Tag: Visits

Archbishop of Canterbury - Festival and AGM - Exeter Cathedral

Festival and AGM 2021

A Coming of Age

MMUK Trustee, Revd Martin Cox, reflects on the charity’s AGM and Patteson Festival Day at Exeter Cathedral on Saturday 18 September.

Archbishop of Canterbury - Festival and AGM - Exeter Cathedral

All the ‘clicks’ of the liturgical Rubik’s cube had been made and there was full alignment around the sides of the cube. This was through the hard work and negotiating skills of Katie Drew, Executive Officer of MMUK. So it was that MMUK trustees’ past and present gathered with the Archbishop of Canterbury and his wife and party, the Diocesan Bishop of Exeter, the Dean and Chapter of Exeter Cathedral, a researcher from the University of Southampton along with supporters of MMUK for this year’s Festival and AGM on a warm day in September in Exeter Cathedral.

Festival and AGM Eucharist - Exeter Cathedral

There was a significant poignancy to this year’s event as we gathered to mark the 150th commemoration of the death of Bishop John Coleridge Patteson on 20 September 1871 in the very same Cathedral where he had been ordained Deacon and Priest. The liturgical colour was red; the side of the Rubik’s cube was complete.

It was wonderful to gather together in person with several hundred others for the Festival Eucharist. The Book of the Gospels was processed in on a processional canoe. The Archbishop of Canterbury preached from the Martyrs Pulpit and spoke movingly of Patteson as a red and white martyr. Bishop Robert presided and beautifully intoned the Eucharistic prayer. Bishop Willie led the prayers of intercession in the way that only Bishop Willie can! We were reminded of the faithfulness of God and the call upon us all to be faithful. A presentation was made by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral of a copy of Bishop Patteson’s letter asking for more resources.

After our pre-booked packed lunch and conversations, another side of the Rubik’s cube where the clicks had led to perfect alignment, we held our Festival and AGM. Revd Richard Carter and Bishop Willie Pwa’isiho both spoke movingly of Bishop Patteson’s legacy of a spirit of service and mission, of equality of relationships in and through Christ, of the call to live simply and close to God and one another, of the importance of education and a holistic approach to mission, of the role of women who wrapped Bishop Patteson’s body following his death before he was buried at sea so his love for the people could be washed upon the shores of the islands. Bishop Willie ended by leading us in the Lord’s Prayer in Pidgin English.

We moved from looking back to the past to thinking about the present. Marie Schlenker from the University of Southampton and Kate Pwa’isiho spoke of Faith and Science in the Care of Creation. Their equally moving presentation drew attention to the impact of climate change on rising sea levels and the way of life for many. Marie spoke of the climate change observatories to collect much needed data. Kate spoke of the immediate impact on Fanalei Island. Images of coral bleaching and sand dunes in the church made a powerful impression on those gathered together. We were left with the challenge to reflect on our own lives as the decisions we take do affect the lives of others. We know this instinctively, but Marie and Kate highlighted the challenge powerfully.

Before he departed, Archbishop Justin responded to the presentations. His Grace spoke of the capacity of the Anglican Communion to tell the story of climate change, of how the Melanesian church is engaged in holistic mission and speaks the voice of the Spirit, of how peace and reconciliation are vital to create the space to engage with climate change issues: “If it’s not dealt with for everyone, it’s not dealt with for anyone.”  Archbishop Justin concluded his remarks by reflecting to us that Bishop Patteson set an example for us all, commenting that when we are at war with the world we are war with God.

Following the departure of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his party the Festival heard a recorded message from the Archbishop of Melanesia. Archbishop Leonard spoke of how Bishop Patteson was truly Melanesian oriented and how Melanesians claim him as their own for ever.  Bishop Mark Rylands, Chairman of MMUK interviewed Revd Brian Macdonald-Milne about his book, ‘Seeking Peace in the Pacific’. Brian reminded us of how God’s grace transforms human failure and failings. The Annual General Meeting of MMUK followed with a presentation to Marie in token of her work as an intern over the last year the presentation of the accounts by Steve Scoffield, Honorary Treasurer of MMUK who spoke of the need for wise decision making and a trust in God’s faithfulness going forward.  Following the re-election of three trustees’, Bishop Mark concluded the AGM by assuring us of God’s blessing.

Brian Macdonald-Milne with Mark Rylands

It was a real joy and privilege to attend the Eucharist and to be present for this year’s in-person Festival and AGM. Those I spoke to during the day echoed these sentiments and were grateful for the way in which the day had been organised. As I left the Cathedral as one of the re-elected trustees’ I was conscious that the pieces of the liturgical Rubik’s cube were now being scrambled again having been in alignment for our day together. It was ever thus. However, as a result of this year’s Festival and AGM, the occasion, the location, the participants, the presentations and the way in which the sides of our Rubik’s cube had been aligned for the moment, I was also conscious that MMUK and our support for the mission of the Anglican Church of Melanesia had somehow come of age.

Blessed are you, Lord God, King of the Universe.
By your word the evening comes,
by your power the day dawns.
You are the Lord of the tides and season.
You have set the stars in the sky.
You have placed a limit on the sea.
In your love you created all things.
By your love all has been redeemed.
Through your love all creation is sustained.
Blessed are you, Lord God, King of the Universe.

(Island of Light: An Illustrated Collection of Prayers by David Adam, SPCK 2002)

Revd Martin Cox, Diocese of Manchester, MMUK Trustee

Archbishop of Canterbury opens Patteson's Way

Archbishop of Canterbury Visits Devon on First Public Trip Since Pandemic

The Archbishop of Canterbury has visited Devon to open a new pilgrimage route on his first public engagement outside London in 18 months.

Archbishop of Canterbury opens Patteson's Ways

Justin Welby was launching the Patteson’s Way, an 8-mile circular walking route in honour of Bishop John Coleridge Patteson who grew up in Feniton, near Ottery St Mary and was killed while on a mission to share his faith in the Pacific islands of Melanesia.

Monday 20 September marked the 150th anniversary of his death.

The Archbishop unveiled a plaque at Feniton Parish Church and read out a prayer written by the church’s Storytime Group.

As we gather here today to celebrate the opening of this new Pilgrimage Route,
we give thanks for the life of Bishop John Coleridge Patteson and the example that he set us.

Let those who walk along Patteson’s Way have courage as Patteson did
when he left his home here to go to the other side of the world. 

Give them the space and quietness to reflect, see the wonders of the
world around them, hear the sounds of nature, and meet with you.

We pray for everyone in Melanesia and give thanks for the close bond
that this local area has with Melanesia as a result of Patteson’s brave journey.   

We ask your blessing for the route and that you keep all those who walk
the path safe in the knowledge that you are walking next to them.

In Jesus’ name we pray

Amen

He then blessed the first pilgrims before walking a short section of the route with them. He said “I’m ecstatic. I am seeing real people, it’s the first outside engagement I’ve been allowed for 18 months. “Devon is a county I don’t know, but it is just so wonderful and lovely. “We are not just the Church of England; we are the Church FOR England.”

The Patteson’s Way was devised by the Devon-based charity, the Melanesian Mission UK. It is being supported by Devon Pilgrim, a Church of England-funded project which has seen four new pilgrimage routes in the county this year.

Archbishop Justin said “The significance for me of pilgrimage is that you are meeting with God … and moving across the world that God created. “You meet people that surprise you and God surprises you in how he meets you.”

Sophie, who was amongst a group of Feniton Primary School pupils who sang the Archbishop a song, said “I was nervous, it was a big moment, but it was fun and exciting.”

Archbishop of Canterbury - Alfington Prayers

After Feniton, the Archbishop went on to nearby Alfington church, where Patteson was a priest, and joined the Archbishop of Melanesia, the Most Revd Leonard Dawea, online to say prayers for Patteson.

The Archbishop then preached in a service of Thanksgiving for the Church in Melanesia at Exeter Cathedral.

Archbishop of Canterbury - Festival and AGM - Exeter Cathedral

Giving a talk after the service, the Archbishop spoke about the fight against climate change, which is particularly relevant because some islands in Melanesia are already disappearing under water. He said, “Melanesia is not a canary in a coal mine but an alarm bell ringing loudly for us all, calling us to action on climate change.”

In an interview Archbishop Justin talks about pilgrimage, Patteson, climate change and the importance of rural parish churches; Archbishop of Canterbury Interview.

Diocese of Exeter

HeartEdge - Care Of Creation Course

4 Week Creation Care Course

June / July 2021 Care of Creation free online course by HeartEdge, with the Melanesian Mission & the University of Southampton. Book online here; 4 Week Creation Care Course Tickets, Multiple Dates | Eventbrite

HeartEdge - Care Of Creation Course

Come and learn more about climate change, the theology, science, the impact on Melanesia, & church responses.

The environment is God’s gift to everyone. We have a responsibility towards each other to look after God’s Creation. Tackling climate change is a vital part of this responsibility. In a recent address to faith leaders on 4th February, ahead of the Glasgow conference on climate change in November 2021, the Archbishop of Canterbury said:

“To think climate change is a problem of the future rather than a scourge of the present is the blind perspective of the privileged. We look around and see that Mozambique has been hit again by tropical storms. In Nigeria, desertification has contributed indirectly to conflict between people competing for dwindling resources. Floods and cyclones have devastated crops in Melanesia, risking poverty and food insecurity.”

In this 4-week Creation Care Course, we will provide you with vital information about climate change, its impacts on people, and reflect on Our role as Christians in taking practical climate action.

In Week 1: Caring for Creation (17th June 2021, 16:00-17:30), we will take a theological perspective on creation care and tackling climate change, using bible studies and a wide range of theological resources.

In Week 2: Understanding Climate Change (24th June 2021, 16:00-17:30), we will look at climate change, its drivers and impacts from a scientific perspective.

In Week 3: Living Climate Change – Stories from Melanesia (1st July 2021, 16:00-17:30), we will learn about the effects of climate change on people and draw upon examples of climate impacts and human responses in Melanesia.

In Week 4: Taking Action – Caring for the Environment, Caring for People (8th July 2021, 16:00-17:30), we will hear about various options for climate change mitigation and adaptation that we can take as individuals, as parishes and as a Christian community.

To get the most out of this consecutive course, we highly recommend attending all four sessions. However, individual bookings will be possible as well.

Marie Schlenker

Biography of Principal Contributor

There will be further input from members of Melanesian Mission UK and wider organisations promoting church engagement on this vital topic as we journey towards COP 26.

Marie Schlenker is a PhD candidate at the University of Southampton, researching climate change impacts in Solomon Islands. Marie conducts her research in close collaboration with the Anglican Church of Melanesia and the Melanesian Mission UK. She holds a BSc in Geosciences, a MSc in Environmental Physics and a Postgraduate Certificate in Disaster Management.

HeartEdge - Care Of Creation Contributors
Tom Tyler - Solomon Islands 2008

A Tribute In Honour Of Tom Tyler

In honour of Tom Tyler who died in December 2020, by Bishop Willie A. Pwaisiho.

The Melanesian Mission has a very rich history in having missionary bishops, priests, teachers, doctors, nurses, engineers, printers, carpenters, farmers, men and women who brought us the Good News of Jesus Christ through many of these different ways of service. Local people became Christians through their contact with schools, and hospitals.  

I was very fortunate to meet some of those last missionaries and was taught by them before the Diocese of Melanesia became a separate Province from New Zealand in January 1975. When John Wallace Chisholm became Bishop of Melanesia on the 24th Sept. 1967, he saw that he should not just be responsible for the education of the country but rather should concentrate on the ministry of evangelism and training of catechists and priests.

As the British administration was preparing for the independence of the Solomon Islands, Bishop John Chisholm wanted to create a first-class church secondary school to help train the future leaders of an independent Solomons. The Bishop also wanted the new school to be close to Honiara, the capital, to introduce students, who mostly came from rural areas, to urban life. The Bishop also wanted to bring all the diocesan institutions closer to Honiara, so in 1969 Siota College moved from Gela to become Bishop Patteson Theological Centre, Kohimarama, for training catechists and priests and women lay workers. The printing press moved from Gela to Honiara. Two religious orders, the Franciscans and the Sisters of the Church arrived in Honiara, to have a joint household in the middle of the town for mission and ministry.

Selwyn College

At the beginning of 1970, Selwyn College was created, bringing together Pawa boys school and Pamua girls school, with their teachers, to Najilagu on Guadalcanal. Tom always spoke his mind to the Bishop about making wrong appointments without consultation with the persons concerned. At the last minute he found out that he was to go Selwyn College to be Headmaster, a job he never came for in the first place. He did not feel he was qualified to be the head, but he obediently accepted the bishop’s order. It was there I met for the first time my humble Headmaster and priest Tom, and Tricia his wife, our school nurse, their son Andrew and their dog. I was the Head Prefect chosen by the staff at Pawa School.

It was not easy to run this co-educational school for the first time. The women staff from Pamua were unhappy about the girls working together with us boys in the fields doing manual work. As Head Prefect I had a lot of discussions with my Headmaster over this subject since we had to grow our own sweet potatoes and cassava vegetables as we had done at Pawa, Alangaula and Maravovo boys Schools. Having got my Headmaster on my side, we won the argument that for the school to be self-supporting we needed to have both girls and boys working in the fields together, growing their crops and vegetables and no more separation.

Tom was a hard-working man at school and led by example. During the first three months there was continuous flooding caused by heavy rain. To solve this problem, Terry Ward, our Australian volunteer and qualified plumber and Tom decided we needed to dig a six feet deep drain with a four feet diameter concrete pipe across the school compound. Tom led by example with a pair of shorts and spade and covered with mud, encouraging us to dig that two-hundred-metre-long drain.

Before his appointment as Headmaster of the newly created co – education secondary school for the Church of Melanesia at Najilagu, Tom was the Principal at Kohimarama, training catechists. He enjoyed very much going around different parishes in the islands with his catechists in training, showing them how to do pastoral work.

I pay tribute and salute my Headmaster Tom on behalf of former students of his in the Solomons and Vanuatu as a pioneer in co – education in the Anglican Church of Melanesia. His students went on to become bishops, priests, teachers, doctors, lawyers, diplomats and judges, nurses, parliamentarians, Provincial premiers, senior police officers, businessmen and women in both countries. That is the legacy he left us in Melanesia.

That reminds me of the words in St. John’s gospel 4.37 & 38, thus the saying “One sows and another reaps” is true.

“I sent you to reap what you have not worked for.
Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labour”.

We in Melanesia are still reaping the harvest we have never worked for.

An Irish blessing.

Tom, may the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be ever at your back,
May the sunshine warm upon your face.
And may the rain fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again, may God hold you ever in the palm of his hand.

Teachers do not die; they live on by those they taught.
Farewell Tom, from ocean peace.

Amen.

Bishop Willie A. Pwaisiho

Sam Rylands and Friends

Now The Adventure Begins

Many enjoyed Sam’s talk at our AGM in September about his time in the Solomon Islands in March of this year. Although this article appeared in our summer 2020 magazine, here it is again with more pictures from Sam’s trip.

Sam Rylands Ordination at St Paul's
Sam Rylands Ordination at St Paul’s

On Holy Saturday I arrived back to a much changed and much quieter London than the one I had left a month before. Having confirmed my safe arrival in the Solomon Islands in an email exchange with Katie Drew (MMUK Executive Officer), who had been kindly helping me to organise the trip, she replied, “Now the adventure begins!” Neither of us knew at that stage how accurate her response would prove to be!

As an ordinand in the Church of England, I was eager to experience the life of the Anglican Church and the shape of formation in a very different context before being ordained deacon and beginning my curacy this summer. I am also currently researching for a PhD thesis exploring how the church engages faithfully in politics and so found myself particularly drawn to the Melanesian Brotherhood’s recent history in their pivotal role as peacemakers during the ethnic tensions at the turn of the millennium. Particularly striking is the Brothers’ distinctive and committed pattern of prayer and worship, which is not a retreat from the world, but the structure and life source that enables them to live fully for the world, serving their local communities and wider society so faithfully.

The View From Tabalia
The View From Tabalia

I was initially intending to visit for a couple of months, throughout Lent, Holy Week and over Easter, with the purpose of participating in and learning from the communal life and worship of the Brothers. Immersing myself in the community at Tabalia as much as possible gave me a chance to experience their beautifully simple but varied life together. And I loved all of it– from daily attending the very early First Office, (walking to the chapel in the dark, dodging frogs along the way!), to eating kasava and kakake (affectionately known as “swamp taro”), attempting to fix the waterpipe after heavy rain fall but spending most of the time swimming in the river, as well as several logging trips with the Brothers to collect firewood. It was a real privilege to be welcomed in by the Brothers, Novices and Aspirants and to be allowed to join them in their everyday lives. I was also given the privilege of preaching on Mothering Sunday, where Novice Patteson very kindly helped me to write and deliver sections of the sermon in Pijin, as well as narrating the Passion play on Palm Sunday, which thankfully was in English!

Sam Rylands and The Brotherhood at Tabalia
Sam Rylands and The Brotherhood at Tabalia

However, during this time with the Brothers, I was also becoming increasingly aware of the spreading pandemic of COVID-19. Thankfully because of internet access at Kohimarama Theological College I was able to stay relatively up to date as things changed across the world. Yet, because of the rapid speed at which things changed, I was not able to move my flights forward quickly enough to avoid being stuck in Solomons indefinitely, as Australia, and then the Solomon Islands too, closed their borders!

Sam Rylands and The British High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands, Dr Brian Jones
Sam Rylands and The British High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands, Dr Brian Jones

Being stranded in Solomons felt very surreal. On the one hand, I was in paradise with beautiful idyllic surroundings, as life continued pretty much as normal at Tabalia and across the Islands. Yet every time I would walk up to “Kohi” to speak with friends and family back home, I would be updated on the worsening spread of this deadly virus. This led to a time of uncertainty, for me, but perhaps primarily for my family back home, as I had three flights cancelled in my attempt to return to the UK. With things changing not just daily but hourly, and no clear indication of how long the lockdown would last, it was unclear just how long I would be stranded in Tabalia. But I was reassured by the Brothers that I was welcome to stay with them for as long as necessary, even if that meant being there at Christmas, and being ordained whilst I was out there! Though they also knew my need to get back to my wife Lily, and so continued to pray for me.

Having been back to Honiara a couple of times to speak with the British High Commissioner, however, it became clear that there was little that could be done in terms of arranging travel home other than praying and waiting for things to open up again. Ultimately though, it was hard to become overly anxious about my situation partly because of where I was stranded. I remember one Sunday afternoon messing around in the canoe in the sea with some of the younger boys and one of the Brothers, and just thinking how fortunate I was to be doing this whilst everyone back in the UK was stuck inside! But also during this time, the rhythm of prayer and worship at Tabalia really gave me a sense of peace, as well as learning from and being held by the Brothers’ own deep trust and reliance in God that all would be well.

The View From Chester Rest House
The View From Chester Rest House

Of course, we were also aware of the potential threat and impact of COVID-19 arriving in the Solomon Islands, not just on the limited health resources but also the social and economic implications. We began to discuss some of the ways the Brothers needed to prepare practically, in modelling good hygiene both for their own sake, but also for all the communities across the islands. But most importantly, the Brothers continue to prepare spiritually, to be there for the people of Melanesia, shining the light of Christ in the darkness, knowing that whatever comes their way God is with them. Or as the Pijin version of John’s Gospel beautifully puts it; “nao matta stay dark… erytime get light.”

Eventually I was able to be squeezed onto a US repatriation flight as the 200th and final passenger on the plane. The circumstances of the last-minute flight meant I sadly missed Easter weekend at Tabalia and had to say very rushed goodbyes, but perhaps not having long drawn out goodbyes was more appropriate as I very much hope to return. The flight itself left Honiara, the first time there had ever been a plane of that size on the runway, to head to San Francisco via Hawaii, before I caught my onward flight to London. By the time I arrived back in the UK I had completed a round the world trip, just not in the circumstances I had quite imagined!

Empty Honiara Airport
Empty Honiara Airport
The Plane Home Via USA
The Plane Home Via USA

It is very hard to thank the Brotherhood, and all those I met, enough for their hospitality, generosity, and kindness throughout my time with them, particularly under such uncertain circumstances. During my stay I was struck by their warmth but also their sense of fun. Their commitment to God and to one another is dedicated and sincere, yet at the same time full of life and laughter! I have left with much to be thankful for, but also much to learn from them, and I am certain that this experience will continue to shape my own life of faith and ministry for the rest of my life.

Sam Rylands

We pray for Sam and his family as he begins his curacy in the Diocese of London.

Church Observatory

News from the ACoM Environment Observatory

Communities in Solomon Islands have been identified to be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and associated sea-level rise. Some evidence of these impacts is already visible. For example, the artificial island of Walande, located off the coast of South Malaita, has been submerged by rising sea-levels in recent years and the community has been faced with relocation onto the nearby mainland. Low-lying coastal communities across the country are threatened by similar scenarios. Scientific data is urgently needed to understand the environmental changes that communities are facing in the Solomon Islands today and in the future. The Anglican Church of Melanesia Environment Observatory aims to create an extensive database of environmental change across the country, based on local observations of Anglican communities, which will increase local understanding of climate-related issues and build resilience in vulnerable communities.

Selwyn College students boarding an outboard motor canoe
Selwyn College students boarding an outboard motor canoe – evacuated by ship to Honiara during the flash floods earlier this year. Photo by Fr. Losdale Rubaha

At present, the ACoM Environment Observatory consists of four different monitoring test sites, located at Fanalei Island, Walande, Selwyn College and Red Beach, Honiara. These test sites are coordinated by trained representatives of the respective communities, the “Green Apostles”. At the test sites, continuous data on temperature, rainfall, water levels and shoreline change are collected. The observatory project is managed by a local ACoM staff member, Freda Fataka, and supported by a team of international scientists, including Dr Adam Bobbette (University of New South Wales) and Marie Schlenker (University of Southampton).

The first 6-months of environmental data has been successfully collected at the test sites and has been shared with the research team for analysis. While it is too early to see any trends in the data, it has been a great opportunity to review the set up and organisation of the observatory. In February, Selwyn College was flooded and evacuated; in March, the Solomon Islands Government declared a State of Emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic; in April, Cyclone Harold caused widespread destruction in the Pacific and affected the test sites at Selwyn College, Red Beach, and Fanalei. The observatory has been through some extremely testing situations this year. The good news: while there have been temporary disruptions to the data collection and some adjustments needed to be made to the measurement structures, data collection in the ACoM Environment Observatory continues and the spirits of all participating people are high. Freda highlighted that her visits to the test sites showed that Green Apostles and community members “were committed faithfully and put all their efforts towards the success of the project”. We look forward to continuing to work on this exciting project.

Freda & Marie

Remembering Sister Helen Barrett

MMUK friend and film maker Alex Leger, sent his memories of Sister Helen Barrett following the tribute in our Summer 2020 Melanesia News.

I was very sad to read that Sister Helen had died but at 98 she had quite a long innings. I last saw her in 2000 in Brisbane when I was on my way out to the Solomons on the recce for the Blue Peter filming. She was as sprightly as ever and remembered me (thank goodness) from when I was the VSO at Alangaula in 1966. She was the Sister at Kerepei Hospital (her second stint).

In 1966-7 we had dinner on a few occasions and at the first occasion she told me that Father Brock was going dangerously deaf but refused to go to Honiara to be seen by a specialist. She wanted me and Doug Henry (who was a teacher at Alangaula) to ‘soften him up’ before she tackled him yet again! Thanks to Doug, Dan Brock went off about a month later. For me, with the headmaster gone, it was a wonderful respite from the irascible Father B!

I subsequently got the 1st Ugi Sea Scouts to trim the Kerepei Hospital grounds for her with a young Willie P in charge! I remember Willie chastising members of the troop who wanted to speak pidgin English while they worked. It was a school rule that only proper English should be used.

Alex in 1967 having spent the day working fruitlessly on the school generator...hence the oily rag!
Alex in 1967 having spent the day working fruitlessly on the school generator…hence the oily rag!

Later in 1967 some American scientists (seismologists) from Hawaii University stopped off for a couple of days before continuing to Honiara. They came ashore bearing gifts – fizzy drinks tablets. The boys ate them without putting them in water first and the gases swelled up inside them causing them to pass wind continuously. They flocked to Sister Helen in alarm for urgent medical treatment. She told me later that when she realised what it was she had trouble keeping a straight face!

She also mentioned her time in the Torres Strait and was very proud of still being useful in her 70s! She was always filling up shipping containers in Brisbane and shipping them out to the COM.

In December 1966 I travelled with her on the Southern Cross (when Captain Eric Healy was in charge) and we went from Ugi to Walande en route for Honiara. That was my first sight of the artificial island in the Port Adam Lagoon that has held my interest since. As we left the lagoon the sea picked up and we were literally ‘shipping it green’ over the bow. I had a deck cabin and I remember waiting between the waves before dashing into the cabin and slamming the door before the wave hit. The water spurted in around the door to about waist height…Sister Helen was no sailor and the evening meal was an interesting affair with waiters posted behind us to catch the plates as they flew off the table! She only lasted about 5 minutes before rushing off to be seasick. Poor woman.

I really liked her.

Alex Leger

To read more about Sister Helen Barrett;
Anglican Sister who served here for years dies in Australia
Helen Barrett MBE AO: St Aidan’s alumna revered in the Solomons

Project Trust Volunteers

Half English, Half Solomon

Before her evacuation from the Solomon Islands, Project Trust volunteer, Ellen wrote this for the Anglican Church of Melanesia

My time at St Stephen’s Community College, Pamua, has been better than I ever dreamed of. My friend Cerys and I arrived in Pamua at the end of August 2019 and have been working and living there since. We are from the United Kingdom and have come to the Solomons with the educational charity ‘Project Trust’. ‘Project Trust’ sends 17-19 year old volunteers around the world to 20 different countries, one being the Solomon Islands. Myself and 3 others were selected to come and teach in the Solomon Islands. Two boys are currently working at St Francis, Vaturanga and myself and Cerys are teaching at St Stephen’s, Pamua.

At Pamua, I teach both Form 1 and Form 4 Maths and Cerys teaches Form 2 Science and English. Aside from teaching at the secondary sector we help out at Pamua Primary in our free time. We also enjoy playing sports with both the students and teachers. For example, last year, we played friendly netball games against various local schools, such as Waimapuru and Campbell School, of course Pamua were victorious!

We also love being involved in traditional living and island customs. For example, we both danced custom dances with Bauro and Temotu ethnic groups for the school’s Saint’s Day in September, whilst wearing custom banana leaves. In October, we took part in the School’s Graduation Day, helping prepare local foods, and we both enjoyed celebrating the achievements of the school’s leaving students.

Whilst staying on Makira we have attended the island’s famous ‘Banana festival’. Here we were able to experience the many different types of Makira banana including the famous ‘torroka’. Additionally, we enjoy regular trips to Maworah Island, directly opposite Pamua. During these times we have learnt how to paddle banana boats and I have even attempted spear fishing!

Various Madams and students at the school have been teaching us the ‘Solomon way’ so we now know how to scratch coconuts, peel cassava and cook pumpkin. It has been good fun trying new foods that we do not have in the United Kingdom such as Makira’s famous 6 month pudding. Madam Lucy, the school’s home-economics teacher, has taught me how to make island kaleko, such as dying lavalava and making pacific dresses. I have also learnt how to plant kumara, cassava and pana, when I help my Solomon family in their garden. Many students have also taught me how to brush and chop firewood. We truly have been fully immersed into the ways of island living.

We have both loved our time in the Solomons, everyone has been so kind, welcoming and friendly to us. I would like to send out a special thankyou to everyone at Pamua for making our experience at the school so incredibly special and something we will never forget. I will take what I have learnt from the amazing people here in the Solomon Islands back to my friends and family in the United Kingdom, sharing my stories and adventures. As a result of these experiences, both Cerys and I now consider ourselves to be true ‘island girls’ and I feel as if I am half English, half Solomon! Pamco nao best!

Ellen, Project Trust Volunteer 2019/20

Cosimo Lewis with Melanesian Brothers at Chester Rest House

My Time With The Melanesian Brotherhood

A little over a year ago, two members of the Melanesian Brotherhood came to my school to give a sermon during our morning chapel service. They talked about some of the history of the Brotherhood, the work it does now, and closed off by encouraging us to spend part of our gap year working with them in the Solomon Islands. This caught my interest, as at the time I was deliberating whether or not I should take a gap year. I was able to meet the brothers, along with some other boys who had expressed an interest, where we were able to hear in more detail what a gap year would entail, as well as ask some questions.

Following this, I was put in to contact with the Melanesian Mission UK, as well as Brother Alphonse, the secretary for the Brotherhood, who helped me organise the 3 months I planned to spend there. All of this came as something of a surprise to my parents, but when I explained to them what I would be doing, they were very supportive. English is the official language of the Solomon Islands, but the most commonly spoken language is Pidgin. Therefore, I agreed to teach English to the novices at Tabalia Central Headquarters, on the main island of Guadalcanal.

At the start of my gap year I spent some time working to raise enough money for the flights, and in mid-January, flew from Gatwick to Honiara, via Honk Kong & Port Moresby. Upon arrival, I was greeted by three of the brothers, including the Assistant Head Brother, as well as the sweltering heat of the tropics. Although I had arrived towards the end of the wet season, it was still extremely hot and humid. We were driven to Tabalia, with a short stop at Chester Rest House, where I was introduced to the Head Brother and the novice in charge of guests, and treated to some local delicacies, including fresh fruit and coconut, and given a flower garland.

Melanesian Brotherhood at Tabalia

On one of the first Sundays after I arrived, a Saint’s Day feast was held. This involved a great deal of preparation, including grating cassava for a pudding with which I helped. The feast itself was very impressive, laid out on palm leaves, and preceded by some excellent singing. Several brothers from other parts of the mission had also travelled to Tabalia for the feast, and to bring greetings from their stations.

The general routine of my day included chapel in the morning and afternoon, meals in either the guest house or the dining hall, and teaching English to the novices on Monday & Thursday. Teaching and getting to know the novices was a very rewarding experience, and the main feature of my time there. Their classes were separated into Year 2 and Year 3 (new novices having not yet arrived), who each had a double English lesson once a week. My lessons included explaining grammatical concepts, and then having the novices answer questions about them, both verbally and on the blackboard. One area I particularly focused on was explaining tenses, as Pidgin has no real equivalent. Towards the end of the lesson, we would usually play a few games of Hangman, which the novices really enjoyed, as well as being a good way of improving vocabulary and spelling. I also set the novices several essays to write for homework, to allow them to practice writing longer pieces, as it helps them prepare sermons.

Of course, it wasn’t all work. I greatly enjoyed taking part in the Sunday football matches (admittedly with more enthusiasm than skill), including one memorable match in the pouring rain, which resulted in some very entertaining tackles. It was also very refreshing to be able to walk down to the beach, through the jungle, to go for a swim. Along the path to the beach, one can also see the remains of a WW2-era Japanese tank.

While I had originally planned to stay for three months, unfortunately I was forced to return home after only two, due to the coronavirus pandemic resulting in borders shutting and flights being cancelled. While of course I was very happy to be seeing my family again, it was a great shame to not be able to stay the full three months, as there was still a lot to do and see. For instance, I would have spent Holy Week staying with some of the novices in one of the local villages, helping out with their teaching. I hope to be able to visit the islands and the Brothers again soon, but in the meantime, I aim to encourage others to do the same, particularly those from my school who are considering taking a gap year.

Cosimo Lewis

Fanalei Island - Village Life

Village Sharing

On the 1st of September 2019, I left the UK for Solomon Islands, where I spent six months living and experiencing the simplicity of everyday village life. In my village, different responsibilities belong to women, men, girls and boys. The girls learn their role from older women, and the boys learn theirs from the men. They learn through involving and, in that way, everyone passes on their knowledge from generation to generation. A villager must know about everything since the entire world is in his/her hands. For example, one needs to have the skills of planting and growing different types of crops. A girl must learn to weave baskets and mats. The boys must learn to fish or dive. Learn to build a house with local materials, build a canoe, hunting skills as well as skills for climbing coconut, breadfruit, nut trees and sago palm tree. 

Fanalei Island - Village LifeEvery villager must have a general knowledge about everything in a villager’s world. There is no such thing as specialized work even though some people are and can be more skilful than others. While in the village, I noticed a massive change in people’s lifestyle. I saw the influence of modern technology had increased immensely – the use of mobile phones, solar panels, the internet, water supply, sanitation & transport.  

Village Sharing - This is one of the most excellent values in village life in Melanesia. Everyone shares and helps one another in every village activities and gatherings; for example building houses, crop planting, weddings and funerals. Hence I will always treasure the joy and the richness of community life.          Fanalei Island - Village

Climate ChangeToday the impact of climate change is horrifying. I have seen in the past 20 years to date the unpleasantness it has caused on my late mother’s village of Fanalei and Walande. The shoreline has changed dramatically as well as the weather. It appears there is an increase in irregular rainfalls and floodings, land erosion, bleaching of coral reefs and extremely low tides and high temperature. As a result it changes the way people do their gardening, fishing and living lifestyle.  

Fanalei village was privileged to host a PhD student from Southampton University, Marie Schlenker. The purpose for her trip was to research the impact of climate change and costal hazards on the Solomon Islands. She carried out interviews and participatory workshops with the locals about their insights, experiences of climate change and its impact on coastal areas. She also taught the locals how to do measurements of rainfall, temperature & water levels of the shorelines. My role was the interpreter. Coming from this area myself I was able to help the locals to understand the questions and the purpose of this research. 

I am delighted that this study is taking place in the Solomon Islands where a lot of places are experiencing the same effect of climate change. People who are being displaced from their environment and are forced to move to new settlements which can cause a total change of lifestyle and traditions. They could experience rejection and discrimination from the people on the main land. The other is the loss of certain skills and knowledge from where they used to live.  

In conclusion we are so grateful and thank MMUK and the University of Southampton, for sponsoring Marie Schlenker to carry out this scientific research which will be very useful for the future.   

Kate Pwaisiho – MMUK Trustee