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The Simply Living Mission from Melanesia

News St Martin – Talking Points

Friday 7 June 2013

A look back at the visit of the Melanesian Mission to London, which ended with a Thanksgiving Eucharist at St Martin-in-the-Fields on Sunday 2 June 2013.

The Melanesian Brothers and Sisters visit Archbishop Justin

Brothers and sisters from the Melanesian Mission meet Archbishop Justin Welby at Lambeth Palace

Members of four Melanesian religious orders visited Archbishop Justin at Lambeth Palace on Thursday last week. Amid prayer, worship and song, the Brothers and Sisters pledged their desire to work for “peace and reconciliation in the Anglican Communion”. It was part of a mission to UK in which they have visited seven different diocese. They spent the last week in London with John Keble Church at St Martin-in-the-Fields and there was a wonderful sense of blessing for all of us who took part.

Archbishop Justin welcomed a group of Brothers and Sisters from Melanesia to Lambeth Palace on Thursday night for an evening of prayer, conversation and Melanesian song.

The theme of their mission was ‘Simply Living’ in which they live the question ‘How do we live the Gospel in relation to God, creation and one another?’

During the evening with the Archbishop, the Brothers and Sisters shared their experiences of prayerful living, peace and reconciliation, mission, outreach and environmental issues.

The group was composed of members of the Franciscan Brothers, the Sisters of the Church, the Melanesian Brotherhood and the Sisters of Melanesia.

Of these, the largest is the Melanesian Brotherhood, whose 400 members take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for three to seven years, after which many return to their villages. The Brotherhood has houses in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines.

Reconciliation

On behalf of the four orders, Franciscan Brother Clark presented the Archbishop with a cross hand-carved by Novices from the Melanesian Brotherhood.

Brother Clark said the cross symbolised “a pledge to you of our desire and our willingness to work for peace and reconciliation in the Anglican Communion and to help deepen spirituality and prayer life wherever we go”.

The Melanesian Religious Orders became internationally known after seven of Melanesian Brothers were martyred while carrying out reconciliation work during the civil unrest in the Solomon Islands in 2003.

The Rev Richard Carter, who was chaplain to the Melanesian Brotherhood during that period, recalled that learning about the Brothers’ deaths was “the saddest day of all our lives”.

But through the fact that each of the martyred Brothers came from a different Melanesian island, the Rev Richard said, they “were showing the nation that we didn’t have to divide along ethnic or tribal lines, and they became a symbol to the whole nation that something better was possible.” In 2008 it was these religious communities who formed the chaplaincy team for the Lambeth Conference. For God knows how much our church too needs reconciliation and peace. The 7 brothers who died are remembered all around the world including in Canterbury Cathedral and the Basilica of St Bartholomew in Rome.

Religious life

The visiting Brothers and Sisters later told Archbishop Justin about their religious life in Melanesia, which is centred on prayer, simplicity and serving their communities. The orders share their resources with their neighbours, offer them labour, and show care and respect for all they meet.

Many of the Sisters work with women and children who are the victims of domestic violence and other abuse. As with the male orders, the two orders of Sisters are self-supporting.

Archbishop Justin has expressed a wish to strengthen such religious communities as part of his ministry.

Thanking the Brothers and Sisters for coming, he said: “Renewal of the church has never come without a renewal of prayer and praying communities. So it is wonderful and a great privilege to have you here this evening.

Simply Living at John Keble Church and St Martin-in-the-Fields

Four brothers from the Melanesian Mission dance around the altar of St Martin-in-the-Fields

On Saturday the Simply Living Mission Team held a very special retreat day at John Keble Church in Mill Hill attended by many members of St Martin-in-the-Fields. Former Archbishop Rowan Williams celebrated a beautiful Eucharist and preached and spoke about the importance of prayer. (See Keep it Simple, Colin Midlane’s Thought for the Week.) The Melanesians performed a drama written and directed by Richard Carter about the Prodigal Son which made the audience both laugh and weep. On Sunday the 2 June a Thanksgiving Eucharist for the Mission was held at St Martin-in-the-Fields during which the Brothers and Sisters danced and sang their way into many hearts and filled those present with a sense of the joy of the Gospel and a vision of how to live it with greater simplicity. It was followed by a marvellous meal organised by the St Martin’s hospitality team who fed more than 200 people. The Brothers and Sisters played their panpipes. The Spirit was infectious and got everyone dancing aged 6 to 96 and no one wanted it to end. “Blessed are the messengers who bring the Gospel of peace.”


See an album  of photographs from the Mission’s visit to St Martin-in-the-Fields on our Facebook page (you don’t need to be a member of facebook to see the album).