Three years after my last visit to the Solomon Islands I am back in Honiara with a group from the UK. The Rt Revd Mark Rylands, Bishop Of Shrewsbury, Bishop Willie Pwaisho, Assistant Bishop in Chester Diocese, the Archdeacon of Chester, Venerable Mike Gilbertson and his wife Jenny, Revd Cate Edmonds from Exeter Diocese and Alex and Henry Leger (our film makers) are with me to attend the enthronement of the next Archbishop of Melanesia. The group who are representing MMUK, Chester and Exeter Dioceses, have a varied programme spanning two weeks for some and three weeks for others visiting schools, Mothers’ Union and Church Projects and leading some theological training and bible studies. Alex, Henry and I will also be making some films on climate change, the religious orders and childhood in Melanesia. For some of the group, this is their first visit to the region, and the welcome we received was amazing. Some familiar faces were at the airport to meet us including members of the Simply Living team, Sisters of the Church who had visited the UK, and friends from previous visits. At Chester Resthouse more Brothers and Sisters welcomed us with songs and garlands and speeches. Melanesians really know how to welcome their guests, with such genuine joy and hospitality. Very moving.
Once settled there was a dinner provided by ACoM and prepared by Companions from Honiara Cathedral. Such a spread of colourful dishes, my favourite being the red snapper. Our English party soon warmed up after being serenaded while we ate, and we all got up to dance and sing the last song. And it is warm here…both in welcome and temperature.
Amazingly this is the first time I have stayed at Chester Resthouse and I am really looking forward to being part of the community here, being together, sharing stories and growing in fellowship. Tomorrow (Wednesday) down to the nuts and bolts of organising seven programmes, kitting out the Southern Cross and meeting the new British High Commissioner, Chris Trott.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.