Speech – Welcome at Fanalei Village 19th April 2016 – Joseph Leo

The team members of the Melanesian Mission in the United Kingdom, His Excellency the British High Commissioner, Sisters, Brothers, ladies and gentlemen.

On behalf of the chairperson of the village committee and our community members, I take this wonderful opportunity to welcome you to our community. We understand that your visit to us has something to do with livelihood and lives drastically and adversely affected by climate change.

Many years ago the Melanesian Mission ships use to visit us. It was during one of these trips that they stayed here for six months to load sand to build houses purposely for the services of Christ. Today these sand beaches have disappeared due to adverse effects of climate change.

Brother Charles Elliot Fox wrote in his book, and I quote, “Bishop Patteson first visited Mala in 1856 but found few people on the shore.”

However the Fanalei community was one of the very few communities living in these low-lying coastal areas in Port Adam well before the missionaries came.

In the early years of the Anglican Mission in Melanesia, the Fanalei community had been working together with the Melanesian Mission in spreading the development of the church. The individuals from this community who had participated in spreading the Gospel includes John Oili who became a brave teacher, Joe Leo who was ordained Deacon in 1924, Elizabeth Siakula and Alice Alide whom in 1884 both married to missionaries and were also involved in converting heathen people to became Christians during those dangerous days.

Your visit today is a very important one to us and we really appreciate it with thankful hearts because our community is very keen to work closely with the Melanesian Mission in working towards addressing livelihoods and lives drastically affected by climate change.

We are also thankful for your visit today so that you can see for yourselves that our community is also affected by the climate change. The venue we have used here today to welcome you was once the site of our church building. In 2011 our community completed a permanent church building without any help from outside. Much of this from our own fundraising and a tiny income we got from sea resources. This type of income is also drastically affected by climate change. Perhaps it is worth mentioning here, that other organisations have also visited us in the past for the same reason and have done the same activities you will be doing during your short stay with us. We have not heard anymore from them since they left us! Despite of this, your visit today is very valuable and meaningful to us, because it reaffirms our long-time friendship with the Melanesian Mission since 1849.

In this context may I ask this mission team from Melanesian Mission in the United Kingdom to convey our greetings to his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, your Christian friends and relatives in England.

We hope your short stay with us here will be worthwhile. Team members of the Melanesian Mission in the United Kingdom, his Excellency the British High Commissioner, Sisters, Brothers, ladies and gentlemen, we trust that your short visit to us will be useful and we thank you for giving your busy time to us.

Thank you in Christ’s service.

Presenter: Joseph Leo

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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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Learning new skills!

Jenny & Mike on the pipesThe UK party have been learning some new skills while we have been here. Jenny and Mike have taken up the pipes, and Cate and Bishop Mark have decided to set up a coconut processing unit. Under Bishop Willies’ guidance Mark learnt to husk a coconut and Cate is very adept at grating coconut. It will be interesting to see how these new talents transfer to England.
Learning to husk a coconutGrating Coconut

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Norman Palmer School and TNK, but what day is it again?

Day? Not too sure what day it is as heat getting to us.

I believe it is Friday, well the end of the day and what a day? Morning worship at local All Saints church at 6am but got it wrong again, no one there except the caretaker/night watchman who sleeps on benches outside the church to keep away animals etc. It looked as if that was his only home. We had 1 service book we had been loaned so we managed.

Back for breakfast, a range of things cobbled together, we even managed to get eggs to boil, then off to the Norman Palmer School. Unfortunately it is still school holidays and only the teachers were there. We were however warmly greeted with a service and then floral greeting and off for a tour of the school. Seemed strange to not see any children, but we looked in some of the classrooms, not quite to our standard and chatted to the teachers. We even saw the wall Colin had painted, faded –sorry Colin. Then walking up to a total contrast, the new build, wow we could have been in England. A new building containing a science lab, technology and domestic science rooms and bright cheerful classrooms, such a contrast! In a classroom we sat and discussed things and I gave an introduction to Prayer Spaces which went down well. Then over to the new library (funded by the Australians) for lunch. The usual spread which we believe was bought in especially, not what they would usually have, and guests are always made to eat first and then everyone else finished it up, a very humbling experience. Before we left the staff sang us a farewell. A great morning just a shame there were no children, but better luck next week.

TNK - Easter GardenBack for a brief rest and then picked up to be taken to TNK, the Hill of Prayer, home to the Sisters of the Church. We travelled out into the countryside, leaving behind the chaos of the town, past beautiful vegetation, turning off the main road(!) we bumped along a narrow pitted track which in the rains floods and eventually drew into a compound. What a beautiful site was before our eyes! Lush vegetation and planted flowers and a scattering of buildings, we were greeted by the Sisters, Novices and Aspirants singing and playing pipes, what a chorus and what a delight. After the formal flower presentation more TNK - Pipessinging and then a tour of the site, so peaceful and beautiful. We had fun in the outside kitchen and I was made to grate coconut in the traditional way, managed it quite successfully, which was more than Mark did when trying to de-husk a coconut. We have to say any physical activity is exhausting in the heat. Then it was off to their refectory for refreshments, again a lovely spread of fruit and cake. During which we were entertained by the Sisters and Novices singing and dancing with so much glee and noise (we were told it was their quiet day, so what a normal day must be like!) we were so touched by them singing about their beautiful home it brought tears to our eyes, as did their farewell to us. As we boarded the minibus they sang shalom shalom, may peace be with you and sadly we drove away to the sight of their frantic waving and great waves of love. A truly memorable and heart-warming visit.

Holy Communion at All Saints after a quick shower and then off to dinner with some Bishops from New Zealand. An action packed day – I want my bed!!

Cate Edmonds

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Mothers’ Union – Woman Power

These women are a powerhouse. All volunteers with the exception of two paid Cate & MU membersadministrative staff, the Mothers’ Union in Melanesia runs parenting training, literacy programmes, girls’ groups, couples counselling and women’s savings schemes. Melanesia is an island region and communication between islands is not always reliable but they work across all of the region’s dioceses, making a real difference as they strive to fulfil the MU’s aim of supporting marriage and the family in a society where women are not always valued, it is estimatedUK team with Mothers' Union that 64% of women have experienced some form of physical violence and illiteracy levels are still relatively high. Not only this, but the chocolate banana cake is to die for – and they didn’t waste time baking it themselves. Women after my own heart!

Jenny Gilbertson

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Programme Sorted – Wednesday 13th April

When you give up trying to get back to sleep at 3.30am, you really can fit a lot into one day!

Before the sun was up our group was at All Saints for Morning Prayer. Shame it was the priests day off. Instead Bishop Willie led us as we sat in our small circle with the church dog in the middle. I was told he is the most faithful dog in Honiara.

Next stop the Hot Bread Kitchen to buy our breakfast and then the Central Market to buy provisions for dinner this evening. The group has promised to teach me how to prepare the Rainbo (with no ‘w’) fish we bought, skills I lacked woefully when I came to the Solomons in 2011.

At PHQ it was good to see more familiar faces and get the finer detail into the programme. Even with the Archbishop’s enthronement only days away, we were given all the assistance we needed with our programmes. Looking at the draft programme for the enthronement, I noticed I am reading the Lesson, which is a privilege but also very daunting.

Here are all the readings for the service on Sunday:
The Lesson – Isaiah 6: 1-13
The Epistle – Ephesians 2:11-22
The Gospel – John 10: 7-18

Final appointment of the day was with British High Commissioner Chris Trott. Chris began his posting in the region in January and I am delighted that he will be joining us on the Southern Cross to see first-hand the effects of climate change. We will be going to places on Malaita which Alex Leger has filmed in the past, when they were thriving villages and communities. We are told that we will now find them abandoned due to rising sea levels and battering storms. You can watch Alex’s previous Melanesian films on his YouTube Channel, Topsham TV.

On Easter Sunday just before Bishop Willie left to travel to the Solomons, he was filmed by BBC North West about his visit to see these displaced people. I am hoping that on our return, the BBC, regionally and nationally, will air what we have found and filmed.

Many villages and communities across Melanesia are struggling to cope with severe weather conditions. Recently ACoM held a workshop for the relocation of other communities across the Solomons Islands including Ontong Java. Fr Nigel from Ontong Java will also be joining us on the Southern Cross. Fr Nigel attended the Environment Conference in Paris last year, to plead on behalf of the Pacific.

Thanks to supporters in the UK we are also able to take along a group of Brothers and Sisters on the Southern Cross, including some of the 2013 Simply Living team. Br Hilton SSF, Head Melanesian Sister Collin and Melanesian Brothers Br Albert (now Regional Head Brother for the Solomon Islands) and Br Jack will be on-board for the journey around Malaita.

Well I think that is just about it for today. Off to learn how to prepare a fish.

God’s Creation

Revd Cate Edmonds – Exeter Diocese

What an interesting start to our time here in this amazing country, peopled with such friendly faces. It has been wonderful to meet again members from the religious communities who came over on the Simply Living Mission in 2013, it was like meeting up with old friends. After a morning orientating ourselves and shopping in the local market, a huge fish for £8 and those piles of veg. displaying the range of God’s creation, we rested before traveling to the British High Commission. What a view of the area lay before us. Clear views of neighbouring islands where we will venture later but also some interesting conversation with the Commissioner about crime. Amazing that since the amnesty in 2006 on guns there have only been 15 gun related incidents, a thought!

Returning from the High Commission we were just in time for the daily communion service. The church of All Saints was fairly full. Wow we thought but then realised that there were to be 5 baptisms, so wonderful. No font in sight just a huge clam shell so at the end of the service out came the camera – ideas for prayer spaces abounded. What an interesting first day of activities we can’t wait for the next.

PS Katie never got to fillet the fish it was done for us!

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Tuesday 12th April – It’s good to be back…

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 Bishop Mark Rylands, myself, and Bishop Willie Pwaisho(our  film makers) are with me to attend the enthronement of the next Archbishop Elect, Rt Revd George TakeliArchbishop 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 Welcome At Chester Resthouse 1the 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. Welcome At Chester Resthouse 2Our 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.

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