Speech – Archbishop’s Evening Reception 17th April 2016 – Bishop Mark Rylands

Archbishop George, your Excellency, distinguished guests, Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

It is a privilege to be asked to give a response on behalf of overseas guests.

Thank you for your welcome, your hospitality and celebration. We are delighted and feel honoured to be here. In many ways I have been wonderfully surprised. Not that I can speak entirely for Australia, New Zealand, Canada and USA guests here, but as you know in England we tend to specialise in a welcome that is polite yet restrained, in hospitality that is friendly but quiet, in celebration that is sometimes subdued, certainly not too enthusiastic. We like to shake your hand, say you are very welcome: ‘how do you do?’ We are glad to see you – we just don’t like to show it. To celebrate your arrival we would put the kettle on and offer you a cup of tea.

That is not the Melanesian way. Off the bus at Chester Rest House there was singing, dancing, garlands, feasting and prayers. At the Mothers’ Union: singing, feasting, dancing and prayers. At Sisters of the Church: singing, dancing, prayers, garland, pipes. Archbishop George, your church gives such joyful welcome, lavish hospitality and exuberant celebration. Nothing is done by halves – you have taught me a lesson here! Despite the challenges you face domestically and the hardships you endure, you have gone out of your way to embrace us with a love and joy that has been unrestrained. Your love of God and joy in Jesus Christ has been a blessing to us.

Not only are we glad to be here for this great occasion as George is installed as Archbishop of the province. You may have gathered that we – each of us from our different countries and dioceses – we cherish our links with the Church of Melanesia. We are glad to be in partnership with you in the Gospel, yes; and as companions together in God’s Mission, yes. But it is more than that. You know how to make a guest into a friend and a friend into a member of a beloved family. You have made us feel at home here, like we belong to you. You have made it known that you love us, and we are so grateful for that gift. For me, you have helped me remember that first of all I am a child of God and a follower of Jesus. It is the joy of sharing that experience and relationship with you: Brothers and sisters in one big happy family (as you sing in one of your songs)… that we are One in Jesus Christ.

Of course, we are glad to be Companions in God’s Mission and to offer you our support in prayer, friendship and practical resources. We ask, however, in return that you learn from our mistakes and please help us too.

In the West, UK, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand we are now missionary territory. We may have brought you the Gospel via Bishop Selwyn and Bishop Patteson, but in the last 80 years we forgot to deliberately pass on our faith to our children and grandchildren. We thought it would happen automatically, by osmosis. It didn’t. We now have generations who have grown up not knowing who Jesus Christ is. Please do not do what we have done. Don’t forget to pass on your Christian heritage to your children and grandchildren.

From the outset, Bishops Selwyn and Patteson ensured that the Melanesians were trained to be your own missionaries and priests. You incorporated your own culture into your worship ensuring it is so colourful and joyful today. We, in the West, are weak in Mission and lacking in faith. We are now ready to receive the gospel and teaching from Melanesian missionaries coming to our countries today – to share your joyful faith and help us make new disciples in our own lands. We need your help.

Archbishop George, it is a privilege for us to be here with you. We pray that God will richly bless you and that you and your ministry will be a blessing to many.

Mark Rylands

Bishop of Shrewsbury

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