Project Canterbury

South Sea Epic: War and the Church in New Guinea

Compiled by Ruth Henrich

London: Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, 1944.

Chapter II. Two Celebrations

Consecration of Dogura Cathedral.

On October 29th, 1939, the new Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul was consecrated. It stands near the site of the first mission chapel on Dogura hill. (Dogura = battleground.)

The Cathedral has been erected as a thank-offering by the Papuan Christians for the blessings which have come to them through the Christian Faith. It has been built entirely by the Papuans themselves, under the skilled leadership of Mr. Robert Jones. The Papuan Christians volunteered for labour from each one of the mission areas, all of which have had their part in the building of the Cathedral. Altogether, 170 men have given their labour voluntarily for periods of not less than three months during the time of building. In addition to this very considerable contribution, there has been received in gifts of money and kind from the Papuan Christians in the diocese, something like £700. The building is of reinforced concrete, the sand and the shingle mixed with the concrete being from the beach at Wedau, below Dogura, gathered and brought up by Dogura schoolboys.

None of those who were privileged to take part or be present at that great and wonderful service of Consecration can ever forget its deep significance and the consciousness we had that a divine act was being fulfilled in our midst. The Cathedral, large though it is, was not large enough for the great crowd that had gathered to take part in that solemn offering, and hundreds took part in the service from outside. We were anxious for it to be realised that though the Cathedral has been built largely by Papuans and is at the head station of our mission area, it is nevertheless the Cathedral for the whole diocese, for white and brown alike. This fact, judging from the representative body of white people who journeyed to Dogura for the occasion, seems to have been well appreciated.

The Consecration of the Cathedral marked a turning point [11/12] in the growth of the Papuan Church and in the history of the Diocese of New Guinea, as it evolves from a stage which has been largely primitive and pioneering to something more permanent and more abiding.

On the afternoon of the Consecration Day a reception and welcome was given to the Lieutenant-Governor. He congratulated the diocese on a great achievement, and pointed out how this building proved the tremendous possibilities of which the people of Papua are capable. He had often heard opinions expressed as to the limits beyond which the Papuans could not go in knowledge and achievement. He believed the building of the Cathedral proved what he had long maintained--that the only limit was the limit of our capacity to teach them.

Sir Hubert Murray believed that Papuans are capable of high development, and under his rule the best of them have made great strides forward in character, culture and responsibility, as well as in many practical fields of service. With him the natives always came first, and he would not allow them to be exploited. His policy, which has become universally known as "the Murray Policy," has been as a beacon light in the Empire, and its high standard and principles are extolled as a model of what a white man's rule over a primitive native people should be. Such a policy, of course, has its critics and its opponents among those who would like to see a fuller development of the country in the white man's interests. These interests, if they involve exploitation of the native, are short-sighted, and we can feel thankful that this country, under the wise administration of the late Sir Hubert Murray, has until now been saved from the disasters which have overtaken so many coloured races in other lands.

Bishop's Report, 1939-40.

Jubilee of the Diocese.

On August 10th, 1941, the Diocese kept its Jubilee, amid great rejoicing.

Our Jubilee Festivities were concentrated at Dogura, the birth-place of the Mission, where the pioneers, Albert Maclaren and Copland King, after landing on the beach below on St. Laurence's Day, 10th August, 1891, set up the first church on the former fighting ground of cannibal tribes, and where now our newly consecrated Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul is standing.

[13] The Maclaren-King had a busy time bringing in the white staff, native clergy, teachers and evangelists, and as many native Christian delegates from the far distant districts as space on the schooner permitted, and finally a considerable number of European Christians from Samarai. Crowds of Papuan Christians from the nearer districts came on foot, some of them walking for several days, and there must have been a gathering of well over two thousand at Dogura, resembling the crowd at the time of the consecration of the Cathedral in October, 1939, and these were but a fraction of the many who would like to have been there if means of transport had been available. In addition, members of the Methodist and other missions showed their goodwill and fellowship by coming in their launches and joining us for the week-end.

Our festivities began on Thursday, August 7th, a few days before the Jubilee. On that day we had something of the nature of a "State Function," when the Administrator of Papua, the Honourable Leonard Murray, and the Federal Minister for External Territories, the Honourable Alan McKenzie McDonald, paid an official visit to Dogura by flying boat. Most of our people had arrived by that time, and so there was a big crowd here to welcome them, and the coming of the flying boat was, of course, an additional thrill for the Papuans.

The Jubilee Day itself, Sunday, August 10th, was indeed a "golden day." The solemn Jubilee Eucharist at 7 a.m. in Wedauan, at which the Rev. J. D. Bodger, the Sub-Dean, celebrated, with Papuan clergy acting as Deacon and Sub-Deacon, doing everything with the utmost reverence and perfection, and at which I presided, was one of those services that one feels is too sacred even to attempt to describe. It was as if Heaven had been brought down to earth. The Cathedral was crowded to the doors, and the quiet and reverent atmosphere of devotion was something we can never forget. There were over 800 communicants, and, as I was taking part in the administration, the realisation of what it all meant was something overwhelming; that fifty years ago the Name of our Saviour was unknown to the people in these parts of Papua until the pioneers had landed in the early morning of that day, and yet now here was that seemingly almost unending stream of devout and reverent communicants coming up to kneel at the Altar that they might be [13/14] united to Him in His most Holy Sacrament. Fifty years ago they did not know Him, but indeed they know Him now! One wonders if Maclaren and King, even in their most optimistic moments, could have contemplated a growth so wonderful and so rapid.

Later in the morning I ordained to the priesthood Robert Jones, the builder of the Cathedral, and Elwin Keith Clarke. This service was in English. Bishop Newton was the preacher. It must have been unique for the builder of the Cathedral to be ordained in the edifice which he built. I should think, never before have there been so many priests assisting at the Laying-on of Hands at an ordination to the priesthood in this diocese. Twenty-two priests took part, twelve white and ten brown.

We had an open-air Eucharist of Thanksgiving on the beach at Kaieta. Japhet, one of our teachers, had built a canopy with a thatched roof for the altar by the side of the memorial cross which marks the landing place of the pioneers, and he had done some admirable carving work on the posts and cross-bar with the emblems of a closed Bible on one side with 1891 and a star, and on the other an open Bible with 1941 and the noon-tide sun above it. Between were the words, "Bada a Viviegualauem" ("Lord, we thank Thee "). On the pages of the open Bible were the words, "Rom awarimi i na mae" ("Peace be unto you") on one page, and on the other the Lord's Prayer. The preacher was the Rev. Peter Rautamara, the first Papuan to be ordained priest, and the large and mixed congregation of brown and white sat and knelt on the ground under the palm trees.

Before the Eucharist I confirmed an aged woman named Ann, now crippled and infirm, who is unable to climb the hill to Dogura. She was present at the landing of the pioneers, but for many years resisted Christianity and was only recently baptized. She was confirmed and received her first Communion on the spot where fifty years ago she had seen the first harbingers of the Gospel arrive.

Letter from the Bishop: A.B.M. Review, Nov., 1941.

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