from kindy, class 1 – class 6.

My wife and I have started the psychological first aid support with the mothers, gathering them, allowing them to express freely their feelings and the needs for their families, then we decided out of our own pockets provide wool for knitting, printing materials, crochet knitting, sewing materials, and other life-skills to occupy themselves and at least do something that they can sell and earn small money to help their families since the state of emergency is now extended until 26 November. My humble request is if you can share our stories of the difficult situation we are facing at the moment, and for anyone who may wish to support our mothers with little funds to resource their home life-skill training would be very much appreciated.

Many thanks with love and prayers +James Tama
Diocese of Vanuatu and New Caledonia

Many thanks to those individuals, parishes, schools and Companions of the Melanesian Brotherhood who have already sent in donations to support those affected by the volcano. If you would like to make a donation to help Bishop James provide for these displaced families, please send your donations to the charity with the reference Ambae relocation. The charity is planning to transfer another round of donations before Christmas.

In 2019 MMUK hopes to receive the plans for the rebuilding of St Patricks School, and will launch a fundraising campaign to support this large project. You will find details for this, at the time of launch, on our donations page.

Vanuatu, Ambae Volcanic Ash
Vanuatu, Ambae Volcanic Ash
In This Light Book

In This Light – A collection of messages for Christmas

In This Light - Launch Event
Katie Drew (middle) from The Melanesian Mission, with contributors Lieutenant Pete Reed OBE, retired British Olympic rower and Canon Sarah Snyder, who leads Archbishop Justin’s Reconciliation Ministry and was part of the Women on the Frontline training in the Solomon Islands in September

In This Light is a collection of messages for Christmas written by the Archbishop and 47 of his friends and colleagues. Including contributions from John Kerry, Afua Hirsch, Jonathan Bryan, Sally Phillips, Bear Grylls, Grace, Anthony Ray Hinton, Jo Malone, Benjamin, Dr Agnes Abuom, Julie Etchingham and more. Journalists, politicians, priests, musicians, peace activists, actors, comedians, authors – people of different faiths and none, writing from across the world from South Korea to South Sudan, Australia to the UK, America to the Vatican.

All royalties from the book will go to support the following wonderful organisations: Caring for Ex-Offenders, part of the ministry of Holy Trinity Brompton, Equal Justice Initiative, The Melanesian Mission and Charis Tiwala.

In This Light is available to buy through all good book sellers online and on the high street.

World Mission

The World Shrinks – God Expands

‘The world shrinks, and perceptions of God expand’ was the main finding from research conducted into what happens when Christians experience positive cross-cultural encounter.

From 2014 to 2016 I was engaged on a fascinating piece of research asking questions about Diocesan Companion Links. These are the relationships, some as long as 40 years, which dioceses have with different parts of the Anglican Communion and wider ecumenical links. Questions about the nature of Companion Links relationships were paramount. What sort of relationships were they? What were the challenges and joys faced in these relationships? How were they developing into the future?

I took a case study approach to this research. Three Church of England dioceses agreed to be part of the project. They were the diocese of Bath and Wells in its relationship with the five dioceses of the Anglican Church of Zambia, the Diocese of Chelmsford and their relationship with the five dioceses of the Mount Kenya East region and the diocese of Liverpool and the diocese of Virginia in the Episcopal Church of the USA.World Mission

These three case studies provided a rich picture of following Christ in different contexts with access to vastly different resources but who were similar in worshipping and following Christ through the Anglican tradition.

I travelled to all the dioceses involved in England, Africa and the USA. I asked two simple questions – what is your experience of the link and where do you see it developing in the future? Meetings and interviews took place in churches, schools, under the mango tree and over many shared meals.

The conclusions fell into two categories – discipleship and friendship. It became clear that positive cross-cultural encounters were a source of growth and transformation for many involved in links.

Discipleship seems to be the theme of the moment. Everyone in the churches, it seems, is talking about discipleship. However, I haven’t heard a lot about the contribution of cross-cultural encounters to ongoing discipleship. What became clear early in the research was that positive cross-cultural encounter can encourage and inspire discipleship.

Here’s a story. A tragic and sudden death of a parish link co-ordinator in Bath and Wells Diocese shocked everyone. Catherine was loved in her parish and by the parish in Eastern Zambia where she had visited several times. The parishioners in Eastern Zambia were unable to attend the funeral but at the same time as the funeral was taking place in the UK the church in Zambia came together to give thanks for Catherine’s life and commit her to God. The effect of this in both places was a stronger personal link between very different places and an inspiration to follow and witness to Christ more faithfully.

A further example was found in the link between Liverpool and Virginia dioceses. A clergyman from Liverpool witnessed work with refugees in Virginia and was inspired to begin a similar work. Young people from Liverpool said that their Youth Pilgrimage helped them to talk about their faith at home. It was clear that whether experiences were between north to north contexts or north to south contexts the effects were similar.

Friendship was the major way in which links described their relationships across cultures. Friendship is an important way of expressing our common belonging in the Body of Christ through practical expressions such as visits and gift-giving. It became apparent that while the English partners were good at giving we were less happy about receiving from less materially affluent partners. There is learning to be done that recognises the wide variety of forms of gifts and that giving and receiving of gifts gives dignity to all.

The Melanesian Mission is an important expression of these principles. Encouraging discipleship and friendship is at the heart of being a mission agency.

A full copy of the research report can be accessed at; www.churchofengland.org/more/church-resources/world-mission

Janice Price, World Mission Adviser, The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England.

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.

Chester School Links - Margaret and Salome

Chester School Links Go From Strength To Strength

Over the last two years, the programme of partnerships between schools in the Diocese of Chester and the Province of Melanesia has blossomed.

Chester School Links - Margaret and Salome
Chester School Links – Margaret and Salome

Links between two Church of England primary schools, in Warmingham and Frodsham, and St Francis School, Vaturanga (Guadalcanal) have been in existence for some time. A member of staff from St Francis, Salome Vuthia visited our two partner schools in 2015, and children in all three schools have been keen to exchange letters and presents, and to learn about life on the other side of the world.

The number of partner schools has now grown substantially. More primary schools are coming into the programme from across the diocese, pairing with schools in the Solomons and now also in Vanuatu. In all, there are now eight primary schools from across the diocese in such arrangements.

Chester School Links - Salome and Margaret at Frodsham
Chester School Links – Salome and Margaret at Frodsham

One of our church secondary schools has now joined the scheme as well. Woodchurch Church of England High School (Birkenhead) has entered with great enthusiasm into a partnership with St Nicholas Senior School, Honiara, signing a formal partnership agreement in 2017. A team from the chaplaincy at Woodchurch, led by Rachel Hsuan, visited the Solomon Islands this spring, making three excellent and innovative films about life in the islands and in St Nicholas’s School, for use in collective worship back at Woodchurch. These are proving invaluable in helping children here to gain vivid insights into life in Melanesia, covering topics as diverse as the practicalities of daily life, Christian worship, education and the challenge of climate change.

The Diocese of Chester sees these schools partnerships as a key element in the link as a whole, as we look to involve a whole new generation. Friends from the Anglican Church of Melanesia visit regularly, and each time, visits to our partner schools have been an important part of the programme. It has been a joy for our schools to receive visits from Archbishop George Takeli and Mrs June Takeli, Dr Abraham Hauriasi (Provincial Secretary), Fr Nigel Kalaepa (Mission Secretary), Father Nelson Bako (Head Brother, Melanesian Brotherhood), and Brother Michael (Section Elder Brother, Tabalia).

Venerable Mike Gilbertson, Archdeacon of Chester, Trustee MMUK

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

Project Trust Volunteers - Flora and Yet

An Introduction to Project Trust

Project Trust Volunteers - Flora and Yet
Project Trust Volunteers – Flora and Yet

Project Trust LogoProject Trust has since 1967 been the leading gap year provider here in the UK representing 50 years of volunteering and 7800 volunteers overseas.

Project Trust has been based on the Isle of Coll in the Scottish Hebrides almost since its inception. Some might argue that our wonderful shell sand beaches rival those of the Solomons. Maybe, but our sea and air temperatures most certainly do not, languishing at around 12C and 15C respectively around our mid-summer. Here we have our offices and residential centre which is used for Selection and Training.

Project Trust Volunteer - Ultan
Project Trust Volunteer – Ultan

Selection is a key part of the process and all aspiring volunteers must attend a four day assessment course before any decision is made as to suitability and if so, which placement overseas they would be most suited. Training is the next stage in the process and this takes place in July prior to the volunteer departure in August. This is a four day course where we focus on skills and preparedness for 12 months overseas.

It is important that volunteers bring added value to any of our projects worldwide, currently 22 countries worldwide. Areas which have been identified by both St Nicholas and Selwyn College include spoken English, IT and mathematics. In addition extracurricular activities such as drama, sport, music to name but a few are areas where volunteers can make valuable contributions. Through daily interaction with the students it is hoped that the overall standard of spoken English will improve, certainly this is our experience elsewhere in the world where English is a focus of their activities.

Oceania is a new region for Project Trust. The first approach with regard to sending volunteers was made early in 2016 by the then British High Commissioner in Honiara, Chris Trott. Chris is himself one of our Alumni having been a volunteer in Egypt in 1984/85. He was very enthusiastic about the possibilities for volunteering and introduced us to the Anglican Church through the Melanesian Mission in London.

To the future we look to placing volunteers in schools on some of the other islands in the Solomon group and Vanuatu has also been discussed. We look forward to a developing and sustained relationship.

John Fraser – Project Trust

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.