Tag: Melanesian Brothers

Melanesian Brothers

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

Church of the Ascension, Santo

“God has gone up with a triumphant shout!” – Ascension Day in Santo

Having worked as pharmacist and doctor for 10 years in the Solomon Islands and 3 years in Vanuatu, we were thrilled when the chance to return unexpectedly came in April and May this year. During 10 wonderful days in Honiara, we caught up with pharmacy, nursing and medical colleagues, while staying at Chester Rest House and St Agnes MU Rest House, both so comfortable and welcoming. An overwhelming welcome was also given by the Melanesian Brothers at Tabalia, where we spent two precious days in the quiet, sharing in Services in the beautiful St Mark’s Chapel, visiting the graves of the seven martyred Brothers and visiting Kohimarama Theological College next door (where Susan used to do a monthly clinic).

Flying on to Vanuatu, at Vila Central Hospital, we were able to participate with former colleagues, in a training session for the Tupaia Project. Through this project, tablet computers are to be supplied to all Rural Health Clinics, for their day-to-day requisitions, stock-taking and data collection and this will be piloted on Efate.

On the 9th May, we flew up to Santo, on the same plane as Revd John Bani and his wife, Alice. Revd John is priest at the Church of the Resurrection, Tagabe. We attended this church when we worked in Vila and the priest-in-charge then was his father, Father John Bani, who became President of Vanuatu.

Mr Joses L.Togas (Deputy General Secretary of the Anglican Church of Melanesia, Vanuatu), very kindly picked us up from Hotel Santo the next morning to take us to the Ascension Day Service -at the Church of the Ascension! We arrived before there was any congregation in the church, and Keith was introduced to Joses’ son, who is an Apprentice Car Mechanic.

We met a Mothers’ Union member, who was the wife of a former Bishop, Walter Sipa. The Mothers’ Union members then prepared the church for the Service as schoolchildren began arriving and the male choir in front of us sang choruses. Soon the church was packed; the Service began at 8.30, local Melanesian Brothers among the congregation. Joses lent us his Melanesian English Prayer Book with Hymns – we had unwisely left ours in UK to minimise on luggage!

We had the Ascension Day Psalm 47, which says ‘God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet… For God is the king of all the earth.’ The excellent preacher had made a wonderful crown of silver paper to illustrate the kingship of Jesus. The congregational singing of the Ascension Day hymns and choruses was out of this world – a wonderful exuberant praising of God in four-part harmonies. “God has gone up in a Triumphant Shout !” [Gerald Finzi, op 27, no 2], certainly applied!

After the Service, we were able to greet some more of the Congregation, before leaving to meet Dr Tim Vocor, former Medical Superintendent of Northern District Hospital. Then, after much searching and walking in the mid-day sun, we were thrilled, to find Sister Fay Timothy, (with whom Susan had worked on the Children’s Ward) and her husband Ramo (Male Surgical Ward). Sister Fay had been quite ill and we really wanted to see her again.

It really was a special re-visit to Santo – a beautiful place overlooking the Segond Channel, kind and friendly people, an amazing Ascension Day Service and a wonderful re-union, all remain vividly in our memories with thanksgiving.

Keith and Susan Williams

Being a Companion to Melanesia

Being a Companion to Melanesia

It is twelve years now since I returned from being a priest and brother in Melanesia. In many ways no two lives could seem on the surface more different. For the many years I lived at Tabalia I never had more than a few hours electricity from the generator each day. Even fresh water was at times sporadic with long walks to the spring by the river when the taps were dry and the rainwater tanks empty. My refrigerator with no electricity was used only for storage. The diet too was very different “Does this dish have a name? I remember an American who had just arrived asking me, “because it tastes very similar to the dish I had yesterday,” he commented. “Yes” I said also eating a plate of slippery cabbage, a trace of tinned tuna and a piece of cassava-“and it’s going to be very similar to the dish you are going to have tomorrow and the next day and the next!”

But living as a Melanesian Brother at Tabalia I felt so close to the natural world- you knew where everything came from and that if the gardens failed you would go hungry. I remember waiting for the rains to come and when I heard the first drops running over to the church gutter where the downpour cascaded off the roof: after the wait it was the most refreshing shower you could ever have. Night could be as dark as velvet and the stars- with the Southern Cross so astonishingly bright. When I first moved into my flat in Trafalgar Square I thought I would never sleep. London is nonstop- it is twenty four seven- and it’s hard to keep the neon out of your bedroom, and the sound of sirens, and cars, and emptying bottle banks and the shouts, laughter and cries of those returning from a night out. How could the lessons of Melanesia be of any value here? I felt like a tuna out of water. Most of all I missed Melanesian community- where you were always with people but not in a demanding way- just with people-sharing in a generous reciprocity and a lot of fun laughter. In Solomons whatever you do there are always people to share that doing with you be it washing clothes in a bucket, peeling sweet potatoes, riding on the back of a truck, or going in search of ripe pawpaw.

But if my first reaction was how different this life in London – I soon began to realise there were, deep down, such similar human needs. And the deepest perhaps of all those needs the need for companionship- relationship with others to make meaning of our lives. The church is a unique place to do that of course. While the corner shop may have disappeared, and the post office and even the person in the supermarket has been replaced by the self-service till whose only conversation is to tell us repeatedly that there is an unidentified object in the bagging area- there is still a church in most communities and if you are blessed like we are at St Martin’s- its not only here, it’s also open every day of the year- then you do have a place to belong- to God, to your own deepest self, and to your neighbour, whoever that neighbour may be. And I began to realise that the skills that the Melanesian Brotherhood had taught me were the greatest possible gifts for ministry not only in Solomon Islands but in the centre of London. First the need for the rhythm of prayer to provide the pattern and centre of my life- and those who come through our doors of St Martin-in-the-Fields to join me. Second the vital importance of face to face encounter- actually listening and talking to people- giving them the gift of time and relationship rather than believing our primary relationships are with Facebook or a mobile phone or ones business agenda or strategic plan. Third I learnt the importance of generous sharing- being with others and benefitting from each other’s gifts and skills. I learnt that community is so much richer and less stressful when we let go of our western obsession with competition and self-sufficiency. I might be good at cooking but others were good at planting, at growing, or climbing coconut trees or diving for fish and that together we were so much more than we would be as isolated individuals and how much the same is true in London when we begin to share the gifts. Fourthly I learnt that community is Eucharist- it’s about sharing food and just like Solomons if you begin sharing food in London you will soon create that community. You become companions- those who share bread. You see you share Christ and find Christ in one another. Here in London we have created an informal Eucharist called Bread for the World and it is a wonderful celebration of diversity and all that we have to gain from creating communities of compassion and hope and joy in this country just as we have seen in Melanesia. Fifthly I learnt from Melanesia that those who one at first thinks of as being poor are in fact God’s gift. They open our eyes to a new way of seeing and being. They open your eyes to our own poverty. Some of the most rewarding work I have the privilege of doing here in London is with those who are homeless, or with refugees who have no recourse to public funds, or with those who have mental health difficulties, or those who for whatever reason are on the edge of so called society. They are actually at the heart of our Christian faith and it is being with them that I know will renew not only me but also the church. For this is where we must look for Christ- on the edge where he was in his own life.

What did I learn from Melanesian? I learnt the joy of living together and sharing a common home- that God has entrusted to our mutual care. And the gift they gave me was that longing for community here in London and the realisation that it is when we remove our defences, our desire to control or dominate- and recapture the humility and hope of the Gospel, then the place where we are living can become a Tabalia or a Brotherhood and Sisterhood- can become the place of God’s flourishing.

With God’s help I have formed a community at St Martin’s: it’s called the Nazareth Community. It’s an experiment in being with- with God, with silence, with sacrament, with compassionate service, with sacred study, with generous sharing. Much to my delight and surprise 48 people decided to join me as we made promises to live the Gospel- promises of course inspired by the Melanesian Brotherhood. I have so much to be grateful to them for.

The Vicar of our Church Sam Wells wrote this about the Nazareth Community:

“Being with God and one another and ourselves is how we shall spend eternity. The Nazareth Community is a group of people who are saying, ‘Why not start eternity now? Why wait?’ In their living eternal life now we see hope and inspiration for ourselves, our church, our community and our city.”

I think that’s also a good description not only of the Nazareth Community but also of the Melanesian Brothers and Sisters and the Church in Melanesia. You will be pleased to know that my fellow priest in the Nazareth Community is Catherine Duce. She also learnt a lot from Melanesia!

Revd Richard Carter is Associate Vicar at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square.

Companions of the Melanesian Brotherhood Pilgrimage to Holy Island Saturday 17 June

In a English heat wave Companions of the Melanesian Brotherhood from the UK and European Region made their annual pilgrimage to Holy Island. It has a special place in the story of how the Gospel came to England with both St Aiden and St Cuthbert making their home at the monastery on this island. It was the most beautiful weather for our crossing at low tide. We began with prayer as we remembered the life and example of Ini Kopuria and his call to live the Gospel among the people, with truth and simplicity, giving everything he had in the service of Christ. At three different places we paused to pray and remember Ini’s early life, his family and friends, and his hospitality, and sense of community and mission. Arriving on Holy Island we held the most beautiful Eucharist in the garden surrounded by flowers, grass and friendly sparrows. At the end of the Eucharist we gathered in a large circle and sang and danced in true Solomon Island tradition before sharing a feast of roast chicken, sausages, baked beans, vegetarian sausages and the most delicious cakes and strawberries. It was a particular delight to be joined by Jennifer Probets and Alison and Tony Sparham with Roderick and Duncan their grandsons who seemed to love the pilgrimage, behaved like saints and want to come again.

It is the most incredible place and made us all feel close to the saints and the things of God and as the tide comes in one feels very close to our Melanesian Brothers who we prayed for and gave thanks for. It is indeed they who have inspired us to live simply, generously and with compassion the joy of the Gospels. This was a real chance in the UK to experience that Melanesian Spirit and we would like to thank all those who joined us and prayed for us on this very special day. Thank you to Barbara Molyneux who organised the logistics and all those who came to share. It was also good to see John Freeman looking so well and to Cath Duce and Sarah Crompton who helped make this time possible

The Brotherhood has indeed shown us the true way of service and we pray that you will continue to pray for our brothers and Companions in all places where they are living and working. I do hope you can join us next year for this pilgrimage it really is a highlight to the year

With love, joy and peace at a time when our nation needs it so much and in the true Spirit of Service shown to us in the Brotherhood and Sisterhood.

Fr Richard Carter